Review by Ian Keogh
Helm Greycastle instantly departs from the norm by blending fantasy trappings with Aztec culture. It’s a viable statement prompting consideration as to why fantasy in any format is locked into a foundation of medieval Europe.
Swerving discussions of cultural imperialism, the Aztec iconography offers visual opportunities decoratively supplied by pencil artist Rahmat M. Handoko, with bright shades applied by the painted colour added by Bryan Valenza. They supply the temples, the costumes and creatures with considerable power and stature, and when representatives of the more traditional fantasy cast are introduced into this world they’re also thoughtfully and distinctively designed. Valeza is credited as co-creator, which is possibly why the colourist ranks above the penciller in the front of book credits, with layout artist Fabian Lelay buried deep down the credit list in the original comics, but acknowledgement of his contribution strangely absent from this collection.
Henry Barajas introduces a world where the Spanish invaders have been seen off, leaving the Aztec culture flourishing, into which he throws Viking warrior Helm Greycastle and his talented band of fighters with magical talents. They’re on a rescue mission, and arrive at a politically complex time that serves up unexpected allies, as the people of New Azteca view Montezuma III as power-crazed. The fantasy elements slide very naturally into what for most is an exotic culture, and the cast are given individual voices and clear motivations.
It’s pleasing to see all the introduced elements having a role to play, and bear in mind there’s a lot thrown into Helm Greycastle. It’s one of those stories that seems not able to wrap everything up in the allotted pages, but an extra long final chapter ensures a satisfactory ending. That also serves as a teaser for a Book Two, and based on this, fantasy fans would welcome that.
As well as process materials and alternate cover illustrations, the rear of the book also provides three sets of scenarios for role-playing games, which is a nice bonus.