Sky Pirates of Valendor #1
Written by Everett Soares
Pencils by Brian Brinlee
Inks by Michael W. Kellar
Colors by Jet Amago
Letters by Cary Kelley
Free Lunch Comics
Cover price: $3.50; Available now
What baffles me all to hell is how Iâ€™ve been having such difficulty writing this review for no apparent reason! I liked the book! Got a lot of good things to say about itâ€¦ But, for some reason, the damn thing just won’t flow.
So, I went and read some Transmetropolitan. Why?
Because Spider fuels me.
SKY PIRATES OF VALENDOR!
Iâ€™ve been following the development of this book ever since its entry into Dimestore Productions‘ Small Press Idol competition last year (this yearâ€™s race is currently underway). Right away it struck me as something different and interesting, and — if done right! — it could be a surprise hit.
Well, lo and behold, they done it right.
Sky Pirates #1 is the sort of book that fantasy geeks and sci-fi nerds have been waiting for: something that is pure fun, with interesting, diverse characters, and a fantasy world that doesnâ€™t fall into hokey stereotypes.
Iâ€™m gonna make sure they bold that last bit because it is probably the detail that sold me more than anything else on this title. Itâ€™s a fantasy comic book that worries more about telling the story in a clear and interesting way, than making sure the audience *knows* theyâ€™re reading a fantasy. Thereâ€™s no purple prose, no â€œtheeâ€s or â€œthouâ€s, and NO reason for a hesitant reader to say, â€œI dunno, I just canâ€™t get into that fantasy stuff. Itâ€™s too difficult to readâ€¦â€
This is a comic for fans of Star Wars, Firefly, and yes, those other popular pirate movies you may have heard of. Taking place in a world where airships fill the skies and magic and technology intermingle, Sky Pirates is the story of Captain Tobin Manheim and the crew of the Rogueâ€™s Revenge. When a royal airship is attacked en-route to the border settlement of South Gate, and an important passenger is taken hostage, the Governor of South Gate hires Tobin & company to mount a rescue operation on the pirate port of Croix.
On the surface, the plot is simple enough, but as you read further, you can begin to see the cogs turning beneath the veil. All is not as it seems, and by the end of the issue, you realize that everyone is hiding something.
The reason I think I enjoyed this issue so much is that it is built on the shoulders of interesting characters. Tobin is an engaging lead who takes charge of every scene heâ€™s in (and why shouldnâ€™t he? Heâ€™s the captain!), and itâ€™s fun watching him try to deal with other characters whose egos rival his own. By the time the four main protagonists of the book are assembled, you may notice a similarity between them and a certain crew of space pirates from the X-Men comics of the 70s and 80s, but I wouldnâ€™t hold that against the book. Whether itâ€™s a purposeful homage or just great minds thinking alike, there is more than enough here to distance Sky Pirates from the rest.
The writing of the issue is its strongest point, with creator Everett Soares proving that he knows how to juggle a diverse cast with differing plotlines, and weave them together into a single cohesive vision. The world heâ€™s created is fascinating indeed and it is one that I look forward to learning more about.
The artwork by Brian Brinlee suits the story well and captures a sort of old fashioned feel. Coupled with the black and white look of the book (inks by Michael W. Kellar, tones by Jet Amago), this comic comes off almost like a classic film from the 20s or 30s. You know, the ones that come in sets of 13 that you can get at Best Buy for ten bucks a pop?
(The main difference being that this is much, much better than a lot of those movies.)
(Well, that andâ€¦ yâ€™knowâ€¦ moving pictureâ€¦)
The art is not perfect, however. Though Brinlee does the job required of him, and does it with some skill, there is still evidence of progress yet to be made. While he generally nails background elements and clothing details, his figures can sometimes seem a little stiff, the perspective and things like arm length or hand sizeâ€¦ a little awkward. There is definite promise in his work, though, and it is obvious that one thing he brings to Sky Pirates is a heavy helping of passion and dedication.
The same can really be said for the entire creative team. This book was a labor of love, and there is nothing I like more than to see loveâ€™s labors rewarded.
Though this issue serves mostly as a set-up for the story to follow, itâ€™s written in such a way that you donâ€™t really notice — youâ€™re too busy enjoying the characters and their world. There is still momentum to be gained, but the series is off to a decent start. If rollicking, old fashioned adventure with a modern sensibility is the sort of thing you like reading, I definitely recommend giving Sky Pirates of Valendor a looksee. It is unlike anything else on the racks, and, perhaps more importantly, is just plain fun.
I give it a B+.