It’s somewhat surprising that while George Lucas and Steven Spielberg poured their love of films like Gunga Din and The Secret of the Incas into the creation of the Indiana Jones franchise, those who grew up on Temple of Doom and Raiders of the Lost Ark rarely pay that idolatry forward by embracing pulpy adventure stories.
Kel Symons and Mathew Reynolds are righting that wrong with The Mercenary Sea (from Image Comics), going all in to craft a charming and visually compelling pulp adventure book about piracy on the high seas in the south pacific in 1938, swapping archeologist Indiana Jones for bootlegger Jack Harper.
Though we only get a somewhat cursory introduction to Harper in the first book, he seems to be comprised of the stuff that makes Jones, Han Solo, and Malcolm Reynolds tick. In fact, if you are like me and you were disappointed by Zack Whedon and Georges Jeanty’s Serenity: Leaves of the Wind, you’d be wise to jump ship and join the crew of The Venture (a submarine) with The Mercenary Sea as they hustle and scrape their way across the sea in search of the mysterious island of Koji Ra.
Speaking of that crew, it features the typical collection of disgraced and desperate types with nowhere better to go. I wish I could tell you more but I don’t want to spoil the spare backstory morsels that Symons and Reynolds leave out and the debut issue doesn’t spend a great deal of time going around the room to find out everyone’s turn ons and turn offs. Instead, The Mercenary Sea concerns itself with introducing the tone and shape of the story. These are seafaring drifters, good folks on the other side of what good usually means. We feel that without knowing their middle names or their backstories, the latter of which I usually crave, but for some reason it doesn’t seem to bother me in the least with this book. We’ll get there. I feel that and I can’t wait.
The early bits of the book also do a good job of showing off what may be The Mercenary Sea’s finest asset — the art of Mathew Reynolds. I don’t want to be so grand as to say that when I see a great new artist’s work for the first time it feels like finding a 65th crayon in the crayola box, but it’s pretty damn awesome and one of my favorite things. If you haven’t yet seen the way that Reynolds plays with colors, shapes, and lines, you’re going to know what I mean when you pick up this book.
Despite my lack of familiarity with Reynolds’ work, it manages to feel familiar and quite original. Characters look like a mix between Johnny Quest and Archer with bold black lines and Reynolds’ silhouette style and the way that it teams up with black, blue, purple, and green colored skies conspire to convey extreme depth for a real slice of visual WOW.
I can’t wait to see where The Mercenary Sea is going, but I hope they take their time to get there.
Den of Geek Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars