Plunder came to me because I wanted to read a horror comic not written by Robert Kirkman. I’m also always was intrigued by the idea of reading a comic about non-white Americans because I feel that it’s only ever a good thing when the medium expands beyond that narrow demographic. So far Plunder’s horror elements don’t do it for me nor does its cast of characters, but there’s definitely potential for an emotionally charged story on the sea. Plunder is a book about sea- faring Somalian robbers, aka pirates. You know, the kind that you saw in that one South Park episode and that movie for which Tom Hanks got praised for again and again. It’s also a book about adventure, the desire to seek it and the consequences that arise when that adventure proves more of a burden than a gift. Badhoon, the newest member of the crew and their translator, serves as the book’s narrator, providing insight to how he made it onto the Somali pirate crew and also telling us about his crew mates in brief snippets over the opening scene.
In looking for something more than the meager offerings he sees his friends being okay with, playing football as kids before becoming a fisherperson, he ends up in a situation where even in his role as translator, ie communicator in order to prevent miscommunication that can lead to unwanted violence, Badhoon is called upon early in the book to shoot at the Chinese crew. His failure to do so then gets him in trouble with the crew’s captain, Internet, and mocked by his crewmates, one threatening to throw him to the sharks should he fail to protect the crew through violence in a future event.
Plunder’s most interesting quality is its cast of character, which simultaneously feels like one of the book’s largest issues. As Lane and Mckinley take us through each character, providing background on them during the ongoing action of the book’s opening, I was a bit bothered by how much of the characters’ personality seemed to stem from physical disfigurements, disfigurements that seem intended to explore the common conditions of poor Somalians, but instead comes off as a way for the creators to cheaply distinguish each character from one another in a Fat Albert manner. There’s the character with one arm, another with a face scarred from fighting, another with a malformed face due to birth defect, plus there’s a guy with glasses and they all have names like Dead Tooth, Stain and Internet.
I wasn’t horrified at any point while reading this comic. Not by the images drawn, the actions done nor by the way people responded to the violence of unknown origin once they make it onto the Seeker, a vessel that’s left stranded that the Badaandita Bada crew hope to plunder.
I was never scared or unnerved by the multiple dead bodies because they resembled props due to their static nature. Like the lights on in the haunted house, the comic’s art and bright color palette just make it all laughable. It was hard to sympathize with the crew’s dread because I could not see why they would be scared of these beings that all seemed poised by a prop designer fired from an 80’s slasher film. I had no sense of pain, or anguish from the deceased, and was able to divest enough from the narrative with each page to step back and think, “Why not just get out of there?” I think a lot of this is due to the fact that we don’t see how these people got so maligned as that’s part of the book’s ongoing mystery, but rather than hook me for further reads, it makes me lose faith that the book will be able to achieve the type of scares it’s going for, assuming that’s of any importance to the creators. We see some fingers getting sliced off and a tongue dropping to the floor, but that’s it really.
A story requiring tension, Badhoon’s hesitation to engage in violence becomes the crux of this opening issue, and he’s forced to come to terms with the consequences of not shooting a threat. I like Badhoon despite how little we know of him. I like that he’s perceptive and recognizes the smallness of his captain, being bold enough to characterize his crewmates despite being what most of the characters seem to think is the most expendable character. If I continued to read this book it would be to see how this experience transforms Badhoon, whether he’s able to escape it with his humanity intact. Whatever that means.
Plunder #1 Writer: Swifty Lang Artist: Skuds McKinley Colorist: Jason Wordie Publisher: Archaia/BOOM! Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital