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So the adventure continues in issue #3 of Mercenary Sea. Moral of the story thus far: trust nobody. In the wild East, everyone’s at your throat and profit is paramount. In fact, it’s very much like the Wild West. The difference: deserts and high mountain ranges are switched with islands and deep oceans, and warring nations are added to the long list of threats and dangers. The virtuous crew of the Venture is a beacon of hope in a world of corruption and death.
The second and third issues of Mercenary Sea have made a priority of plot development over character. The beauty of serialized story telling is that there’s always time to fill gaps, to constantly build and expand the world we’ve been given. It is therefore forgivable that a central story line is taking precedence. That is, of course, not to say that character development is totally absent. You learn a lot about people when watching them face hardships. I’m just worried that the fearless Captain Jack Harper is a little too typical for my tastes.
Jack Harper: a man who’s always willing to put his life on the line for a good cause. He’s good, good-looking, patient, diplomatic, and always a step ahead of his enemies. I yearn to learn more about Jack, to discover that he’s more than a clean-cut archetype straight from the rich history of American mythology. Then again, that might be exactly what he is, exactly what the creative team is striving for. Mercenary Sea has its roots in Howard Hawks movies, in the proud individualists that men like Humphrey Bogart immortalized. Therefore, Jack might well be a fixed and unchanging character—only time will tell.
And if that were indeed the case, I doubt it’d be a problem. Mercenary Sea is exactly what it claims to be: a classic adventure tale filled with cutthroats and opportunists, with buried treasures and the pirates that chase them, with explosions, set-ups, and booby traps. It’s a story the likes of which you don’t often see nowadays, but which were a dime a dozen a generation or two ago. Mercenary Sea is the revival of a genre, and it meets all expectations within that genre in every necessary way.
Kel Symons is a writer who knows his subject matter intimately. I love the scenes of water-warfare, of battleships battling submarines. I love the feeling of the Pacific being massive and unexplored, teeming with treasures and its pursuers. While the first issue introduced us to the crew of the Venture and their group dynamic, the second two issues have begun to focus on their exploits. They’re the Wild Bunch with a more prominent moral compass, and Symons has me fearing for their lives at the end of every issue.
Matthew Reynolds has certainly made his presence known in a really significant way. Last time, I talked all about his usage of silhouettes and shadows. The look of Mercenary Sea is undoubtedly unique, and it adds a ton to the already well-established genre. One criticism I have: distinguishing the characters. Sometimes, the close-ups can be deceiving and one person can look a lot like another. It’s never something that fools me beyond one panel. Worst-case scenario is that I’ll have to reread a sentence or two. Still, it’s something I noticed.
Mercenary Sea is headed in a promising direction. If a few more issues end with danger, only to follow up that danger with no consequences, I fear things might get a bit stale. Additionally, if the individual crewmembers of the venture continue to be secondary characters, I’ll forget their names. However, right now, everything is spot on. The danger is fresh, as are the characters, and I’m still on board for this nautical adventure of global proportions.