At a glance, “The Mercenary Sea” #1 looks almost like a missing animated show from FX, airing alongside “Archer.” A mixture of modern sensibilities with old-time adventure serial spirit, Kel Symons and Mathew Reynolds’ new comic shows a lot of promise that I’m curious to see more of. But at the same time, there are some rough spots that could use a bit of smoothing out.
Symons and Reynolds’s comic about mercenaries and their adventure-tinged missions has some strong points in its favor. Symons’ story presents some fun characters — all of whom Simons quickly gives readers a grasp of as soon as they appear — and entertaining situations. It’s a combination of fake-outs, double-crosses and long-simmering enmity. That’s a great combination for an adventure comic, and Symons clearly has a specific mental picture of what “The Mercenary Sea” should look like.
That said, “The Mercenary Sea” #1’s story is a little choppy in places; some scenes run a bit more smoothly in Symons’ head (where all of the pieces are being filled in due to familiarity with the plot) than what’s presented on the page. That should most likely go away with time — the act of putting the comic together generally fixes it — but it keeps the story in “The Mercenary Sea” #1 from rising past just “good.”
Reynolds’ art looks almost like a series of animated cels, they’re so crisp and beautiful. The colors are incredibly lush, his lines are smooth and every one of these characters is almost perfectly created on the page. There’s a strong sense of realism to them, as well as their surroundings. Reynolds understands when to use a limited color palette (like the cool blues of the opening sequence as they enter the jungle, which gives a sense of misty surroundings without cluttering up the page) and when to go whole-hog, full-color that leaps out and grabs your retinas. The artist has some strong artistic sensibilities on display.
The aspect of Reynolds’ art that I’d like to see smoothed out is the characters’ movement from panel to panel. Everyone comes across a little stiff and posed; there’s not a strong progression that signifies movement, at times coming across more as a series of portraits. It’s a trap that a lot of artists whose characters are modeled strongly on the real world fall into, and I hope that Reynolds’ characters able to loosen up with time. They look great whenever they’re not moving, but that sense of action just isn’t there quiet yet.
“The Mercenary Sea” #1 has a lot of promise, and based on this first issue I’ll be back for more. It’s a good debut, and with a little work that can shift from “good” to “great.” These are two talented creators, and given time, they could be powerhouses. All in all, a pleasant start.