New Talent Showcase #3 (Ancient Agreement)
“By Ancient Agreement”
Writer – Beppe Sabatini
Art – Dan Day
Letters – Duncan Andrews
Colors – Helen Vesik
Edits – Marv Wolfman & Ernie Colon
Welcome to this week’s “one-off” feature… one that takes us into the realm of Swords and Sorcery… which is definitely not in my personal wheelhouse.
Tomorrow’s piece, for all I know, might be a one-off as well. Ya see, I do not have New Talent Showcase #4… and, I’ve been hunting for it for a few weeks now, without a lick of success! Unless I’m able to track that bugger down, we might find ourselves with an overlong “Bizarro Binge” to fill the time until I do!
If only it were #VartoxWeek… that’s when the miracles happen!
This story opens with a King Tobias stood atop a tower within his kingdom. He laments the fact that on this very day the “King’s Treaty” expires. What’s that? Well, ya see… there’s some sort of “Ancient Agreement” in this realm regarding the King’s ability to bear an heir to the throne. Today is the last day for Tobias to, well, have a son. If his (thankfully pregnant) wife can’t pop the tot out before nightfall, they’re out on their butts. It’s almost a certainty that Tobias will be removed from power before tomorrow… to the point to where his replacement, Vulmic is waiting in the nearby waters.
Tobias checks in on his (third) wife (The King is a two-time… two-time widower), and… no dice… no baby just yet. The King than meets with one of his royal guards, who informs him they are more than prepared to fight off Vulmic and his forces, should it come to that. Tobias, however, wishes to stick to the original treaty he’d agreed to.
Well, about that… Tobias’ Royal Guard have decided to go on the offensive. While Vulmic acts an irritant, a great big fist raises out of the water… and smashes one of the warships to splinters!
At that very moment, on board another of Vulmic’s fleet… a man begins to glow. He’s their Alchemist. Ya see, up until now, with the treaty in place, no one could use magic against Tobias. Now that there has been outward aggression, the treaty is null and void (I guess)… and so, magic begins to flow! Oh, we also learn that Vulmic was responsible for the deaths of Tobias’ prior two wives… which begs the question, just who really broke the treaty here?!
Tobias rushes back to his wife’s bedside… and finds an insectoid assassin readying to murder the queen… and their unborn child!
We spend the next few pages watching Tobias and Vulmics forces fighting… and, while it’s all rendered nicely, there really isn’t all that much to say about it. Suddenly, however, the monsters and magic vanish. Vulmic stands in disbelief… uncertain as to what might happen next. Well… what happens next is, Tobias emerges from his chambers, hoisting aloft… his son.
For a story that I never would have read on my own, I thought this was pretty good. Even when I first flipped through to create my cover-images, I saw the art (which is great… but, didn’t exactly inspire my interest), I figured this was going to be a slog. Thankfully, it was only an eight-pager… and managed to keep a really good sense of urgency throughout.
I am, however, left with a few questions… mostly regarding the nebulous nature of this “treaty”. It seemed as though this “pact” was, in a way “natural”. As soon as it was broken by Tobias’ men, magic returned. So then, why wasn’t the treaty broken when Vulmic murdered the previous two Queens? Is this Ancient Agreement only predicated on outward aggression from the King? That doesn’t exactly sound fair, does it? Oh well… it was what it was… and it all worked out for Tobias in the end.
Since this is a new “feature”, it means we have some New Talent to meet… so, let’s do that. Beppe Sabatini, in addition to having a very fun-to-say name (give it a try!), was a prolific letterhack before trying his hand at writing comics. He has written… well, a few comics stories. For DC, in addition to this, he wrote “S.O.S. From Nowhere!”, which appeared in Action Comics #572… which featured a trio of short stories, that also included Mark Waid’s first DC Comics story, “The Puzzle of the Purloined Fortress!”
Found a little bit about his letter-writing days in Superman: The Persistence of an American Icon (2017, Rutgers University Press) by Ian Gordon:
Across the table, we’ve got Dan Day. If that surname is familiar, it’s because Dan is the brother of Gene Day. I don’t know a heckuva lot about Gene, other than the fact that he passed way too early, and was something of a mentor to Dave Sim, the creator of Cerebus. Back in the late-90’s I found myself reading a lot of Dave Sim’s writings… not necessarily his comics, but his essays. Many of them referenced Gene Day. If I recall right, Sim even spearheaded a Gene Day Award in his honor.
Now, as for Dan… he, like Beppe, has a handful of credits to his name for both Marvel and DC. He worked in the indies, notably for Renegade Press. The DC Wikia also credits him with some of the turn of the century era Cartoon Network books… which feels like something of a style clash. I’ve never read one’a those, so I can’t speak to it!
Anyhoo, this was pretty good… and I enjoyed it. I’m also glad it doesn’t look like it’s getting any subsequent chapters. Overall, worth a look!
Tomorrow: Blood is “Ticker” than Water…