When DC Black Label was announced as a home for mature, prestige, and ambitious new stories, THE LAST GOD was not what anyone expected. But make no mistake: this horror fantasy isn't just built to be an epic adventure... it's making Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings seem like a fairy tale.
The upcoming series THE LAST GOD: BOOK I OF THE FELLSPYRE CHRONICLES arrives in stores this October, whisking readers off to the brave new world of Cain Anuun. As (some of) the people celebrate three decades of peace and prosperity, the time when a brave fellowship of heroes united to vanquish the god of darkness has fallen into legend. Until the people realize to their horror that the legends don't tell the full story... as The Last God is still alive, and back more terrifying than ever. It's a grim nightmare fantasy fans will need to see for themselves, when the 12-issue series from writer Phillip Kennedy Johnson (The Power of the Dark Crystal), artist Riccardo Federici (Aquaman), and colorist Dean White (All-Star Batman) begins on October 30th. Screen Rant got the chance to speak with Johnson about the series, and the future of The Fellspyre Chronicles if fans like what they see.
First of all, this is not the kind of comic series that fans expect from DC Comics these days. So how did that end up being the home for THE LAST GOD
I think it's kind of a statement on the part of DC, that Vertigo continues in spirit. If that makes sense. Vertigo is gone to a lot of us, but the point of Vertigo is to tell edgy, new stories that are not necessarily beholden to these things, superhero properties you've been doing forever. So this is a statement that tradition continues.
I have to say: I don't envy fantasy artists.
Because the average fantasy fan might assume these worlds are not as difficult to build from the ground up as they must be. THE LAST GOD feels like an old world horror style, which is certainly less well known among casual fans, used to the glimmering armor and gleaming castles. Can you speak to that mixture of genres?
Exactly. I think we're all used to fantasy worlds being these bright, lush, beautiful places. And that's not this [Laughs]. The world of Cain Anuun is very unlike that. We wanted this to be a true, epic fantasy-horror mash-up from the very beginning. So instead of a land of hardworking humans and happy elves coexisting, where elves are all twinkly and live forever, here we have a race of elves called the Aelva who are a subjugated, aboriginal race. You see other races, and situations that they're in as well. I wanted the race relations between the different greater races to be very complicated, I wanted to stay away from the generic tropes. I wanted the races and classes to be just familiar enough for tabletop gamers and people who really want more Tolkien and stuff like that to feel reasonably comfortable. But also subvert every trope they've ever known. So they'll see familiar things, but they're not what they are used to getting in any case.
You said in an interview that unlike a lot of other fantasy worlds, Cain Anuun is not going to seem like a FUN place to live or exist. How do you go about making a world you want to explore, but then ugly and broken at the same time?
Oh for me there's no challenge there [Laughs]. This is a series I've wanted to read for a long, long time. A true horror-fantasy mash-up that is all-in on both. The fantasy genre is this insane place where you can do anything, you can just ride a crazy thought as far as you can. Which makes it perfect for mind-numbing horror. I just always wanted to see that, you know? I love the moments where Melisandre created the shadow-baby-thing in Game of Thrones, and the Night King--I wanted to see the Night King go down way differently. I wanted to see King's Landing just razed to the ground by the Wights and all that. I want to see Necromancer Uruk-hai in Middle-earth trying to resurrect a dragon-zombie thing, I want to see this stuff pushed further and see this go really dark. I feel like the two genres just beg to be put together.
I suppose that's one place where the Black Label connotations of a true 'mature' imprint help in not pulling any punches?
Yeah totally. This would never have worked as just a straight-ahead DC book, like next to The Legion of Super Heroes. This is not the same thing [Laughs]. DC is really forward-thinking with this book, it's awesome that they're willing to still do a Vertigo style book and just put the DC name on it. I love that they're still doing that, that they're still doing creator-owned, I love being a apart of it. If not a Vertigo book this is definitely a Black Label book from the beginning. You've seen the artwork it's... gross [laughs]. It's so over the top incredibly beautiful, but also very graphic. And the language, also. It would've felt very inauthentic if everyone talked in pretty ways. So I want the slaves to talk like slaves, and the soldiers to talk like soldiers, I want to be able to bring that. I want a human to be able to say a racial slur at an elf and vice versa, and all that. Those things make this world feel gritty, muddy, and real mean.
I know that what hooked me about the premise isn't just the idea of characters growing up in the shadow of these legendary heroes, but the injection of a sinister secret. That's part of a twist that's partly revealed quickly, but does that feeling remain through the story?
