April 17, 2024

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Bento Review: The Mercenary Sea Volume 1

Former bootlegger Jack Harper is the captain of a small sub sailing for adventure in 1938's South Seas in this action/adventure series from Image.

Comic Bento’s theme for the month is “Bento Gets Wet,” a nautical-themed month with, as it turns out, a lot of pirates.

Let’s look into one with the first book from the box, The Mercenary Sea from Image Comics.

American Jack Harper is a former bootlegger-turned-pirate/adventurer.  The year is 1938.  His territory is the South Seas.  His ship, the Venture, is a small, retro-fitted German sub from the first World War he stole from the Chinese navy.  That means he has a Chinese admiral looking for him.  He also has an enemy in the form of a high-ranking Japanese naval officer.  Since China and Japan are at war with each other, that puts Harper square in the middle.  All he really has going for him is a loyal, multi-national crew that includes a dog that’s half-dingo, and a dream of a legendary lost island named Koji Ra, one of those mysterious islands that has tons of treasure and tons of otherwise extinct giant animals supposedly running around on it.  His crew doesn’t believe in Koji Ra the same way he does, but they’re otherwise completely loyal to their captain without exception.

That said, even pirate captains have to make a living, and due to financial problems, Jack has to take a job for British intelligence to retrieve an agent of theirs before the Japanese get to him.

What follows from writer Kel Symons and artist Matthew Reynolds is something akin to a mature version of an old Hanna-Barbara action cartoon.  Indeed, one panel distinctly shows Dr. Benton Quest and Race Bannon in the background.  There are spies, explosions, and clues to fabulous treasure as Jack and his crew need to retrieve the mysterious Top Hat and get back to safety in one piece.  It’s a good start, though I don’t know how much I’d be willing to try a second volume at this point.  Let’s say eight out of ten requests for Claudette Colbert.

NEXT BOOK:  It’s the water, and Marvel usually gets some good representation in these Bento boxes, so how about a 90s-era crossover between the Fantastic Four and Namor the Submariner, which, despite the fact Namor had a book and is prominent in the story, is titled Fantastic Four/Inhumans: Atlantis Rising.