Pirates have been pretty popular of late, and I’m not talking about the real life bad guys hanging off the coast of Africa, but, the Johnny Depp-Douglas Fairbanks fantasy pirates of the movies. There is even a genre of music called “Pirate Metal” which our friends at Wikipedia describes as “a subgenre of heavy metal, characterized by its incorporation of pirate mythology within the music and sometimes in stage performances. Lyrics often use piratical jargon and various musical genres, such as thrash, speed metal, and folk metal, may be combined with traditional-sounding songs like sea shanties. Folk instruments, such as the concertina, can be incorporated or emulated with synthesizers. Band members often dress up in period costume during performances, and concert attendees may do so as well. “. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pirate_metal.
My son, the army lieutenant (said the proud dad), turned me on to AleStorm (a takeoff on mainstream rockers Halestorm) and their great song, “Drink,” where they sing that “We are here to drink your beer…Your alcohol to us will fall.” Sheer poetry.
So, when I saw that Action Lab Comics published a title called “Pirate Eye,” I just had to pick it up. Pirates and private eyes? Why wasn’t this genius mashup done before? Leave it to Action Lab, which is currently producing some of the most interesting, indeed, some of the best comics right now.
This brings me to the comic book review. The stories are billed as “single shots” meaning, in this era of multi-issue sagas, the stories are complete in a single issue. They are neat little stories and author Joe Grahn does a fine job. Our Pirate Eye is Smitty, who lives in a port town and gets work as a “finder.” He has an obsession with finding things out and, unfortunately, as a pirate this makes his captain nervous. Rather than thanking him for finding out who killed her first mate, she has Smitty beaten and stranded on a row boat, after all he’s told “How long did you think the Captain would employ a man from whom no secrets can be?”
Now, he works finding things. In volume one there are four stories of previously published comics. Each self-contained, but also adding a little more to the background of Smitty. In the first story, he is hired to find out if a young girl with an “X” branded on her did in fact murder a “client.” It is revealed early on that Smitty, while having been a pirate, does not dishonor women, doesn’t frequent whorehouses and doesn’t like kidnapping women and forcing them to work as prostitutes. He has a moral code that Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade would recognize. These traits allow him to bring the story to a reasonable solution and ensure that the reader is rooting for him.
The art of Carl Yonder, who also colors and letters, perfectly complements the story and the atmosphere. The art is dark, muddy and raw. The photorealism or super hero style would have been jarring. These dark and claustrophobic stories and the art matches without sounding a single false note. You can smell the sea air and the stench of unwashed bodies.
Grahn and Yonder have created something unique and interesting. So, crank up some AleStorm and crack open an issue of Pirate Eye.