‘The Mercenary Sea #1:’ Advance Comic Book Review (You Can’t Take 1938 from Me)

“Nice Work If You Can Get It.”

This is the quote splashed across the first cover of Image Comics' new high-adventure series, The Mercenary Sea, and while it may seem like a quote straight out of Captain Malcolm Reynold’s mouth, it was clearly intended to, along with the cover art, sum up the tone of the book for new readers. Let me assure you that the quote works on both of those levels, and the “smuggler/soldier of fortune” feel it conveys is exactly what The Mercenary Sea delivers between its beautiful illustrated pages. Buckle in, comic book sniffers, because you’re in for the kind of exciting, high-action, and loving tribute to 1930s adventure film serials that we haven’t seen since back when we used to hang with Doctor Jones . . . you know, before he started chasing crystal skulls.


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

Last modified on Monday, 24 December 2018 18:22

Bryant Dillon, Fanbase Press President
Favorite Comic BookPreacher by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon
Favorite TV ShowBuffy the Vampire Slayer
Favorite BookThe Beach by Alex Garland
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