When a young woman is accused of witchcraft after several mysterious deaths, three men are tasked with escorting her to stand trial. The accused claims that a demon is to blame, and as the trio of guards bicker over their responsibilities to church and state, their journey takes them through the forest where her troubles began…
We were immediately on alert when we saw the cover of Daughters of Knights. With a small, simple line drawing of a lone character, a splatter of red covering the page, and what looks like it could be a hand-drawn block title, we will admit to not being very enthusiastic about what lay within.
We could not have been more wrong. All these years being told “don’t judge a book by its cover” and we did. Rookie mistake.
Daughters of Knights is extremely impressive technically. In terms of story, it is fascinating, building a mystery filled with compelling and believable characters. It’s also, in parts, a shocking, skin crawling horror.
The truth is never quite clear in Daughters of Knights by creator Steven Rosia, a medieval horror story. As Seraphine, the daughter of a recently deceased knight, is hauled away to stand trial, it’s not immediately obvious whether she actually is a cold-blooded killer, or as haunted as she says she is. Are her frequent jibes at the men escorting her a sign of angry desperation at absurd accusations, or a deliberate ploy to push them into a quarrel? Are her stories of an earlier journey through these woods to be trusted? Does even she know the truth?
Through some excellent and realistic dialogue we learn about this small band of characters. In only a few pages, we are provided with a well realised cast, each with a unique voice. The calm Fiore, who believes in decency and the fair application of the law; the God-fearing Bastion, quick to anger. Even characters who appear only briefly, like the officious Benedict, are well defined.
The art is monochrome, with characters which verge on cartoonish, with big eyes and stocky frames. It is, however, not at all light-hearted and makes heavy use of shadows to develop an atmosphere of growing dread. At key stages, the art shifts to an altogether more morbid and nightmarish tone, made all the more shocking by the lighter pages which precede it.
There’s also an interesting use of panel layout to designate flashbacks, with black gutters and panels like broken glass radiating outwards from the figure of a stricken Seraphine as she recalls the moments before she was first visited by a demon
Even the lettering, which is often the weakest-link in single-creator comics, is of a high standard. The wordiest panels are clear and well laid out, and interesting use is made of differing fonts and balloon shapes, without going overboard. It all points to a real talent and an excellent understanding of the craft.
We reviewed what looks to be the first episode in a five part arc. This first issue lays a mystery before us, but makes in clear that all the pieces are not yet in play. Tension builds, but not to a critical point. Characters appear only briefly and will no doubt return. We would recommend Daughters of Knights, as we would recommend keeping an eye on Steven Rosia.
Daughters of Knights is available from Comix Central