Swashbucklers: The Saga Continues #1
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Artist: Andrea Mutti
Cover: Butch Guice
Colors: Chris Sotomayor
Letters: Taylor Esposito
Reviewer: Steve Sellers
Although I’ve been reading comics long enough to remember Swords of the Swashbucklers when it was originally released, I never actually expected it might return. Not because of anything related to its content, as I unfortunately never had the chance to read this series during its time at Epic. However, it has been a long time, and it was a series that faded from memory over long decades. In fairness, however, Marvel’s Epic line produced many well-regarded series (such as Jim Starlin’s Dreadstar) that stretched the boundaries of genre in comics.
With that having been said, it’s good to see Dynamite doing their part to revive Swashbucklers, particularly in bringing the original series back in reprint form. The concept of a group of space pirates fighting against an intergalactic empire certainly has merit, and I applaud the effort to make it available to a modern audience. Bill Mantlo was one of the unsung talents at 1980’s Marvel, though perhaps best known for Rocket Raccoon, and his contributions on this book should not be overlooked.
While I’m not entirely convinced about the Swashbucklers revival, this debut issue does a solid enough job of reintroducing these forgotten characters.
Although I wish he was available to do the interior art, series co-creator Butch Guice is always welcome on cover duty. Guice’s work has evolved tremendously since the time he worked on the original Swashbucklers, and that shows with this cover. The characters are all believably well-rendered, as I would expect of an artist of his caliber. However, the cover maintains the genre flavor of what a book like Swashbucklers should be. The background image of a large human skull set against a starscape clearly establish the tone of the book. The action poses suggest interesting alien characters and piratical swordplay, even if a new reader won’t necessarily know who these characters are specifically. The color work on this cover is striking as well, and it brings out the best in these characters.
While Guice sets a very difficult standard to measure up against, Andrea Mutti manages to do quite well with this issue. His approach is not that stylistically different from Guice’s version, even if the art doesn’t quite hit that level of excellence. That having been said, the characters are still quite well rendered, and the visual storytelling comes across reasonably well. In fact, the early pages would probably work best with less dialogue, since they capably get across the main thrust of the scene without the reader needing to be told anything. The vastness of space feels lonely and empty as Mutti depicts it, hitting home how dire the situation is for the Swashbucklers. At the same time, the visual influence from historical pirates remains present in these pages, helping to set the book across from typical space opera fare. Although this is a space adventure and the characters look suitably alien, they also look like pirates, which works very much to the book’s favor. I also respect the sense of scale to the artwork, which is present especially on the final splash page.
Chris Sotomayor is a name that I remember primarily from his work on Peter David’s run on Captain Marvel, a title that I rate highly. Like Swashbucklers, that title concerned itself with cosmic landscapes and presenting the vastness of space through coloring, so he’s an excellent fit for a series like this. Sotomayor has, if anything, improved since those days, and I strongly suspect that the depth and texture of the interstellar void is the result of strong coloring work. Additionally, Sotomayor provides some strong lighting work, using some interesting choices of colors (such as bright purple) to make the ships look even more alien. The cold tones he uses create the unforgiving atmosphere (or lack thereof, in this case) of this setting. Everything is epic and dramatic under Sotomayor’s lighting, and it heightens the tension of this story.
Taylor Esposito provides some strong lettering this issue, reinforcing the strangeness of this setting and these characters. His work on the captions seems to be an attempt to evoke the flavor of the original series, and if so, it looks like a capable effort. The narrative captions capture the pirate-inspired script of the title font, which is in keeping with what Swashbucklers is. Beyond that, Esposito succeeds at making each of the alien characters sound distinct through font and balloon designs. While it would be easy to take this too far, Esposito makes the character voices distinct enough with these choices without crossing that line. The sound effects are solid, using some interesting font shapes that evoke more of the science fiction influence. As a whole, this is good work that allows the art to breathe as it should.
I generally have mixed feelings towards the writing of Marc Guggenheim, though admittedly he is a writer of no small stature. To his credit, he has developed many good ideas during his career, and he’s written some good recent issues (such as his work on X-Men Gold). On the other hand, not all his recent output has successfully hit the mark, and consistency has been a concern when it comes to his work.
With that said, the story is mostly solid in terms of setup, though the early introductory pages are somewhat overwritten. I suspect that Guggenheim may have been trying to capture Bill Mantlo’s narrative voice on the original series, which is an understandable decision. On the other hand, the art already does a good job of showing the reader what happens, and the narrative captions don’t really add much to the story. This ends up cluttering some pretty solid art with unnecessary narration that doesn’t help us get to know Raader or understand her predicament. That said, once the crew comes together a little later in the issue, Guggenheim focuses more on necessary details and character development from then on.
Beyond that, it mostly works aside from some clunky early setup. Captain Raader comes across as an interesting and authoritative character, and she seems the most promising of the new Swashbucklers at this stage. We don’t yet have a chance to get to know the others too deeply aside from Servitor, who serves as a character for Raader to bounce her thoughts against. Their relationship comes across well, though the dialogue does tend to repeat information when it could say more with a little bit less. Mostly, this is an issue that serves as a basic recap for new readers (which it accomplishes decently) as it introduces the new status quo for the crew of the Starshadow. I learned enough that I was curious to learn more about Raader and her crew, and to care about what happens next, so it does what it needs to as a first issue.
While I do have some reservations about Swashbucklers, this first issue comes across as a good-faith attempt to honor the vision of Bill Mantlo. While the book has areas of concern, it may well be that this creative team will address that and improve over the course of the series. Certainly, there’s more than enough in this concept that could lead to some great stories in the future.
This book is offered at a $3.99 cover price. With some reputable creators attached to this book, and the solid output from this issue, Swashbucklers: The Saga Continues earns a rum-guzzling 8.0/10. While I would recommend reading the Mantlo series before reading this, a new reader could come into the book without getting lost in the details. While it’s too soon to say where this series is going, there’s enough potential to be worth a look if you’re interested in trying something new.
Written By Steve Sellers
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