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‘Scrimshaw Volume One:’ Trade Paperback Review

Keep breathing, keep sailing. Everything else is just work.

Have you ever played a game where you try to tell a story about a photograph and how the people in it got there – where they might go based solely on what you see in the image?  It’s really fun to do on one of those “I ate the whole thing!” walls at restaurants, since absolutely everyone looks amazing in those.  If you find one at a long-established place, it can be an absolute cross-section of the previous decades / / / but the answers you come up with will likely show you more about yourself and your beliefs in what you see than what’s actually there.  It’s actually a spectacular way to check in on your privilege, if you record your answers and then try to figure out what in the photo made you feel that way.  Maybe the guy in New Balance shoes with a fanny pack made you think the person was going home alone to troll the Star Trek community pages, perhaps the woman in the untucked open shirt over a camisole is actually a lawyer in a prestigious firm and not the “hot piece” going home to a pillow fight slumber party.  The story can go positive or negative; another thing that you might be able to attribute to ourselves more than the subject, but it can also be simple fun.

So, what does this have to do with Eric Borden’s tale of quasi-legal hijinks on the greatly inundated seas?  Well, if you took a snapshot of the human condition in all of the various nation-states from right now and played that game, you might come up with the type of world that he has, one where corporations run things because they’ve become the only stable economies left.  A country can flood out, but a company is simply an idea, and what’s the difference of transferring your headquarters to a ship rather than a building?  The backstory also includes an American “Red vs. Blue” war, which again – from a snapshot – might seem very likely.  This is the engine of speculative fiction and to use these very plausible scenarios is quite brilliant to introduce us to a cast of characters who are both engaging and intriguing and push the narrative forward.  Much like Firefly, the story’s about the people caught in the machinations of forces much more powerful than they are, riding the massive winds as does a leaf (had to happen).  A multicultural crew whose histories are lovingly detailed in bonus pages creates a whole world to explore for the reader.  Every named character has a decent bio, and the detail in the work is truly impressive.  This isn’t just a couple of cardboard cutouts being tossed across the page; this is a living, breathing world full of real people who will draw you into their story.

The art style is messy and flowing, giving us a hazy look into the world that feels familiar until the strangeness smacks you in the face.  Very few things in this world are beautiful, and those that are simply reinforce the grit and grime of the rest of the re-purposed humanity that we witness.  Artist David Mims shows us this world without pulling punches.  The content remains mostly PG-13, where those images that might truly be disturbing are spoken of rather than shown, in a gentle restraint that evokes a different sort of maturity – of knowing when violence is vital to the narrative and when butchery can be avoided for the sake of not losing the thread in an orgy of mayhem.  Otherwise, the anti-Tarantino.  The panels do not lack for what’s not shown, and it overall raises the esteem I have for the book as a whole.

This is a good book for folks who like plucky crews against the big, bad world, though this character-driven work rises above the pale from the usual fare.  This one will engage you quickly in the “us vs. them” of the story while you root for these capable underdogs against the forces arrayed against them.  And those forces are supremely whack-a-do without becoming caricatures and boogeymen which gives the book a feel that straddles silly and over the top with a solid feeling of danger and tension.  You’ll not want to miss this.

Creative Team:  Eric Borden (Writer/Creator), David Mims (Artist & Colorist), Spike O’Laochdha (letterer)
Publisher: Alterna Comics, Inc.
Click here to purchase. 

Erik Cheski, Fanbase Press Contributor



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