Yeah. Well we start out seeing the world through the eyes of this slave who is raised on the stories of King Tyr the Godslayer. Since he's been born, Tyr has been king, and Tyr is the man who literally walked off the edge of the world into the void and killed The God in The Void with a f***ing axe, pardon my language. He's Conan, you know. He's the biggest, toughest guy ever. He was raised on stories of King Arthur-esque heroism, and he wants to be Tyr. He's just a slave and he becomes a gladiator because he wants to be like his boss, be like the king. So he fights in the arena in hopes that he'll one day win his freedom and join Tyr's army and go out and do great things, do great works.
By the end of Issue #1 we sort of get the hint that, 'Oh, these stories were all a lie.' The story about Strider, and Frodo, and Bilbo is all a lie. They all lied to us, they didn't actually do what they said, and the bad guys have come back again. What happens then? What happens when the greatest heroes in the history of the world lied to us, and now we're even more screwed? Now we don't even have those heroes to protect us anymore. You see this second fellowship come together and try to redeem the sins of the fathers. All the while trying to solve a mystery of what really happened on The Black Stair the first time.
That does seem like a timely or contemporary idea to frame the story: that the glorious victory of the past might have just been some kind of bargain that only worked because the world wasn't watching it happen.
Yeah. Without spilling it, yes. They got there and what they thought they were going to do, they realized was not going to work. So they do this other thing. They think it's enough, and then the day comes where they discover it was not enough... and now you've doomed the entire world [Laughs]. Another fellowship has to step up and do what their dads said they did.
Yeah what can you say about that fellowship? We know a little about the slave gladiator Eyvindr, who will be the hero in the modern story. But other heroes will gather around him, right?
Well there are two fellowships, so if there was only one main character it would be Queen Cyanthe, who we see briefly enough in the first issue. But when we're seeing Tyr in the flashbacks making his bones, we're also seeing this young girl queen Cyanthe. Tyr is a reaver, and he finds Cyanthe. We see the events of the first fellowship mostly through her eyes. We see how she grows from small and weak to capable and powerful, and eventually disenchanted and bitter. They was supposed to be this fellowship of heroes, and one by one let eachother down. They let their quest change them, and Cyanthe is the last one to turn. We see her in the present day thirty years later, and now she has a very different perspective than the point of view of the slave. Cyanthe and Eyvindr are the two characters we see most clearly.
We also have Veikko Al Mun the Ferryman King, this kind of holy assassin of the elves. The Aelva are subjugated and enslaved for the most part, and the ferrymen are the guardians of their people. They do what they can to protect their people from the evils of men, and the Guild Eldritch--the magical group that conquered them in the first place. They're just trying to right wrongs however they can, and protect the elves even thought they're losing battles the whole way. She is one of the original fellowship, and in the later fellowship her son Valko becomes quite important. He's angry. he's an angry elf. Valko has grown up in this world in which his people were enslaved and doesn't understand why his mother hasn't done more. she's this great leader and yet the world is what it is, and elves are no better off. he's super angry and super racist towards humans, and rightfully so. He and Eyvindr... there's a lot of tension between the two of them for a long, long time. Their arc together is a very important one over the course of the series.
When you make the title of this series THE LAST GOD: BOOK I OF THE FELLSPYRE CHRONICLES, it sends a message that this story is bigger than just the dozen issues coming. I know that just like every medium, you can't say what the future holds. But for fantasy fans in particular, there is often concern about, let's say an overall plan for the story, or an ending that really speaks to the beginning. Can you maybe assuage the fears of interested readers who may see "Book I" and have some apprehension about the story getting away from a core narrative? Even accepting that the journey should matter as much as the destination.
Yeah, the destination is definitely there. This is going to be a 12-issue series, full stop. That is Book I of The Fellspyre Chronicles. If this is a success, if readers want to see more, which I dearly hope they do, we will tell another story in this world. But there's not going to be a cliffhanger where... Boom, they lose again! Now we have to do this all over again in another generation! It's not going to be that kind of thing. There is a plan, we know what we're going to do, and it will be extremely satisfying. If fans want more we will tell another arc that took place either before or after the events of this story in this world. There's definitely enough for multiple books of The Fellspyre Chronicles. But there's no rugs pulled out to make that happen.
DC'S THE LAST GOD #1 arrives in comic book shops on October 30th, 2019.