Welcome to Double Feature, our new recurring comics column where we take two thematically similar graphic novels and put them under the microscope. Not really, though, because microscopes are surprisingly expensive and it’s pretty hard to read a comic book when it’s magnified to the atomic level.
For our first edition of Double Feature, we’re setting sail and charting a course for general radness. Don’t have your sea legs yet? Check out these two new indies that will give you a taste of the salty life.
Blacklung - Chris Wright
This superbly written, ultra-violent tome is a pirate tale not for the faint of heart. After a teacher is accidentally kidnapped during an attack on his town, he manages to avoid getting murderized by the band of insane psychopaths by becoming the captain’s scribe. Bearing witness to the remarkably gory deeds carried out by the ruthless criminals, he becomes the confidante of the captain, a man with religious and philosophical obsessions and goals to kill his way into hell so that he might see his deceased wife again. However, Blacklung isn’t all shock value; Wright lays out heady themes and deep, well thought out characters among dialogue that feels real. The art at first feels sloppy, but once you’re transported to life aboard the Hand, the nautical nutjob’s ship, the fluidity of the crosshatching and the roughness of the details in the characters gives a liveliness that propels the story forward. In short, Blacklung is part English Lit, part horror movie, all fascinating read.
Sailor Twain: Or: The Mermaid in the Hudson - Mark Siegel
If you happen to find pirate stories a bit too crude in nature for your delicate palate, Sailor Twain is an equally engrossing seafaring story that thematically leans more towards mythology and romance. Originally published as a webcomic in 2012, Sailor Twain spins a masterful yarn about love and loss on the steamboat Lorelei. The plot is set in motion when Elijah Twain, the captain, finds an injured mermaid clinging to the side of the Lorelei and nurses her back to health, and in exchange she becomes his creative muse. Meanwhile, the owner of Lorelei, Lafayette, has been acting strangely ever since his brother’s mysterious disappearance, bedding every woman on board and reading up on occult practices. You know, standard fare. When the mermaid disappears as well, the now infatuated Twain becomes suspicious that Lafayette has heard her siren song and is trying to kill her. Sailor Twain is a story of hidden motives, obsessions, and high tension with a stellar third act; plus, it’s sexy to boot!
Whether you wish you were a salty sea dog, are amorous for some mer-babes, or you just are looking to get into some amazing up-and-coming writers and artists, these two graphic novels about life on the high seas will leave you happier than a sailor with a clean poop deck!