Review - Scales & Scoundrels #1 (@imagecomics)

"You lousy cheat!"

When faced with a scenario where your city is being pillaged by knights there are very few options. Things get even worse when a dragon burns all your grain stores. Fortunately for most, those scenarios typically only play out in games, but they're fairly close to being reality in Scales & Scoundrels #1 from Image Comics. The issue is written by Sebastian Girner, illustrated by Galaad and lettered by Jeff Powell.

It’s hard to make an honest living in a land brimming with magic and mystery, and treasure hunter Luvander is tired of being a penniless adventurer. Ever in search of gold and glory, she sets off for a fabled dungeon, “the Dragon’s Maw,” an ancient labyrinth, at the bottom of which slumbers endless wealth…or certain doom! But what starts out as a road to riches becomes the first step on an epic journey to destiny, for Luvander holds a secret in her heart that will shatter the chains of fate and bring light to a world encroached upon by an ancient darkness.

Girner knows what makes a great high-fantasy tale and ensures that all of it is on display in Scales & Scoundrels #1 as Luvander lies, cheats and steals her way to a living. Despite the possibility of falling into familiar territory as far as fantasy goes, Girner works in a rather fast-paced narrative that hews more closely to a flat-out adventure. What's equally impressive is Girner's seeming wink and nod at the genre itself, starting with the card game Luvander is conning the others in at the beginning. There's a good sense of mystery that spins out from that game about Luvander and what she's really about--that mystery persists to the last page as well. The book works so well because Luvander has such an engaging personality as Girner ensures that she's always front and center throughout.

The artwork by Galaad is very light and airy which makes it a perfect match for the tone set by the narrative. The linework is very clean when it comes to defining the characters, but the tone is cartoonish enough that the artwork never feels too heavy. The backgrounds feature enough detail to get a sense of what's going on when and Galaad also excels in presenting the world as one that struggles to keep up with Luvander. This is further evidenced by the panel layouts which eschew the safety of a grid for something more organic and frenetic. The colors are vibrant throughout the work and do a lot to effectively convey the change in scenery from the village to the forest and accentuate the ferocity of the fire at the beginning.

There's a lot to like in Scales & Scoundrels #1 as it wear its fantasy influences on its sleeve. Luvander is a very enthusiastic lead character through which the narrative flows through in a way that helps keep things moving. Girner's script is pretty easygoing and does what it needs to do as far as getting the reader up to speed while still leaving some things to the imagination. Galaad's artwork is very clean and the lighthearted tone is a great fit for the story. Scales & Scoundrels #1 has plenty of great things about it that make for great fantasy reading that also manages to offer some mystery to the reader.

Scales & Scoundrels #1 is available now.