SCOUT'S HONOR, ISSUES #1-4
Writer: David Pepose
Illustrator: Luca Casalanguida
Colorist: Matt Milla
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
Editor: Christina Harrington
WHAT IS IT?
Scout’s Honor is part post-apocalyptic, action-packed survival adventure and part political thriller, as the book’s hero navigates the cult-like organization that rules the land: the Ranger Scouts of America.
Similar to how Captain America: Winter Soldier played as a political thriller dressed as a superhero flick, Scout’s Honor uses a familiar Mad Max-like apocalyptic setting to set the table for an institutional takedown.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
After the fallout of nuclear disaster has cleared, a group of survivors emerge from a bunker clutching the Ranger Scout Survival Handbook. This handbook becomes the group’s holy text and they use it to craft a new society with its own sets of rules and its own law and order.
260 years into this society’s reign, promising young scout Kit emerges as a star pupil amongst a new class of future Rangers. Kit grew up idolizing the Rangers, absorbing every aphorism and principle as a guiding truth, striving to become the perfect embodiment of the Scouts.
The story takes off as Kit’s belief system comes crashing down: when Kit’s survival is no longer just dependent on fighting off the giant radioactive spiders and boars outside the walls of the compound — but also escaping the community within.
Writer David Pepose has crafted a really excellent story that uses kinetic and violent action sequences to reveal and develop its cast of characters. While the book has plenty of dialogue, it’s light on exposition and is a great example of showing rather than telling.
Artist Luca Casalanguida’s fully immersive apocalyptic landscape feels both familiar and excitingly fresh. Yes, there are abandoned cityscapes, but each page is also brimming with interesting wreckage, flora, and frighteningly giant radioactive boar fauna. I found myself never sure what to expect around the next corner, but always eager to find out.
Colorist Matt Milla’s heavy use of yellows and reds help complement artist Casalanguida’s oppressive landscape. You’ll want a glass of water after a few pages. Palate quenching splashes of blue and green only come in the shade of foliage or the onset of night.
Letterer Carlos M. Mangual excels in SFX, especially in providing extrasensory structure to otherwise chaotic action sequences.
Pepose’s plot unfolds methodically with a new twist and reveal hitting about every 10 pages, almost exactly at the middle and end of each issue. There’s a developing mystery and the reader is continuously rewarded with satisfying nuggets of information. That pacing makes it really difficult to put down.
Casalanguida’s rendering of protagonist Kit is a clear highlight. Kit is undersized, freckle-faced with a cropped haircut, and drawn with convincingly rendered expressions, at turns empathetic and determined. It’s clear Kit is different in some way, but (no spoilers here) it’s those differences that make the character strong, heroic, and seemingly set up to survive.
Writer Pepose and letterer Mangual often stretch dialogue from the Scoutmaster in one panel over many subsequent panels in caption boxes, setting his words atop the backdrop of slammed elbows and spurting blood. It’s an evocative practice strongly hinting to the reader that something is amiss here.
Scout’s Honor makes its biggest connection thematically by illustrating how problematic blind faith in an institution can be. While the subject here is the book’s Ranger Scouts, it’s a broad and well-executed assessment that could be applied to any problematic organization.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Content warning: there’s violence, and blood shoots across the page occasionally, but it’s not Invincible-level gratuitous. Let's call it a "modern-day PG-13."
The Boy Scouts of America scandals from recent history, including the thousands of reported cases of child molestation, make any mention of boy scouts potentially problematic. Thankfully, this is not propaganda — it's the opposite. Scout's Honor immediately addresses the hypocrisy of an organization that projects itself as one thing publicly and then operates completely differently in private. Still, the association may still turn away readers and beset a sense of hesitancy when reading the comic.
The series is full of surprising twists and reveals that strengthen the story, but how do you find and market to new readers if you can't share the most interesting aspects of a story?
The rag-tag, sports-helmet-wearing baddies, The Highwaymen, share their name with country music supergroup The Highwaymen (Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson), which means you have to play the band's hit single "Highwayman" every time they appear in a panel.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
The playful use of merit badges (a "tactical driving" merit badge helps one scout hotwire a car, for example) and kinetic B-movie action sequences full of radioactive monsters make for a fun introduction to the world of Scout's Honor, but it's Kit's struggle against imploding ideals that make for the most engrossing, page-turning sequences of the book.
After a few issues, Scout's Honor starts to reveal itself as a wolf in sheep's clothing. This isn't an action-adventure story; this is The Handmaid's Tale with boy scouts. If that excites you, I can't encourage you enough to go pick up this excellent book.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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