Written by: Kel Symons
Art by: Mathew Reynolds
Published by: Image Comics
“Mercenary Sea #6” plays with you. For a moment it makes you think that it’s employing one of the most overused tropes of the genre, but by the final pages it reveals itself to be far more complex and intriguing than that. Writer Kel Symons and artist Mathew Reynolds have achieved a sort of simpatico that we usually expect from teams working on their fiftieth issue together, not their sixth. This series wears its pulp inspirations on its sleeve but manages to update and modernize that in refreshing ways. Indiana Jones fans will definitely find something to love about this series, not just the exciting action and adventure but in the wise cracking and yet surprisingly deep hero. A bit later in this review I’ll get to just how Symons and Reynolds navigate waters sailed by so many more and manage to remain original and true to themselves.
This concluding issue features an explosive story, but it’s told a bit too quickly. Before you know it you’ve finished with the book, and it doesn’t seem like we’ve been given enough time to appreciate Reynolds’s incredible art or Symons’s expert delivery of the script. Instead the plot flies along at a pace a bit too brisk for its own good. It is far from a deal breaker but does hold this issue back from top marks. There are so many interesting little pieces at work in this tale but none of them get much time to shine before you’re whisked off to the next development so that this first story-arc can be wrapped up already.
The next time I see Mathew Reynolds’s name on a comic teaser I’ll know that I don’t need to try it out, that I can read the comic with impunity. Reynolds has a distinct look and gives this book a voice that’s very distinct. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; the art style is a perfect fit for this kind of rollicking high-seas adventure. In particular the cinematic quality of using focus to tell the story of certain panels is unique to very few books. The very nature of comic art prevents most artists from being able to use focus like you would on camera but Reynolds is able to capture this device and use it to his advantage.
The characters in Mercenary Sea are a diverse group and that’s part of what makes it so fun. It’s almost a staple of the genre but one that doesn’t do any harm. Each of the characters possesses a unique voice thanks to Symons and a distinct look thanks to Reynolds. This group has a fun dynamic that really expresses what this book is all about. Mercenary Sea manages to balance its tone really well between a raucous sense of humour as well as explaining deep truths.
I mentioned a trope earlier which I’d like to get into more detail about right now. For a moment I feared that one of my favourite new series ventured into territory that I wouldn’t be able to follow, but my fears were allayed just as I was about to hang my head in disappointment. It looked like the classic damsel in distress formula was going to play out. I agree with Anita Sarkeesian on only the most basic premise; that we can do better than the damsel in distress trope. The rest of what she says is at best weak anecdotes and at worst a complete fabrication. However, I do believe that we should always endeavour to thwart tropes and stereotypes, it does make for a better story after all. I kicked myself after finishing the issue for having doubted this team after doing a great job to buck trends in the issues leading up to this climax. But I couldn’t help but find myself sucked into the story and played as a sucker. Symons rewards my doubt and momentary lack of confidence with a great plot twist that provides a spark for later stories; though I’m still wondering if we’re ever going to see that lost treasure!
Mercenary Sea is a series for you if you love to let your hair down and have a good time every now and again. Symons packs enough action, heart, and suspense into each issue to keep you coming back every month and once you grow to love Reynolds’s art you’ll love when he lavishes a naval battle upon you. This book doesn’t tackle the heaviest fare, especially considering how intellectually intense some Image books are these days, but it’s nice to have a book like Mercenary Sea to kick it with to cleanse your pallet.
“Mercenary Sea #6” earns 7.9 / 10