A Man Among Ye #1 Review: The Allure of Piracy
Historical accounts of pirates and their escapades often toe the line between myth and reality by [...]
Historical accounts of pirates and their escapades often toe the line between myth and reality by hyperbolizing real or mostly real characters to the level of folk legend admiration. Good, bad, or somewhere in between, you end up rooting for the plundering marauders despite their flaws because they're so outlandish and leave room for you to fill in the blanks with your preferred image of them. The first issue of A Man Among Ye lives comfortably in this grey area of "some say" history by putting the charismatic Anne Bonny forward as its lead pirate, but just like these fragmented narratives of the past, it ends sooner than you'd expect and leaves you wondering about who Anne really is.
Wanting to know more about a character isn't a bad outcome by any means, but that doesn't mean the path to that takeaway is one without frustration. A Man Among Ye's focus on Anne is evident—it's like night and day when she's filling the panels of a page compared to when she's absent. It's disappointing and confusing then that she's shown in just 10 out of the 22 pages of A Man Among Ye #1, and while you can argue all day that actions speak louder than words, she has a speaking role in only 7 of those 10 pages.
There's some leniency extended to the debut issue since it must set up the story and make introductions, but that's not a lot of Anne in a story ostensibly about Anne. That's largely because there's some degree of recommended reading to fully appreciate A Man Among Ye. In this case, the minimum of that background knowledge is found after the cliffhanger of the first issue within framing of the story and the creators' creative liberties from writer Stephanie Phillips.
You'd be forgiven for not being up on your pirate history before reading, but Anne, her partner John "Calico Jack" Rackham, and Mary Read (who isn't even named in the first issue) were real, even if their histories have gaps. The background info in the closing passage explains this, and we do see parts of the story's dialogue communicate information reserved for the closing thoughts like when we find out from the pirate-hating Woodes Rogers' lackey that we're at the tail end of the golden age of piracy. Without being briefed first, however, I felt like I was missing something upon my initial read. Having that knowledge and returning for a second study of A Man Among Ye elevated the experience from wanting to know more about Anne because things appeared to be omitted to wanting to know more Anne because there's so much more to tell.
Even if Anne's not in the first issue as much as I'd prefer, there's something to be said about a main character featured in less than half the story and still possessing such a powerful presence. She has a commanding and confident force about her, and every quip and display of skill hoists her personality above her common shipmates. Calling her "feisty" or "fiery" and leaving it at that would be a disservice to the character. She's the lead of this story, and she's got no problem letting everyone else know that by overshadowing folk with names as fancy as Calico Jack.
Her rebuttals and dramatic lines when entering a scenario are, of course, ways her presence is made felt, but you learn just as much about Anne in the way she's illustrated by Craig Cermak and Brittany Pezzillo. The lifestyle of a pirate is a bold and straightforward one as depicted in the portrayal of A Man Among Ye's pirates who are so vividly designed, but Anne's still got everyone else beat. Her lavish attire and scar to show she's not just looks overshadows the other characters who've been simplified as generic pirates to make room for the lead. It's also telling how characters react to her when there's no captain around to protect them. Compare the smug expressions and hushed insults of the crew above deck and in greater numbers to more personal confrontations with Anne and it's evident the respect and fear they have for her in spite of their big talk.
So where does A Man Among Ye leave us then with the conclusion of the first issue? Whether through omission or enticement, I'm left wanting to see more of Anne's story. More of her past exploits, her ambitions, and how she plans to capitalize on what's in front of her to achieve those goals. The artwork of A Man Among Ye personifies the pirate lifestyle perfectly by switching between bright, breezy colors to depictions of seedy activities in which pirates and pirate hunters embroil themselves. It's essentially pirate propaganda if there wasn't any before, and it's effective. The allure of piracy is a potent one in this story that lays a foundation for more creative liberties to be taken, and assuming A Man Among Ye's first issue is any indication and the spotlight stays wholly focused on Anne as it should, those liberties will be taken in the right direction.
Published by Image Comics
On June 17, 2020
Written by Stephanie Phillips
Art by Craig Cermak
Art by Brittany Pezzillo
Letters by Troy Peteri
Covers by Craig Cermak and Stjepan Sejic0comments