Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Barracuda - 1. Slaves" by Jean Dufaux (script) & Jérémy (artist)

"Barracuda - 1. Slaves"
by Jean Dufaux (script) & Jérémy (artist)
Publisher: Cinebook
The review is based on a bought copy of the book

Pirates have appeal, it seems they always had. It is a very interesting thing to observe for such a criminal, violent activity producing such an attraction, for such vicious villains becoming romanticized heroes more often than not. Yours truly is no exception, in historical books or pure fiction I surprise myself picturing them as valiant adventurers before starting to consider their savage nature and brutal acts. It is no different with the comics written and illustrated by the Belgian duo, Jean Dufaux and Jérémy Petiqueux, “Barracuda”.

The famed pirate ship Barracuda, led by the infamous captain Blackdog, seizes a vessel and capture some of the passengers travelling on it, Doña Del Scuebo, her daughter Maria and Emilio, a young servant boy who disguises himself as a girl in order to avoid being killed by the pirates, the fate of almost every man on board of the captured ship. The three of them are brought to Puerto Blanco and sold as slaves under the supervision of Blackdog’s son, Raffy.

There is nothing romanticized in the pirates of this first volume of “Barracuda”, they are a lot as vicious as they can be. Even from the beginning their courses of action lead to utter violence, exploitation and abuse. However, Jean Dufaux and Jérémy manage to keep the ugly side of the story in check, the ferocity of vile acts are more hinted at rather than treated in full graphic, verbal violence preceding the physical one and plenty of the misdeeds taking place off screen, sparing characters and readers alike from full front extreme brutality. The conflicts still escalate, but most often only into swashbuckling scenes typically associated with such adventures. “Barracuda – Slaves” is still a dark and fierce story, but nicely rounded so it cannot turn into an offensive tale.

Caught in this world of violence are three young people, Maria, Emilio and Raffy, the three characters that emerge as the main protagonists of this volume. Colliding here and there and ending up stranded in Puerto Blanco the three youngsters approach the story from different sides. And from different perspectives as well, since Emilio’s part is told from first person point of view and the other two from third person, yet it turned out that it didn’t exercise more sympathy from my part for Emilio and it does not make him a more developed character than Maria and Raffy. Crisscrossing paths these three characters seem to be heading towards a common point in the story, but this doesn’t happen in “Barracuda – Slaves”, the volume feels and is the introduction part. It is the starting point for a larger story, taking into account the initial details of setting, plot and characters.

The feeling of introductory part is felt even from the title of the series and the cover of the first volume, “Barracuda” sporting the portrait of Blackdog, the captain of the title eponymous pirate ship, on the cover of “Barracuda - Slaves”, but both making the slightest of appearances in the story of this comic. However the plot leaves plenty of room for the development. A map pointing the directions to a certain extremely valuable diamond falls into Blackdog’s hands and he sets sail in search of it at the end of the book. The pirate island’s governess has her own plans for Barracuda and its captain and together with her right hand starts a little game of politics. The mysterious figure, who exerts a powerful influence among Puerto Blanco’s pirates, entering into Emilio’s life promises interesting things for his story arc. Spread elements of a wider plot, but all very interesting and holding the potential for making the “Barracuda” series even better than it already started. Only one thing kept bugging me at the entire enterprise, although we are dealing with merciless scoundrels they seem to conceal an odd respect for the religious representatives. Blackdog’s crew spares for no reason the life of a priest when they seize the ship he is on, although Emilio needs to disguise himself as a girl in order to escape the pirates’ habit of killing every single man on the captured ships. And in Puerto Blanco, the harbor of a pirate island festering with villains, where even the governess rule is based on the principles of piracy, there is present a church that escapes unscathed although it plays a role into the island’s slave trading. I am aware of the place these elements have on the whole and the role they play within the story, but they do look awkward, especially when the cast is brimming with characters of low morals, farfetched from the pious bunch.

The art of Jérémy adds further vividness to the world of “Barracuda”. Battle scenes and settings nicely done, colors used with ability and above all, the excellent rendering of characters. Each and single one is portrayed with talent, each is given individuality and personality. Emotions are captured effortlessly, feelings are depicted with accuracy. Every panel would work wonderfully on itself as a small piece of art, but together with the story it creates an excellent combination, fusing Jérémy and Jean Dufaux’s efforts harmoniously, with the best possible outcome.

“Barracuda – Slaves” opens the road for a wider story, it is a mood setter, but it does so leaving the reader itching for Jean Dufaux and Jérémy’s continuation of this comic book series.

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