Finally, “Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island” #4 has come out. The mini-series began in February 2010 with the most recent issue coming out in March of this year. That’s a fairly scattered release schedule, one that lessens the impact of this fourth issue. Unless you’re going to go back and reread the first three issues, this issue has a few moments of catching up in the story as it all comes back to you. Once you get past the gap since issue three came out, though, this fourth issue is a strong conclusion to an odd little story.
Constable Charles Gravel finds himself working with the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island to avenge the deaths of Captain Swing and one of his fellow Peeler constables. The driving force of this issue is attitude, and the wavering conflict between Gravel and the pirates. Throughout the issue, he insists that there isn’t any difference between a policeman and a pirate except for each’s conception of rules (or laws), something he proves right when he sides with justice in a raid on the man responsible for the deaths earlier that evening. Like pirates, he doesn’t take into consideration the power or social position of the man in question.
“Captain Swing” ends almost playfully. The narrative pages by Captain Swing (though deceased) add levity and humor to the issue. The best one is a single phrase on a page after the important man insults the deceased pirate: “Cheeky bastard.” Warren Ellis is skilled at mixing serious matters, humor, and a sense of wonder — exactly what this series is built on. It’s a romantic comic in its conception of the world and what’s right, something Gravel falls under the spell of as the series continues.
The serious, quasi-horrific, portion of the comic is handled ably by its artist, Raulo Caceres. One of the antagonists is a fat half-mechanical beast of a man that is absolutely disgusting to look at. His is monstrous with folds of fat coming through the metal skeleton enabling him, with a dripping pipe where his genitals should be. Caceres’ line work is detailed, though sometimes stiff. His figures look too posed or still at times, especially one panel of Gravel running up a flight of stairs that comes off as comical.
“Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island” took longer than expected to finish and the wait was somewhat worth it. Ellis’ writing is wondrous and magical in the right places, harsh and cold in other appropriate spots, and Caceres’ art brings the world to life with its detail. This series fits into Ellis’ body of work seamlessly and, yet, still stands out as a strange piece of work that meanders a bit and acts as a prologue, of sorts, to “Gravel” and “Doktor Sleepless.” With the collection coming out soon, fans of Ellis’ work and weird sci-fi should give it a look.