Comics: Death To The Tsar - Reviewed

Divided into two chapters, Death to the Tsar is a gripping tale about the pitfalls of power from within and the resentment that it breeds from without. We see two interlocking stories, told both separately and in parallel, one chronicling the last days of the victim while the other recounts the travails of the one who plots his destruction. 

Taking place years before the Russian Revolution of 1917, rumors of revolt and rebellion are spreading throughout Russian society. Caught in the middle of this atmosphere of tension is the protagonist of Chapter One, the governor general of Moscow, Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, who also happens to be the uncle of Tsar Nicholas II.  

Alexandrovich, at some points, comes off as a total dupe. With rumors of his coming assassination swirling like flies, he is stricken by fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. Unsure of himself, he constantly seeks assurance from his subordinates and acquaintances, some of whom end up playing him like a fiddle. Overwhelmed by his duties and consumed by paranoia, he descends into a spiral of darkness that results in the very thing that he feared. In the end, his mental turmoil becomes untenable, to the point that he welcomes his impending fate with open arms. 

Chapter two follows Georgi, the socialist revolutionary, assassination plotter, and terrorist. Like a perennial rebel looking for a cause and a sense of meaning, he swindles and kills his way towards his goal. Manipulating those he thinks are worthy of the cause to serve his ends, Georgi is bad news for anyone he ends up getting into contact with. The specter of death and impending doom hovers over both parts of the story in a spell-binding way, thanks to the talented work of Fabien Nury. Nury does a great job of demonstrating how the grip of fear can poison anyone’s outlook on life, regardless of their position of power or privilege. 

We have compelling, well fleshed out characters, complemented by art that illustrates the tone of the story in a very poignant way, with slight echoes of Alan Moore’s From Hell. Thierry Robin is also creative in his design of the characters, some of whom look a little animal like, to illustrate their inner personalities. 

The tale ends in a bleak note, as both governor and terrorist meet their inevitable end after having served the purpose that the black hand of fate had dealt them. Excellent read. 

-Berk Koca