Ever since the Millennium Falcon first took flight, the image of the ragtag band of space-faring criminals has been engrained in science fiction. The trope was perhaps perfected with Joss Whedon’s cult TV series Firefly, no doubt an influence on Warship Jolly Roger, the new comic series from Sylvain Runberg and Miquel Montilló.
This first 120-page volume opens amid a prison riot on planet Tullanium. Four mismatched convicts make a dash for a ship together – and there we have our set-up. As they’re on the run from the sinister authorities of the Confederacy, we get to know these characters. Jon Tiberius Munro is a former military officer imprisoned for a war crime he was forced to commit. Alisa Rinaldi is a notorious freedom fighter. Nikolai Kowalski is a violent and hot-tempered smuggler. And ‘Thirteen’ is a child genius who killed his parents for reasons unknown.
So while you may recognise some well-worn sci-fi tropes, Runberg’s story is excitingly plotted, with high stakes and great action, and the way this team develops, with hints to their pasts peppered throughout, is a joy to read. Munro, who takes the lead, is the most compelling character; his personal beef with Confederate President Vexton propels the story forward and creates conflict within the team, as his desire for revenge puts others in danger. The reveal of Thirteen’s past is also very well handled, though Alisa, the sole female member of the crew, remains less fleshed out than she could be – even when a member of her family is brought into the story, she still feels sidelined.
Outside of the main crew, the world of Warship Jolly Roger has clearly had a lot of thought put into it. Side characters, from black market dealers to Vexton’s military advisors, all have their own distinct characteristics, meaning that the dialogue, a few awkward moments of exposition aside, always feels believable and pacey. Artist Montilló has done a great job of designing characters, settings, and spacecraft alike – his style is cartoony enough to fit the fast and fun story and yet detailed enough to give the world an edge of grittiness. There’s a cinematic finish to his use of lighting and colour, giving each planet visited its own palette which immediately gets across a mood – the use of oranges and browns for worn-down worlds and greys and blues for the presidential cruiser again brings to mind Firefly.
But that’s a comparison worth repeating, because fans of Firefly will love Warship Jolly Roger – it’s a rip-roaring space adventure with energetic artwork, a well-developed universe and characters who are, for the most part, a delight to spend time with. The book ends on a cliffhanger, and we’ll be eagerly awaiting volume two.
WARSHIP JOLLY ROGER / AUTHOR: SYLVAIN RUNBERG / ARTIST: MIQUEL MONTILLÓ / PUBLISHER: MAGNETIC PRESS / RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 11TH