"Plunder" #1 is a grindhouse comic on the high seas. It follows a band of modern-day pirates stumbling on a seemingly abandoned tanker in the middle of the ocean and discovering what is currently inhabiting it. It's bloody and mean, a hard world full of hard people trying to survive. The narrator of the book, a dropout seeking adventure and danger, has the origins of a Disney hero but this is not that world. Instead, Translator is in far over his head, a theme that expands to the entire group as the story kicks into gear.
Swifty Lang starts the story with an action bender that quickly turns on itself when the pirates are forced into a defensive position as they slowly piece together what went on prior to their arrival. It's a slow turn that works as the downtime is used to develop the characters on the boat. The dialogue balances well between everyone on board and they all have distinct personalities. There is still a lot to learn about the setting for the story, and the threat is a little vague, though that feels like a choice and not an accident.
Artist Skuds McKinley handles the high panel count well with clear cartooning and good use of negative space. Action flows easily and flows from page to page. His character designs are all distinct, finding one specific detail for each that makes them instantly recognizable on the page, which is important for a story with a large cast. His work is in a similar vein of current popular artists, with the simple detail of Marcos MartÃn and the clear storytelling of Chris Samnee. There's even a little Junji Ito in there with a clear joy in the more gruesome moments in the issue, like the disemboweled officer found below deck.
The story pauses rather than finds a real cliffhanger. The villains of the piece are still not clearly defined beyond mutated human monsters yelling random things. The story moving forward will hinge on how well the threat is handled. Withholding information this big for the second act of the story raises the stakes on the concept itself. Often, stories that go this route wind up building too complex a story, thinking that making it as big as possible will leave the reader blown away only to end up with a house of cards. Lang spends this issue developing the rest of the cast well, so hopefully he will provide as balanced and satisfying a build for the antagonists next issue. If that happens, this team could have a real hit on their hands.
This comic book hits all the right notes and, being only four issues long, it's not a story that will overstay its welcome even if the threat isn't a huge payoff. There is a patient confidence to the production in this comic book and "Plunder" #1 is a good opening to what may be an excellent addition to the horror genre.