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Though FromSoftware’s DARK SOULS trilogy has ended, they’re still blessing us with new comics. This time around, Titan Comics gives us a connected anthology of short stories taking place in the DARK SOULS universe. Written by George Mann, Tauriq Moosa, Dan Watters, and Cassandra Khaw and illustrated by a number of talented artists, DARK SOULS: LEGENDS OF THE FLAME explores some of the deeper themes and motifs of the series. For instance, what is the nature of man? How did the curse of undeath erode civilization to such a grim mockery of what it once was? What is the point of survival when all has been lost?

The writers of LEGENDS OF THE FLAME geared it more towards fans of the games. While the writers refrain from explaining too much about the world in great detail, the imagery and archetypes that appear are strongly reminiscent of those in the games. There’s a Firekeeper, red phantoms, a very familiar looking spider demon from the first game, and even more beings that fans of the DARK SOULS trilogy will recognize. How this fares for those with no experience with the series, I can’t say. I think I might be in the perfect position to appreciate this comic — I know enough about the lore to recognize the characters and creatures, but not enough to fret over where it fits in the canon.

Snapshots of a Dying World in DARK SOULS: LEGENDS OF THE FLAME

DARK SOULS: LEGENDS OF THE FLAME is split into thirteen separate stories. Each has a different combination of writers and artists. It consists of twelve short stories taking place throughout the blighted land of Lordran and one framing device tying them all together. Each individual story explores life and history in a world ravaged by undeath and a convoluted passage of time. The sacred fire that sustains Lordran is fading, and with it, the world edges ever closer to darkness.

READ: Interested in the other DARK SOULS comics? Check out this review of DARK SOULS: WINTER’S SPITE!

The comic expresses some of the more interesting parts of the DARK SOULS lore. We get to see how the undead curse actually works:

A person can die over and over again. Each time they come back, however, they lose a little bit of themselves. Once they’ve lost their humanity, both figuratively and literally, they hollow out, becoming shells of what they once were — essentially zombies without thought. Of course, it’s always possible to literally take someone’s physical essence of humanity from them, and some in this fallen kingdom thrive on this. After all, everyone is trying to escape the darkness, some way or another.

Descent into Madness and Despair

Just like the series proper, DARK SOULS: LEGENDS OF THE FLAME is bleak as hell. The fact that the undead can keep their memories and personality after death creates a foundation for tragic heroes and selfish villains. Feeding on souls can help a person retain their thoughts. Many believe that they can end the curse by gathering souls. Thus the denizens of Lordran end up preying on others to prolong becoming hollow. More noble or singular desires drive others — to find a cure, to save a loved one, to end the curse once and for all. The determined will persevere through all when death is just a setback.

READ: Interested in challenging games with deep stories? Check out this analysis of NIER: AUTOMATA!

My personal favorite character in the anthology is from “Pound of Flesh” — written by Cassandra Khaw and illustrated by Andrea Olimpieri and Mattia Iacono. The central character in the tale is a monstrous undead fusion of two twins who really hate each other. These two reveal a lot more about themselves than they would in the traditional video game format. Normally in the game, we would learn about them from an item they drop on death. Or at least something vague and cryptic. Here, we get to see their own twisted and painful thoughts, giving new ways to understand the enigmatic denizens of Lordran.

Courtesy of Titan Comics.

An Aesthetic Mixed Bag

Each issue within DARK SOULS: LEGENDS OF THE FLAME has a different artist. These artists all bring their own distinct style to their respective short story. I really appreciate the variety of aesthetic styles included in the anthology. We get dark, painterly depictions of a dismal world, but we also get vibrant pastel scenes that feel fresh compared to the usual fare. My favorite by far in terms of art is “The Devoted” — written by Dan Watters and illustrated by Caspar Wijngaard. This colorful take on the dreary setting infused the story with an energy I don’t usually see in DARK SOULS.

Courtesy of Titan Comics.

As a fan myself, I can’t vouch for readers who know nothing about DARK SOULS. However, anyone curious about the vast and mysterious world of Lordran should check out DARK SOULS: LEGENDS OF THE FLAME. Even if the awesome premise alone doesn’t do it for you, the enticing variety definitely will. Anyone into dark fantasy will find something to enjoy here.

DARK SOULS: LEGENDS OF THE FLAME provides an interesting take on the DARK SOULS universe. It will feel familiar to fans of the games. Yet with a satisfying variety of aesthetic styles, it doesn't get old.
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