Wednesday, 11 July 2012

'Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island' - Warren Ellis

Time for another graphic novel review, and it's Warren Ellis and his Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island who is under scrutiny. I was quite excited about this one, several promising keywords in the blurb: copper, flintlock revolver, Spring-Heeled Jack, pirates and London. Oh, the blurb also calls the writer sparking-mad. Not sure how Captain Swing could possibly be anything but good. As ever, thanks to myself for my never ending generosity, and the copy of Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island.

It's not really proper Warren Ellis without entrails, and Captain Swing does not disappoint. The grizzly murder of a policeman, the fifth in a short period, is what copper Charlie Gravel comes across on his patrol. When they hear the sound of a rattle, think police whistle, they sprint to assist their colleague. The assailant makes his escape as the bobbies arrive. The young policeman can barely believe what he sees, the mysterious man jumps over a wall using boots which bleeds electricity. Charlie Gravel is chasing Spring-Heeled Jack, who else could it be but the mythical figure. Charlie's partner takes a glowing bullet to the chest, and the newly minted copper is now on his own against one of the most legendary figures.

Captain Swing is off to a glowing start with some well paced action and a really cool looking villain. Raulo Caceres' drawings of electricity charged villain is something to feast your eyes on. I really like his style, which is life-like, but also gives a lot of energy to the fights. You can almost feel every punch.

Every now and then we come across a page with an stylish old looking font, which explains some of the history behind what we just saw, usually accompanied by a beautifully aged drawing of something. A very nice way to introduce some background stuff into a graphic novel.

Captain Swing is set in the period where the police is slowly replacing the Bow Street Runners, who were controlled by the powerful magistrates. There is tension between the two forces, and I don't think I giveaway too much by saying there is an element of corruption amongst the magistrates. Captain Swing quickly goes from a simple case of capturing a murdering villain to a fight for justice and freedom, a stand against those who have it all, and wants to keep it that way. It's my favorite London, rife with corruption, a cruel existence for those without nothing, but also a London with hope for a better tomorrow.

Warren Ellis has a way of adding unexpected depth to his stories, and they always makes me think, as it's not just mindless violence. Instead, it's intelligent, always with a underlying message, or observation, on something of great importance. The consequences or playing god, or just fighting for what's right, it can be anything, but always mixed in with a lot of swearing. I like it.

Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island weighs in at 128 pages and is published by Avatar Press.

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