Monday, January 28, 2008

Review: Sky Pirates of Valendor by Everett Soares

It's no secret that I like comic books and that I like high fantasy. But I have a general dislike when the two are crammed together. There's something about the imagery combined with the tropes of the story that make it feel awkward and rote to me. There a few exceptions, like the Wildstorm version of Red Sonja and the series Sojourn put out by the short-lived publisher CrossGen. And after reading the the premier issue, I'm hoping I can add Everett Soares's Sky Pirates of Valendor to the short list of fantasy comics that I enjoy.

cover page

Soares has created an unusual world, an almost Steampunk realm that mixes different levels of technology. Pirates don't command boats limited to the water but ships that fly in the sky. And characters with robotic arms might battle with swords and muskets while others may raise high-powered sniper rifles in their own defense. Magic seems to be present as well, complete with talking bears, Elves and prophecies.

big bear

Valendor sits ruled over by the Valen Empire, a rich but seemingly restrictive kingdom. The series hero is Tobin Manheim, the swashbuckling captain for the pirate ship Rogue's Revenge. He's Strong-headed, easy to anger but obviously has some leadership capabilities and a good sense of conniving. Our introduction to Manheim is a humorous scene dragging a dockmaster off of his boat for interrupting his time with a lady friend.

action page

Manheim's hired by the Valen Empire to hunt down a ship that kidnapped a ranking official of the Empire. The catch is that he has to work with Gearz, a sexy but equally hard-headed woman with robotic arms. There's a history between the two we aren't privy to yet, but I can only imagine that coming to terms with their bad history will play a part of the series.

flying boat

Drawn by Brian Brinlee and inked by Michael W. Keller, I have mixed feelings about the art. Some panels are gorgeous, especially those that focus on action or faces. But others seem like they were drawn more quickly, particularly the landscapes. They do Make some interesting choices with page layouts, most noticeably on the first page where they use a series of circles instead of the standard square panels to get across a first person point of view.

intro page

It's hard to say exactly where the story is going. This first issue is about setting the stage. We get glimpses of a world that seems large and well fleshed out, and it's a testament to Soare's writing that I'm curious to see more. While this will definitely be a series high on action, there are hints intrigue and clashes of personality as well. I'm curious to see how the different levels of tech really play out in this world. I like the suggestions of what's to come and only time will tell if the team can deliver that image to the page.


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