Thursday, January 29, 2009

Crogan's Vengeance: Avast, me hearties! Shiver me timbers! Etc.

Sorry about the lack of updates; being sick sucks.  But: I've got a review of That Salty Air up at IndiePulp, if you're interested.

Links and such: Also at IndiePulp, I recommend this essay by my compatriot A.N. Ommus about creativity, productivity, and Jack Kirby.  Good reading.

Here's an interesting webcomic: The Sergeant and Professor Skeary Winslow.  It appears to be a sort of interdimensional fantasy/sci-fi, but the first chapter starts off in the middle of an aerial battle involving a bat-winged plane and some heli-pack-wearing monsters over a weird jungle.  It's a nice beginning.  The creator is doing an interesting promotion in which he will draw people who send him a photo into an upcoming crowd scene.  Details here.  I thought that sounded cool, so look for me in said scene. Hat tip: Sean Kleefeld.

Details are out for the 2009 Toronto Comics Art Festival.  Man, I would love to go; I might have to see if a trip would be doable.

Check out this comic by Dan Zettwoch, based on a story by Jason Shiga.  I though it was quite funny.

Okay, real content:

Crogan's Vengeance
By Chris Schweizer



Wow, Chris Schweizer is an ambitious fellow.  This book is the first in a projected sixteen-volume series detailing the adventures of various members of the eponymous Crogan family across three different centuries of history.  And given the talent on display here, it should be a treat to see them all come to fruition.  

Beginning with a framing sequence in which the modern-day Dr. Crogan imparts a lesson about doing the right thing to his son, the book quickly plunges into the story of their ancestor Catfoot Crogan, relating how he became a scurvy scalawag of the high seas (sorry).  It's a fascinating story that's full of historical details and a surprisingly layered plot that isn't a simple tale of good vs. evil.  Not to say that it's a complex examination of morality or anything, but our hero does end up facing the dilemma of weighing his personal preservation over that of innocents, along with struggles against authority and the benefits and costs of friendship in a life-or-death environment.  There's a lot more here than peg legs and eyepatches.

As the story begins, Catfoot is struggling to survive a voyage as a seahand on a merchant ship whose captain has it out for him.  When some pirates attack their vessel, he and his fellow crewmen are given the option of joining or dieing, plunging him into the world of high-seas lawlessness.  He soon gets on the pirate captain's good side when he displays an acumen for naval strategy, but this puts him in competition with the first mate, who ends up making a power play for control of the ship and possibly endangering all their livelihoods with his greediness.  Will this all lead to a big showdown battle?  You bet your jolly roger it will!

And through it all, Schweizer examines the morality of his characters, giving them interesting motivations and setting them against each other.  While the merchant captain was unfair to Catfoot, our hero still won't stand to see the man tortured to death by the pirates.  The pirate captain must see something of a fellow man in Catfoot; having drawn up a set of "articles" that govern how his men are treated, settle their differences, and split their loot.  He's a moral man in an immoral field, and we see that the urge to unfairly play the system is what brings him down.  On the other hand, first mate D'or is a nasty brute who thinks of nothing but himself and getting his hands on whatever he desires, whether that be wealth or the death of those who cross him.  It makes for an interesting mix, and Schweizer gets a lot of mileage out of playing them off each other, eventually allowing Catfoot to prevail and be rewarded for sticking to what is right.

It ends up being highly entertaining, and especially exciting to boot, with lots of swashbuckling action and adventure.  Schweizer's art has a cartoony look to it, filling the pages with curvily-limbed characters sporting exaggerated features.  This serves to highlight the personalities of the characters, and it also makes for some dynamic action:  



And it's far from simplistic; in fact, Schweizer manages to pack in a load of detail when necessary, going so far as to make some battle scenes look like a loud, chaotic jumble of energy.  But he never sacrifices storytelling to do so; check out this sequence that sees Catfoot trying to get his bearings in the confusion surrounding him:



I love the way Schweizer starts out with a close-up and then pulls back to see our viewpoint character stranded in a sea of violence.  But in that third, cluttered panel, he's still dead center; we have no trouble picking him out of the crowd.  It's nice work, and this sort of skill is present throughout the whole book.

It ends up being a highly satisfying volume, and if Schweizer can keep it up, we'll have a classic series on our hands.  This could even have some educational value, given the historical details that serve to demonstrate what life was really like at the time.  And while there is some violence, none of it is gratuitous; it's perfectly suitable for teens, and maybe even younger, depending on the parents' discretion, of course.  It should be fascinating to see Schweizer build on his series; I can't wait to see where he goes next.

This review was based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.