REVIEW: ‘Helm Greycastle,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Helm Greycastle #1 - But Why Tho?

Helm Greycastle #1 is written by Henry Barajas, penciled by Rahmat M. Handoko, colored by Bryan Valenza, and lettered by Gabriela Downie. It is published by Image Comics under their Top Cow Productions banner. The adventurer Helm Greycastle and his band of warriors are drawn into a new quest when the Dragon Prince is abducted and taken to the kingdom of Aztec Mexica. With a resistance brewing against the emperor, Greycastle is faced with a choice: join the revolution or free the dragon prince and leave.

The backstory for Helm Greycastle describes an alternate history where the Aztecs used sorcery to halt the onset of the Spanish Conquistadors. This sounds like a far more interesting story than what we are given. Barajas wears his influences on his sleeve—he’s said that the idea of Helm Greycastle was born out of playing Dungeons and Dragons in his youth. But I didn’t really feel a connection to the characters. Yes, it’s cool that there are Mesoamerican-inspired takes on D&D archetypes including warriors and wizards. But I only get the broad strokes of these characters-what brought them together? What kept them together? I’d have loved to see the comic focus on the alternate history that Barajas mentions in the series’ Kickstarter page or the quest that brought Greycastle and his companions together.

While the story may be slight, the world that Greycastle and his friends inhabit isn’t. Handoko illustrates a vibrant and rich world, stepped in Mesoamerican myth. The soldiers of Aztec Mexica are called Jaguar Knights and wear armor made of a leopard’s hide, complete with leopard-headed helmets. Names like Quetzacoatl and Xiuhtecuhtli, the deities that populate Mesoamerican mythology, are wielded with great power and weight here. And the opening is an action-packed bloodbath, featuring Greycastle and his friends doing battle with a horde of the undead. Valenza is one of the best colorists I’ve seen in the business, bringing vibrant tones to the book that act as a contrast to the high levels of violence in the book. The opening sequence features light blues and whites, appropriate for a snowy tundra. Aztec Mexica itself is a massive palace, the inside of which is coated in gold to mark the emperor’s opulence.

In addition to the main story, Helm Greycastle #1 also comes with a “Sacred Armor” campaign that perfectly fits within the lore of the comic. Dungeons & Dragons fans will no doubt enjoy this, as it’s a unique take on the standard campaign they are used to. Also, it provides more information about the world, and I wish that made it into the actual comic. If each comic comes with its own RPG, that would be worth the price of admission.

Helm Greycastle #1 is a visually stunning book with an interesting premise, but it can’t quite capture the promise of its pitch. I highly recommend fans play the “Sacred Armor” RPG that is attached to the book or watch Onyx Equinox if they are looking for a series that lives up to its promise of bringing Mesoamerican myth to life.

Helm Greycastle #1 is available wherever comics are sold.

Helm Greycastle #1
3.5

TL;DR

Helm Greycastle #1 is a visually stunning book with an interesting premise, but it can’t quite capture the promise of its pitch. I highly recommend fans play the “Sacred Armor” RPG that is attached to the book or watch Onyx Equinox if they are looking for a series that lives up to its promise of bringing Mesoamerican myth to life.