REVIEW: 'Helm Greycastle' #2 by Henry Barajas, Rahmat Handoko, and Bryan Valenza

 Aztec mythology and fantasy clash in this new series with mixed results. The power play against Montezuma III is in the works but Helm and his crew have side missions to accomplish.


HELM GREYCASTLE #2

Writer: Henry Barajas

Artist: Rahmat Handoko, Bryan Valenza

Letterer: Gabriela Downie

Publisher: Image Comics

Release Date: May 26, 2021

Cover Price: $4.99

Helm and the gang are tasked with locating MEXICA's greatest warrior: Camazotz! But will Camazotz join their crusade to overthrow Montezuma III?!

Score: 

★★★☆☆ (3/5)

'Helm Greycastle' is an ambitious and difficult story that tries to blend high fantasy with Aztec history and mythology. While stories involving figures from Mesoamerican cultures have gone mostly ignored in fiction, it's a tough task to incorporate such a specific culture with fantasy that operates at a different speed and scope. This is where the clash of genres occur pitting the political intrigue of those conspiring against Motecuzoma with warriors bursting at the seams for adventure with Helm and his group. They've entered this realm of Mexica to rescue Prince Uadjit but since being detained have sat mostly idle bringing the story to a virtual halt as we get a history lesson from the rebels harboring Helm. 

Nothing so far has matched the energy and excitement of the opening pages of issue one when Helm and his warriors were fighting undead skeletons. Since then, the series has introduced a lot of characters and a lot of history but hasn't amounted to much action. Instead, it's been a lot of moving parts and discussions leading to new directives. The rescue mission is on hold while Helm pursues Camazotz, Mexica's great warrior that is imprisoned. That realization came to them by a vision provided by a mystical bird as the rebels entertained them and showed them the importance of fighting for the common people. The narrative among the different factions and characters shifts making it hard to follow where their priorities lie. Readers are given a lot of backstory which is understandable given the lack of widespread Mesoamerican knowledge of the general public but it doesn't help move this story forward. 

There is point of poignancy when Uadjit is momentarily detained in prison along with Spanish prisoners. Recalling when Cortez landed in Mexica, the prisoner tells of how gracious and collaborative they were with the natives providing new technology and information. The juxtaposition with the Princess's telling of the colonizers invasion using weapons, violence, disease, and religion to devastate their people. The epidemic brought on by smallpox alone caused a genocide of at least 50% of the population. 

Rahmat Handoko and Bryan Valenza do an admirable job of creating an era appropriate setting with architecture and costume design. Valenza's varied colors provide a colorful tapestry to the story while also washing flashbacks in sundrenched yellows for separation. The artists make the most of  the situations which involve mostly standing and talking or sitting and talking. 

'Helm Greycastle' #2 takes historical fiction and overwhelms the normally fun and action-packed DND aspect of its titular character. The conflicting genres cancel each other out resulting in a history lesson and a watered down mercenary mission. At times narratively confusing, 'Helm' does offer some great art and an opportunity to turn things around in issue three with more clarity, focus, and action. 

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