Review: Scouts Honor

Writer: David Pepose

Artist: Luca Casalanguida

Colorist: Matt Milla

Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual

Publisher: Aftershock

The first comic review of the new year has arrived in the form of the comic book, “Scout’s Honor.” The comic is written by David Pepose (“The O.Z. and Spencer and Locke”), illustrated by Luca Casalanguida, colored by Matt Milla, and lettered by Carolos M. Mangual. There will not be too many spoilers in this review as I will only be talking about the aspects of the comic and not telling the full story. But if you have not read the comic yet, I suggest you give it a read before reading this review.

“Scout’s Honor” takes place more than two centuries into a post-apocalyptic future. The world is a barren wasteland after a nuclear war. A violent version of the Boy Scouts of America, called Ranger Scouts had emerged from a bunker and saw what had become of the world they once knew. The Scouts decide to survive a new world born of nuclear destruction.

Courtesy of David Pepose and Aftershock Comics

When reading this comic, I felt that Pepose borrowed several themes from the Judge Dredd, “A Handmaiden’s Tale,” and Mad Max. The Ranger Scouts, like the Judges from Judge Dredd, are an police force of Boy Scouts used to enforce order by brutal means. The scouts are also able to rise in the ranks by gaining merit badges due to their feats out in the badlands. The highest honor for a Ranger Scout is the Valor Badge which any scout can procure before becoming an elite Eagle Guard.

And the order that the Ranger Scots are enforcing is one of patriarchy in which, under the third law, they are “forged in brotherhood, beyond our sisters and wives,” which is not too different from the Republic of Gilead. In addition, like Gilead, the order is a pseudo-religious order that is derived from the Ranger Scout Survival Handbook written by a Dr. Jefferson Hancock. Six laws, like the aforementioned third law, have been derived from the handbook that the scouts have to follow to enforce their order.

Courtesy of David Pepose and Aftershock Comics

Pepose has written an ensemble of characters that are going through several challenges. The first character, Kit, is a rising star within the Ranger Scouts. However, nobody, with the exception of Kit’s father, knows that Kit is actually a girl and if the Ranger Scouts were to find out, she would not be a Ranger Scout. The second character is Dez Shepherd, a fellow Ranger Scout who is a friend and rival of Kit. Dez is portrayed as a young man who wears a chip on his shoulder due to trying to gain approval from his father, Thomas, who is the ordained Scoutmaster. Dez is seen as more proficient with vehicles and technology, much to his father’s dismay. In addition, Thomas favors Kit over his own son and perhaps, may choose the former to become an Eagle Guard which is an elite Ranger Scout. Then there’s Kit’s father who is very concerned for the safety of the young lady especially when it comes the the third law.

When seeing these characters, I remembered speaking with David on the Earth-16 Comics Wire podcast about how he created characters for his comics. Like in “The O.Z.” and “Spencer and Locke,” Pepose usually wrote characters who have experienced trauma of some form. For instance, Dorothy Gale in “The O.Z.,” the granddaughter of the original Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz,” had PTSD from her experiences as a soldier fighting in the War in Iraq. The one character I see having the most trauma would be Dez since his father puts a lot of pressure on him to be a capable Scout, like Kit and I have no doubt that this will play a huge role as the story progresses.

The art done by Casalanguida has a lot of action-to-action sequences with the panels. We see this in the beginning of the comic where Kit, Dez, and a rookie Ranger Scout name Eddy are hunting for a gamma boar. A scene-to-scene transition was used at the beginning of the story to give readers the idea of how the Ranger Scouts rose from the ashes of the old world and to take us to the present day where we are introduce to Kit. Casalnguida’s art also had some powerful scenes which included the aspect-to-aspect panels which showed a statue of Jefferson Hancock, Eddy being laid to rest, and Thomas Shepherd orating an eulogy for the fallen Scout. Another power scene was the aspect-to-aspect scene in which showed the panels showed Kit conversing with her dad and the revelation of Kit’s secret. The coloring done by Milla set the mood within the comic. One my favorite panels showed Kit lending a hand to Dez. In this panel, a light is shinning right behind Kit which signifies that she is indeed the gallant hero of the story and also the shinning example that Dez’s ios expected to follow, by his father.

Courtesy of David Pepose and Aftershock Comics

As the story progresses, there is a dark twist on the real history Ranger Scouts that set’s Kit’s world upside down. There is doubt that this twist will cause a chain reaction as the series progresses. What will Kit do with this new knowledge and will the Ranger Scouts stay the same once this twist is revealed to them?

You can grab “Scouts Honor #1” at your local comic book shop.

Review: GRIT #1 – 3

Publisher: Scout Comics

Writer: Brian Wickman

Penciler: Kevin Castaniero

Letterer: Micah Myers

Colorist: Simon Gough

Scout Editor: James Pruett

Scout Production: David Byrne

When I was introduced to GRIT, I decided to give it a read. The comic centers around Old Man Barrow, an “ageing monster hunter” who is very brutal in his monster hunting methods with the use of his axe. As the comic progresses, Barrow unexpectedly joins forces with Ari, “a hot-headed young witch dead set on breaking him of his ultra-violent habits.”  When I read the first two issues following issue #3, several things made me a fan of the comic.

Courtesy of Scout Comics

The first thing that got me glued to the comic was the character dynamic between Barrow and Ari. The protagonist Barrow is a loner who hates people and witches. He spends most of his time hunting mythical creatures. He is a cleaner of the land hired by the local townspeople to hunt monsters. Barrows is also a hack and slash monsters first and asking questions later character.  But we learn that this monster hunter has a unique past that involves his mother doing horrible things.

