The first issue of The Mercenary Sea delivers exactly what a reader would desire for this type of series on every level (including submarines, cannibals, eye patches, double-crosses, Marx Brothers films, etc.). Writer Kel Symons writes an engaging, atmospheric tale of a rag-tag bunch of mercs just trying to make a living and keep sailing in the rough-and-tumble political environment of The South Seas during 1938. While Symons is obviously pulling inspiration for everywhere from James Bond to Indiana Jones (I think I caught a Predator reference in there, as well.), I was actually surprised (quite pleasantly) how well the story of lead character (and ex-bootlegger) Captain Jack Harper and his crew parallel that of Joss Whedon’s own tale of outcasts and outlaws trying to make a living on their own vessel. Think I’m seeing the world through Whedon-shaped glasses, my fellow comic book sniffers? Well, let me share this recent quote by Symons regarding Jack Harper and his crew:
“There's definitely some conflict . . . but they're more or less a tight extended family. They're not pirates or ruffians—they're mercenaries, obviously out for a paycheck, but they have a strong moral compass guiding them.”
Boom . . . The Mercenary Sea is Firefly set in 1938 on a refitted German U-boat. Sold yet?
Of course, Harper embodies the brooding charm of Captain Mal (or Han Solo, if you want to go back to the root of the matter), and I’m sure my fellow Browncoats will be able to identify several other “recognizable” characters types among a crew that includes a former heavyweight fighter who provides the muscle when necessary, a disgraced royal surgeon, a German sub captain who’s not afraid to speak up, and a tom boyish girl of twenty who has a knack for repairs, among others. While it’s not clear that this is a direct inspiration for Symons, I think it’ll work perfectly for the story he’s chosen to tell and will certainly will attract and bond readers with his cast of characters exactly the way Mal’s crew burrowed into our geeky, little hearts.
The Mercenary Sea #1 doesn’t hold back when it comes to the artwork of the series either, offering some of the most beautiful work I’ve ever seen in a comic book. The gorgeous colors, bold style, and cinematic framing of artist Mathew Reynolds make the pages of The Mercenary Sea seem less like the interior art of a comic book and more like high quality screen captures from some classic and beloved animated film. It works perfectly for the book, and it is obvious that Reynolds' mind-blowing art will be another major selling point of the book.
FINAL VERDICT: Add this one to your pull list, comic book sniffers! Everything is working together perfectly, and much like the aforementioned franchises like Indiana Jones or Firefly, you don’t have to be a hard-core lover of the action serial source material to enjoy the story, because you will absolutely love the characters and their interactions. This is an awesome and unique story paired with some seriously impressive art. It’s definitely worth picking up the first few issues to see where Symons and Reynolds steer this boat.
For more info on The Mercenary Sea #1, visit the official Image Comics website. The first issue drops in stores on February 12th, 2014.
That’s all for now, comic book sniffers! Periscope down!
’Till the end of the world,
Bryant the Comic Book Slayer