Writer: Kevin Cuffe and Bob Frantz
Artist: Tony Gregori
Colorist: Josh Jensen
Letterer/Editor: Chas Pangburn
WHAT IS IT?
A high adventure story about two pirate friends stranded on a desert world trying to get home.
Think Indiana Jones with pirates meets Dune and Tank Girl.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Two pirate friends, Captain Blackheart Sam Bellamy and his first mate Quintor, find themselves in a bit of trouble. Hanging onto the mast of a sinking ship, the in-a-pickle privateers are rescued by a mysterious aquamancer named Yseenia who transports them from 1790’s era Earth to an unknown desert world called Atlantis.
With no time to adjust to the strange new surroundings, they immediately must commandeer what appears to be a crystal-powered ship to fight the invading forces of King Xscisor, the local tyrannical emperor who, along with the aristocracy, control the planet’s precious water supply. Finding themselves among the water pirates and now directly at odds with the local despot, a deal is struck to get home which entails overthrowing Xscisor and freeing the local people. But how will they beat the overwhelming odds against his evil empire?
Cuffe and Frantz’s story arc is packed with abrupt back-and-forth-in-time interludes that emphasize the frantic pacing of the narrative. There’s also clear intention by the authors to make a statement about resource consumption and class dynamics which means we are getting more than just flintlocks and cutlass-oriented conflict while still getting a fair bit of playful and lighthearted pirate quipping.
Tony Gregori’s artwork has a pleasant throwback feel reminiscent of the early days of the DC Vertigo imprint books or Gene Colan’s The Tomb Of Dracula run. Characters in the panels are drawn with a touch of Alex Maleev (Hellboy and the BPRD) in them with a campy note thrown in redolent of classic cartoons like Scooby-Doo. The visuals are dense, which elevates the near-continuous action narrative and helps with the world-building of a desert landscape that could tend to appear spartan.
Josh Jensen’s color work looks a little more reserved, which makes sense, given the arid topography where mostly neutral golden tones predominate. It complements Gregori’s heavier penned artistic style well.
Chas Pangburn’s creative letter work does not disappoint. Bold typeface is used for emphasis often which suits the high adventure theme, and light blue is used for the language of the native people which adds a nice pop of visual contrast when scanning the page. The placement of bubbles is traditional but everything feels properly placed, well-proportioned, and isn’t distracting.
Yseenia, the aquamancer, infuses the plot with dynamism and is the perfect vehicle to expand the story from while Bellamy and Quintor’s relationship forms the plot anchor. She also gets the best lines, “The water flows to show us the path of our origins as it also determines our current place in the steam of time.”
Six variant cover offerings give you lots of fun options to choose from. Liana Kangas’ splash cover featuring the water mage Yseenia is a stand-out.
The various options among the pledge tiers are excellent. There’s a great opportunity at $30 that scores you a physical copy of the book with Gregori’s A cover along with a pirate-inspired glow-in-the-dark skull and crossbones pin. Who doesn’t need a pin like that in their life? If you are in the mood for a really cool pinnacle-level pledge at $175, your likeness can be drawn into the book as a member of the crew. One step further will get you an 11x17 commission piece of your choice from Tony Gregori. At $200, that is simply an incredible bargain.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
The overall concept could come off as too cliched, as we are treading well-covered ground with the saturated pirate theme, and there are clear footprints that trace Frank Herbert’s Dune.
The book has lofty goals to both tell a story that is fun and to successfully marry that with one where social class dynamics and resource consumption also play a significant role. It’s going to be a thin line to walk and I’m not yet completely convinced it’ll pull it off when it’s fully released.
The throwback visual styling might turn off some younger readers who are accustomed to the more detailed linework of many current superhero-oriented offerings.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Dust Pirates is a conceptually well-designed book that treads familiar narrative and visual ground while finding a fun niche of its own to play with. Its appeal is broad. It feels at home as a straightforward pirate tale but also exudes a strong sci-fi influence that would feel at home as a long-away mission on Star Trek, and the associations with the class system and resource control dynamics in Dune cannot be overlooked. Yet, despite the plethora of pop culture associations, it feels crisp and unique, no doubt due to the creative strength of the creators at its genesis.
Pirate stories are common currency in our culture. This frequency can cause the genre to get a bit stale. Most stories feature either the solo charismatic captain character or tend to branch out to a concept that encompasses a whole motley crew. Here, the lens is focused on the duo of Captain Bellamy and his first mate, Quintor. Their friendship dynamic not only provides a fresh perspective, it also serves as a grounding element for a story that changes location frequently and could otherwise be overwhelming to follow. Pirate cliches are still robustly embraced, but that directness is not detracting and instead helps elevate the pace of storytelling as the world-building scaffolding is erected. Among the myriad options available on the Kickstarter platform, this one stands out as uniquely fun and fully realized.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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All Kevin Cuffe, Bob Frantz, Tony Gregori, Josh Jensen, and Chas Pangburn’s characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright of Kevin Cuffe, Bob Frantz, Tony Gregori, Josh Jensen, and Chas Pangburn or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.