I’ve heard a lot of cool story hooks in my time, but “horror on the high seas” is one of the more compelling in recent memory… How far would you go to save your own life? Your Major Spoilers review of Plunder #1 awaits!
Previously in Plunder: “After facing off with an illegal Chinese vessel, a gang of Somali pirates tries to board what they think is a research vessel, only to find themselves in the midst of a massacre. As their worst nightmares become reality, the 14-year-old boy who went from translator to reluctant pirate not only becomes the key to survival, but must decide for himself how far he is willing to go in the name of self-preservation…”
A BIT SHAKY GETTING STARTED
We open with a gunfight, as a group of pirates attacks a Chinese vessel in the open water. Our protagonist, Badhoon, finds himself too scared to fire his gun in return, and his pirates are forced to retreat without capturing the vessel they sought, leaving everyone to blame their failure on his perceived cowardice. The better part of the first third of the book is spent introducing the crew, but by page 12, they have discovered a drifting submarine with no sign of human life. Rather than run like mad, they investigate, in the hopes of finding something they can salvage, and find nothing…
…at first. It’s a classic “entering the haunted house” sequence, as strange things begin to pile up until they encounter their first human being, a man who looks at though he has been long dead, but continues to babble about the horrors within, It’s all nicely handled, and there’s a real humanity given to these characters (even though each has some sort of deformity, limited scruples and all seem to be merciless murderers), which makes it even more terrifying when we start to root for them to get out of their terrible situation alive.
My biggest regret about this comic is the cover, which explictly shows the existence of terrible Cthuloid monsters long before the story inside lets that shoe drop (though a mysterious, blood-red tentacle is seen in the corner of the first panel of the first page of art.) Once the horror begins, it doesn’t let up, and the use of super-bloody and gruesome bodies is quite shocking, reminding me of some of the more successful body horror of the movie “Event Horizon” (a clear spiritual forefather of this story.) There is a lot that happens in this issue, both plot-wise and interpersonally, and it makes for a very engaging read, though indistinct pencils occasionally blunt the imagery thanks to stylized face and body designs. (I, personally, find this to be kind of a relief, as a couple of the visuals would be damn near unbearable in a photo-realistic style.)
THE BOTTOM LINE: GRAPHIC AND TERRIFYING
This one is what Joe R. Lansdale dubbed ” a toughie”, a story with difficult characters doing bad things and even worse things happening to them, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend it for younger readers, it has a certain charm for fans of horror movies and slasher-type flicks. Plunder #1 makes for a good read, doing terrifying things in a manner that isn’t overly familiar, and mostly balancing the stylized art to show us terrible scenes of slaughter without quite leaping too far into torture porn territory, earning a very nice 3 out of 5 stars overall. It’s an impressive debut for an unusual story, but I do wish the cover hadn’t tipped the story’s hand quite so far…