Written by: Kel Symons
Art by: Mathew Reynolds
Published by: Image Comics
The Mercenary Sea has become one of the series that makes me smile with glee when I see that it is going to be released in the upcoming week. It’s captured the tone and atmosphere of the high adventure novels and films that I loved as a kid. It’s found the perfect artist in Mathew Reynolds. I have to assume that Kel Symons had a childhood somewhat similar to mine where books featuring pirates and deserted islands were king and Dirk Pitt and Indiana Jones were the epitome of awesomeness. The Mercenary Sea is a comic unlike any other on the market. There is nothing that looks like it, nothing that reads like it, and nothing that is trying to do the same thing.
This series gets massive points with me for originality and creativity. It takes no small amount of courage to put together any creator-owned book, but when that book shirks the horror, science-fiction, crime, fantasy, and superhero genres for adventure—well, that takes a little bit of madness. Symons and Reynolds are the madmen that are one issue away from a tremendous first story-arc that hasn’t missed a beat.
Symons brings our ragtag band of heroes face-to-face with their nemesis at last, and it is a fitting climax to a great issue that puts on display everything the series does well. The eclectic band of characters are diverse and interesting to watch as their different personalities make their interactions frequently hilarious or intriguing. The love interest being much more than a pretty face is awesome too. Instead of the usual cheerleader bimbo who follows around the big, strong, brave men, Symons has given us a femme fatale that is perhaps the most deadly of the bunch.
This issue flips from an exciting firefight to an extended dialogue amongst characters effortlessly, something that most comics don’t seem to do half as well. And thanks to Reynolds both kinds of scenes look fantastic but for totally different reasons. Of course, when you’re reading adventure stories, you’re definitely waiting for the big payoff—the time when the best laid plans fall apart and Nathan Drake has to fight his way through a swath of baddies throwing insults and hurling obscenities at the enemy all the while. Reynolds captures that exciting tang of salt on your tongue and gunpowder in your nostrils and delivers tantalizing action set pieces. Likewise, his ability to craft likable characters is impressive. The coupling of well-written dialogue and superbly executed facial expressions make the cast of The Mercenary Sea one of the best around. The reason why those action scenes are so exciting is because they come on the heels of carefully laid character work that makes sure you’re sympathetic to the plight of the characters.
With us distracted by prison camp raids, sexual tension, and hiding from the Imperial Japanese Navy, Symons has been carefully pulling together the strings of why we’re here in the first place: treasure! What could have been a weakness for the series has turned into a compelling reason to stick around. The twists and turns of this narrative are eventually going to reveal what Captain Jack (hah!) and his crew are searching for.
The Mercenary Sea is unlike any other book on stands. The artwork is truly spectacular, and while it might take some getting used to, readers should acclimatize quickly to the shift from traditional comic form and grow to love it. If your past is like mine and littered with stories of the Second World War, treasure maps, lost islands and a screw-up of a hero that despite himself wins the day, then you’re going to adore this series.