Saturday, 13 December 2014

The Mercenary Sea #2 - Image Comics

THE MERCENARY SEA No.2, March 2014
There’s a definite early Twentieth Century motion picture feel to Issue 2 of “The Mercenary Sea”. It is not just the fantastically dynamic cover art by Matthew Reynolds which depicts a Japanese Zero Fighter strafing Captain Harper’s submarine; a front page illustration which certainly wouldn’t look out of place plastered to a bill board with the name David Niven or Gregory Peck headlining a war-time thriller. But the artist’s blatant characterisations of some of that cinematic period’s most famous film stars.

The hapless portly padre is instantly recognisable as the actor Robert Morley, presumably fresh from having filmed the 1951 adventure film “The African Queen”. Whilst Captain Tono, grim-faced and stern-looking, is undoubtedly inspired by Toshiro Mifune’s extraordinary performance in “Hell In The Pacific”. There’s even a cameo by Jack Watson as Sergeant Lee, straight from “The Wild Geese”. However perhaps most successful is Reynold’s depiction of Commander Graham, who is a ‘dead ringer’ for actor Vincent Price; something which immediately provides the mysterious military officer with an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion.

Technicolor artwork to one side however “Red Sails At Sunset” also boasts a reasonably successful action-packed storyline; which writer Kel Symons only disappointingly fails to maintain towards the comic book’s final third. Certainly the issue’s opening few pages are especially enjoyable with the tension between the ex-bootlegger and his crew’s would-be Chinese captors being quite palpable before their subsequent battle over the surface of “The Venture”; an action sequence which is not only very well written, but paced and drawn by Reynolds.

Unfortunately once concluded both the plot and speed of the storyline does significantly, and detrimentally, slow down. There’s some nice interplay between Harper and his crew in the aftermath of their ‘gun-fight’ with the Chinese. But the dialogue steadily increases as each page is turned and events finally become unnecessarily bogged down under the sheer weight of words being exchanged between the German U-Boat’s captain and his supporting cast. Only at the book’s very end does Symons turn back up the suspense dial, as Harper is betrayed and the Japanese navy mobilised to intercept him.
Writer: Kel Symons, Art & Colors: Matthew Reynolds and Letterer: Pat Brosseau

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