A brand new fantasy adventure series that’s fun for all ages, read on for our review of “Scales & Scoundrels” #1, which contains mild spoilers.
Written by Sebastian Girner
Illustrated by Galaad
Lettered and Designed by Jeff Powell
It’s hard to make an honest living in a land brimming with magic and mystery, and treasure hunter Luvander is tired of being a penniless adventurer. Ever in search of gold and glory, she sets off for a fabled dungeon, ‘the Dragon’s Maw,’ an ancient labyrinth, at the bottom of which slumbers endless wealth… or certain doom! But what starts out as a road to riches becomes the first step on an epic journey to destiny, for Luvander holds a secret in her heart that will shatter the chains of fate and bring light to a world encroached upon by an ancient darkness. Writer SEBASTIAN GIRNER (SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER!) and artist GALAAD are proud to present SCALES & SCOUNDRELS, a colorful and exciting new monthly fantasy adventure from Image Comics, for scoundrels of all ages!
It’s hard to keep the smile off your face with a book like “Scales & Scoundrels.” We’re surrounded by a news cycle that’s only getting more scary and depressing, and that world has been leaking into comics of late thanks to books like Marvel’s “Secret Empire,” so when a series comes along that promises to sweep you up in the thrill of an adventure in an exotic fantasy realm, you’d better believe I’m jumping in with both feet.
Written by Sebastian Girner (of “Shirtless Bear Fighter” fame,) “Scales and Scoundrels” follows Luvander, a young adventurer looking to make her fortune by almost any means. This includes a little hustling at the card games in the local tavern, or maybe stealing an apple to fuel her next adventure. It’s the kind of small, unassuming beginning that all great epics start with, and in fact, there’s more than just a passing resemblance to Jeff Smith’s “Bone,” at least in spirit. That sense of fun and adventure waiting around the corner, with an unmistakable edge to the narrative that’s hard to put your finger on. You get the sense that there’s more to this young scoundrel than we see here, and being the central character in this story means she’s destined for greatness whether she knows it yet or not.
For now though, Luvander is just out to make her fortune, as is true of any scoundrel. She happens upon a group of heroes beset by bandits on all sides, and after teaming up to send the bad guys packing she’s made an offer she cannot refuse. The fun will be in seeing how Luvander’s rather self-centered worldview and what Girner and Galaad have planned will intersect, and just how long this adventure will be. With books like “Scales & Scoundrels,” you need a story that will run a suitable length in order to convey the epic scope of the tale you’re about to tell, but from the start, this is a series that has an end in mind, as all good adventures do. In this case, Luvander has a vision – across a wonderful two-page spread – that is no doubt filled with hints and secrets about the journey ahead of her.
Galaad’s artwork is superbly suited to the story. There are a few moments where the panels open up to reveal glimpses of the fantasy world that Luvander inhabits, and every time it happens it’s breathtaking. Whether it’s the establishing shot of a tavern in the local town or a view of the surrounding landscape from the rooftops at sunset, Galaad captures that childlike sense of wonder when looking at a world much bigger than any of the characters realize. This is a fairytale world, a fantasy land filled with magic and danger and that’s all conveyed in the art. Luvander is a well-dressed wanderer with a mix of European and Manga influences to her style, clearly a hero in the making. The pacing of her adventure is swift enough for you to miss the details, but it’s in those details that Galaad shines. A humble cart outside the town gates; the wonderful wares at the local market; the tattered ruins of a recently destroyed tavern; all of these things are captured effortlessly in a way that sparks the imagination.Continued below
The highlight of the issue is the double-page spread depicting Luvander’s vision. The dense, abstract structure and layered attention to detail is glorious and hints at magical lands, angry townspeople and untold horrors lurking in the dark. There are mystical ruins, a heart shaped gemstone, a hoard of riches and a scary looking dragon with familiar hair. It’s a scene designed to be referred to again and again as part of a grander narrative, but even if this was taken on its own, hung on the wall of a child’s bedroom, these pages alone could tell countless tales of fantasy and adventure.
“Scales & Scoundrels” #1 is an all-ages book that’s filled with promise: the promise of an epic journey; the promise of a gripping tale waiting to unfold; the promise that it will take hold of your inner adventurer and not let go. It’s a book that’s a welcome escape from an ever more scary world, with a retreat to a magical world that feels familiar from your childhood playtimes but remains fresh and unpredictable and new. This is a series that will reward the monthly reader with its breezy nature and colorful narrative, but I can only imagine how wonderful a story like this would look as an oversized hardcover collection.
Final Verdict: 9.3 – The next epic adventure series is here, and it’s every bit as magical as you’d expect.