Next, we are introduced to Ari, who is a firebrand witch that disapproves of Barrow’s brutal methods. Ari is seen as foil to the more calm but savage Barrow. As a witch, Ari can cast spells. In addition, she loves nature and is able to communicate with animals. She also is more methodical and strategic as seen in Issue#3 when she and Barrow take on the blood demon at Black Dog Bottom. Throughout the series, the two characters are hilariously almost at each other’s throats with Ari calling Barrow names and criticizing his violent behavior while Barrow, annoyed with the witch, tells her the nature of his job as a monster hunter. It is towards the end of Issue #3 that Ari’s view about his methods towards other creatures seem to have some effect on Barrow as he is seen giving up his sword to a man crying for help because monsters in his attic.  

Courtesy of Scout Comics

Another thing I liked about the comic was that both Wickman’s writing and Kevin Castaniero’s art help to create a unique world that was a fusion between fantasy and “southern-fried” wit. This is a fantasy story told in an almost Western theme. When I read Barrow’s dialogue, I can hear a deep Southern accent, almost like Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Walking Dead) or maybe Sam Elliot voice (The Hulk, Ghost Rider). As for Ari, I can only hear Monica Rial’s (Dragon Ball Super) voice which made me realize that it had a bit of a hilarious North vs South vibe in a fantasy world. Or maybe a millennial vs baby boomer vibe.  To me the art is a little reminiscent of anime or manga art when the facial reactions are used to express emotions, like Samurai Champloo. The way the characters and creatures are drawn by Castaniero and colored by Simon Gough give the comic a noir and rustic style. And I definitely cannot forget how awesome lettering done by Micah Myers was in this series, especially with the explosion scene in Issue #3 in which was caused by Ari.

Courtesy of Scout Comics

I wonder if we will be seeing more of the misadventures of Barrow and his unique relationship with Ari. Issue #3 cannot mean the end of his monster hunting ways forever. And what about Ari? What is her story? And will she become someone who will become the closest thing Barrow has to a friend or family? I am looking forward to see how the gritty fantasy of worthy of the name GRIT unfolds.

Review: Black Cotton

Black Cotton

Publisher: Scout Comics

Writers: Patrick Foreman and Brian Hawkins

Art: Marco Perugini

Letters: Francisco Zamora

Patrick Foreman’s and Brian Hawkins’ (Don’t Ever Blink) latest comic Black Cotton is set an alternate universe where the black race is the majority and the white race is the minority. The story centers around the Cottons, a powerful and wealthy black family who owns Black Cotton Ventures, a successful business that has roots dating back 400 years in America’s history. The elite family’s world is rocked when the news of a black police officer shooting a young minority white woman hits the airwaves. That police officer is Zion Cotton, the son of Black Cotton mogul and Elijah Cotton.  As a result, a furious Elijah puts his daughter, and Zion’s sister, Qia up to the task of cleaning up the family’s image while the entire country becomes embroiled with protest from white minorities.  

Courtesy of Scout Comics

When I read this comic, it took me to a parallel universe that is a mirror of our world. This comic portrays an alternate reality where minorities are still affected by the presence of the majority. Only difference is that the majority is a different skin color. In a sense, this alternate reality is a character in the comic. And like our world, it has been teetering on the edge of division caused by political and discriminatory strife.

One of things I enjoyed about the comic is that it shows that had the roles been reverse, society would mostly be the same. If a shooting from a cop, who is of the majority race, on a minority were to occur, protests and riots from minorities would still be triggered. Police officers, especially ones from elite families, would be marked by the media and protests.

Courtesy of Scout Comics

When I read the scene where the news of Zion shooting of the young white woman begins reaching the door step of the Cotton family business, I began to think back to George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, two African-Americans murdered by the very people sworn to protect and serve: the police officers. Like the murder of Floyd and Taylor, the murder of the young white woman at the hands of Zion has sparked protests from white minorities. We see the organization the minorities protesting under “White Lives Matter” signs in front of Zion’s apartment. And we also see that the matriarch of Black Cotton, Zion and Qia’s mother, is willing to give money to the white woman’s family to brush everything under the rug.  

Courtesy of Scout Comics

With the familiar themes of racism and privilege, this comic’s writing does an amazing job of having the reader ask questions about this world that seems, again, similar to our own. Were whites subjugated to slavery like African Americans in real life history were? Did the Civil War end in a different way? Were the Native Americans treated any different? And I know that these questions will be answered with the help of Zion and Qia’s brother, Xavier who is tasked with doing a school project on the history that his family has been a part of for 400 years.

Courtesy of Scout Comics

The comic art along with the pacing of the panels compliments the writing. The panels from the first scene had me asking why Zion was chasing the young white woman. A part of me almost feels that there was more to the story as to why Zion shot the white woman. I also liked how the comic ended on Qia and Zion’s mother asking the family on how much she would give the Nightingale’s, the white woman’s family which the panel was used as a cliffhanger.

I am looking forward to learning how the relationship between Elijah and Zion became strained. Did Zion believe he had a bigger calling that taking over the family business? Does Qia enjoy working for Black Cotton? And what secrets will Xavier find out? Scout Comics will launch Black Cotton on February 2021 and it is on my list of comics to read.

 As many of the characters would say: Black Cotton.