Valda and Malagigi take center stage as the latest issue of Arak begins and it does so in the castle of the Caliph of Baghdad, the pair looking to make a peace treaty between the two kingdoms. While they do not foresee any problems, the process is taking a bit longer than they would have thought, especially as they must make their way delicately so as not to offend the Caliph who seems prone to both boredom and hurt feelings. When the meeting is over, the Caliph’s Wazir takes the two on a tour of Baghdad’s underbelly, specifically flouting the palace’s dungeons among other things and it is there that the two come upon a most startling sight – that of Arak in chains being whipped, his back a bloody mess. So it is that Roy Thomas and Tony DeZuniga finally reunite Arak and Valda after many issues apart and while it could not be under better circumstances, the fact that they had found each other is indeed a miracle of sorts. For the moment, Arak is freed though it remains to be seen if he remains as such as the Caliph has the final say upon the matter. It is here that readers discover what happened after the events that took place in the first annual issue of the series wherein Arak and his friends defeated the Lord of Serpents but it is what happened afterwards where the story begins and it does so with a caravan heading their way in the desert. It is trouble though they know it not and when it arrives, Arak and his companions manage to avoid instant death only through their words which are more than a little convincing, though once taken prisoner, their fates remain unknown. For Sharizad, it is to join a harem and for Alsind it is death unless he can turn base metals into gold as was claimed to spare his life. Arak is spared only to be tortured while Satyricus is taken to join the Caliph’s zoo which might be the worst fate of them all. When the book ends, Valda swears retribution while Alsind escapes and Satyricus is found, though not in the best of situations.
4 out of 5