Story by Sebastian Girner
Art by Galaad
Published by Image Comics
The number of fantasy comics in my To Read pile has completely dwindled this past year. Rat Queens went on (and eventually returned from) hiatus. Shutter came to an end, along with a few other short runs I’d been picking up. In fact, by the time Rat Queens did return, it was the only thing on my Pull List that really fit the Fantasy bill.
Even as months passed and new solicits came out, there wasn’t much appearing to catch my eye. Then September comes along and Image decides to put out Maestros, Angelic, and Swords & Scoundrels all at once. You get a feast or a famine, ain’t it always the way? Of those three, Swords & Scoundrels was the most centralized fantasy book so, despite it sounding quite similar to Rat Queens, I added it to the list. (Although Angelic is phenomenal and you should all really check it out too!)
Scales & Scoundrels opens with a fairly standard Fantasy shtick; A tavern, a card game, and trouble. Our star, a rogue named Lu, is at the center of the kerfuffle and things soon escalate. It’s a tale as old as time, really, with the only major difference being that, rather than just being a witty quipster, Lu seems to be a genuine asshole to everyone around her. There are a couple of little points of mystery about her, but discussing them now would really just mean spoiling the first issue. There are a couple of plot threads hinted at here, but it’s impossible to say if they’ll amount to anything yet.
Indeed, the only real issue I had with this opening issue is that there’s very little sense of what the grand adventure will be. We’re given a build up of Lu’s character, and briefly introduced to a few supporting characters, but that’s really it. It’s an enjoyable read, but is left open-ended to the point of being directionless. That’s not necessarily a bad thing either, it just makes it harder to recommend when we can’t see where things are going. Having said that, the content is strong enough here to give me faith that what follows will be worth it.
The art in Scales & Scoundrels is, for me, a bit of a mixed bag. Page by page, it has a cute, wobbly art style that I could best describe as a sort of ‘anime inspired webcomic’. The faces are all rounded, with defining features pointed to varying degrees, eyes are super expressive, that sort of stuff. I wouldn’t say it’s bad by any stretch, it’s just not a look that I love.
Along with that though, the book features some absolutely lovely spread pages, and Galaad‘s landscapes make each location feel alive, whether it’s ye olde town, or mountain wilderness. These background pieces are frequently overlooked in plenty of otherwise great books, leaving the areas surrounding the central cast feeling flat. Whatever problems I might have with the core art style, these spreads do plenty to offset it. There’s also the case of colours to be made. The colour work for Scales & Scoundrels is phenomenal. It’s neither entirely muted or vivid, but flits between the two as needed, adapting the level of contrast to suit the scene.
Scales & Scoundrels is a solid Fantasy title. It doesn’t do anything spectacular to rock the boat, but what it does, it does well. The book has some stiff competition from Rat Queens, and although it doesn’t quite come out on top, I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who wants some more Fantasy on their reading list. It also has the advantage of being a lot less vulgar than Rat Queens. That means you could pass it off to a younger sibling or cousin who’s trying to expand their comic repertoire. I’ll be adding it to my Pull List, and hey, maybe I’ll learn to love the art a little more, and open myself to a few other books I’d otherwise have avoided.