The first great series of 2021 has arrived with a nuclear blast!
26 years after the bombs fell, a tribe of survivors emerges from the bunker, guided by the book that helped them survive: The Ranger Scout Survival Handbook.
Now, over two-and-a-half centuries later, the descendants of those pioneers strive to live by the Seven Laws laid down by the author of the guide, Dr. Jefferson Hancock. Ranger scouts like Kit and Dez lead lives of tradition, of values, redeeming the Badlands and protecting the citizens from dangers that roam this post-apocalyptic Colorado, both human and mutant.
While Dez seems to constantly come up short in his efforts to impress his father (the local Scoutmaster,) his best friend Kit seems to excel despite his best efforts to avoid the spotlight. Kit has a secret he’s hiding from his best friend, but it’s nothing compared to the secrets he’s about to learn about the Ranger Scouts themselves and their place in this dangerous world. I’m going to stop here, because to say anything more about the story would only hamper the experience you’ve got coming.
Writer David Pepose has taken the YA dystopian genre and given it a good, hard shake, and what has come out of it is moving and impressive. In an all-too-brief 22 pages, he’s created a fully realized world, a Hunger Games-style dystopia viewed through the lens of the Boy Scout Handbook, with a layer of Mad Max thrown in for additional flavor - a place where merit badges aren’t just for arts and crafts, they’re indicators or life or death skills.
He starts his story with a bang and never lets up, and while you would think a concept like this would be non-stop action, he easily taps into the deep emotional well of his characters in the barest lines of dialogue. Rather then relying on heavy handed exposition, he peppers his scenes with enough detail to understand that this is a fully realized world and that these characters have a history in it, even if we don’t know it all yet.
Luca Casalanguida’s artwork is vibrant and cinematic, moving from calm, quiet scenes to violent action and back with an even, steady skill, bringing each of the characters to life, especially aided by Matt Milla’s emotionally perfect color palette.
It’s been a while since a series debut impressed me this much with its creativity and energy. Here’s hoping for a long run, because I’ve already started casting the Scout's Honor movie in my head,
And if Aftershock ever decides to do a set of enamel pin merit badges, I am SO there!
“From the Journal of Scoutmaster Thomas Shepherd”
“Eagle’s Guard: The ultimate merit badge, The Eagle’s Guard is reserved for only the most elite Ranger Scouts who have proven themselves though our society’s most harrowing gauntlet. Tested in mind, body, and spirit, competing for the Eagle’s Guard is not for the faint of heart… Those who prove themselves worthy to the Prophet will emerge as the pinnacle of survival - but only one recruit per year is picked to join the Eagle’s Guard. Dez has sworn he will prevail, as i did once before him, but I haven’t the heart to tell him I have my eye set on another.”
VERDICT: FIVE Eagle’s Guard Merit Badges out of FIVE
Creative Team: David Pepose (writer), Luca Casalanguida (artist), Matt Milla (colorist), Carlos M. Mangual (letterer)
Publisher: Aftershock Comics
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