Roy and Dann Thomas along with Tony DeZuniga start things off after the last issue’s cliff-hanger with Alsind on his deathbed. While most thought for sure that he had immediately died in the previous book, the truth is quite the opposite though for how much longer he remains among the land of the living is unknown. Arak is not very happy with the prognosis and when the Caliph arrives and it is all but confirmed that Alsind will die, Arak takes matters into his own hands, using his newfound powers as a shaman to save his friend’s life. When all is said and done and Alsind lives again, the companions immediately come to regret it as Alsind tries to attack the Caliph and instead of facing instant death, thanks to Sharizad, they will live if she can beat the Caliph in a game of chess. The game is not an ordinary one though as the board is life-size and the pieces are made up of Arak and his team against the Caliph’s which just so happens to include his executioner among them. The game is tense and Arak who has familiarized himself with it by playing it with Alsind on the road over long nights knows exactly what is coming even if some of those he is with do not. Despite having a good script, the book really comes to life thanks to DeZuniga and his incredible artistry as readers cannot help but feel the tension and see it played out on the faces of those who inhabit the board. Of course, this all leads to a bit of action that is played out between Arak and the executioner, an unfortunate turn of events though one that was to be expected given the nature of the game and the players. The battle is deadly and the Caliph naturally expects to win and when he does not, which was also nearly a given, Malagigi, Valda and the rest of their group expected the Caliph to renege on his wager and yet, fortune does happen to smile on them every once in a while. Altogether this was a very well-written and well-drawn tale which is no surprise given the creative team and one that would hold the reader’s interest without fail. This particular issue would also signal what seems to be the end of this leg of Arak’s journey, the future bright for both him and readers.
4 out of 5