Saturday, 6 December 2014

The Mercenary Sea #1 - Image Comics

THE MERCENARY SEA No. 1, February 2014 
Ordinarily I am not really that much of a fan of any comic book artwork which approximates ‘cel shading’ or purveys an atmosphere of storyboard-like animation. But frankly Mathew Reynolds’ front page illustration alone is worth this “Image Comics” cover price. It is truly eye-catching and despite being quite minimalistic in its composition, that is a lone tall standing stone protruding out of the sea, there is plenty to excite the reader’s imagination. Whether that be the shadowy shape of a submarine dodging sea mines in shark-infested waters, or the single Japanese sentry about to be shot by a scuba-gear wearing assassin who would not look out of place plastered over an old “Rolling Thunder” arcade game cabinet.

It is perhaps therefore understandable that Kel Symons’ story “Nice Work if You Can Get It” does not quite live up to such heady expectations but the plot to Issue 1 of “The Mercenary Sea” still has plenty of surprises within it, and really does establish the central character, Captain Jack Harper as a cross between pulp fiction luminaries Doc Savage and Indiana Jones. There are some nice nods to other cult classics as well such as Toby’s knife point removal of a venomous crawler from the neck of the Frenchman, Jarreau (a la “Predator”) and the submariner’s notable book collection which contains such adventurous novels as “Treasure Island”, “Robinson Crusoe”, “Tarzan” and “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea”; not forgetting his prized “King Kong” film print.

Admittedly the writing is though a little clunky in places. Perhaps most notably when the spy Mister Taylor usefully provides the reader with a brief synopsis of each of the comic’s main cast members when he starts reciting from their dossiers whilst in a night club.

Reynolds’ artwork is equally as ‘hit and miss’ at times when it comes to his interior artwork. One moment illustrating a fantastically atmospheric jungle beach landing, complete with palm tree silhouettes and fading sun. The next depicting an exchange between fellow crew members with a series of panels within which the line art becomes increasingly thick and ugly. Almost as if far smaller drawings have simply been manipulated and enlarged electronically. Indeed the artist’s work seems to be at its most impressive when he resists the temptation to provide his drawings with a black outline and simply uses the various colours and shapes of his characters’ faces and bodies to depict the action.
The variant cover art of "THE MERCENARY SEA" No. 1 by Mathew Reynolds

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