At some point you start to wonder when pirates will wear out their welcome. Will there come a time when people will tire of adventuring on the high seas, roguish types, and swashbuckling in general? Doubtfully. And if it that time is coming then Pirate Eye is hardly at its forefront. It espouses a new take on a familiar setting that delivers surprising dividends, mashing pirates up with the noir genre to deliver a refreshing take on things. Joe Grahn's stylish blend of each genre's disparate voices leads the script, and Carl Yonder creates a seaside town that 's full of all the dirt and grime and crime you'd expect to find in 1930's New York, a setting that Smitty, the titular pirate for hire, takes his cues from. Beating heads, knocking back drinks, and dealing with deadly damsels, the man tracks down whatever you're looking for, as long as the price is right. It's classic detective noir dressed in pirate's clothing. Striking the right balance between compelling mystery and swashbuckling thrills, the two issues that Grahn and Yonder have produced are great fun. While there are times, especially towards the end of issue #2, that the story or art may seem to come a bit unglued, the book showcases two promising talents who have struck upon a truly interesting character.
Yonder himself has a loose style that succeeds through muted colors and loose line work that lend an air of unease, unfamiliarity, and dinginess to the streets Smitty walks. Successfully blending the dark brooding tones of Noir and the hard reds and deep and dark blues of the sea in a pirate's tale, Yonder's art evokes the best of both genres to produce a style that fleshes out the book's atmosphere and ties it to its inspirations. Grahn's dialogue is punchy and sparks with some wit for characters you'd find at home in either genre.
Certainly the most fascinating part of the book is how well executed the premise is. There's no doubt a high concept like "a pirate who's also a private eye" would quickly fall apart in the hands of the wrong folks. But Yonder and Grahn clearly know what they're up to, reveling in the fun of both genre's tropes to produce two short tales that left me craving more. It's fresh and interesting, a plot that strikes the right balance between twists of familiar tropes and strongly voiced characters.
Much like a P.I. who's came back from war with a chip on his shoulder and a nose for trouble, Smitty has a vaguely mysterious background, owing to his time pirating on the high seas, and spends time in each issue alluding to various bits of backstory, in between his work on cases that uncover seedy bits of the local underworld. Both issues revolve around clientele who are tweaks of familiar characters, and while I was left unsatisfied by the conclusion of issue #2 (mostly due to a confusing and clumsily executed climax), I was floored by how good the first issue was. Hunting down the secret past of a woman, recently arrived at the local brothel, through seedy streets and all along the waterfront, Smitty stumbles from lead to lead in classic detective fashion: Lying through his teeth, hanging on by his fingertips to loose leads, and punching guys in the mouth if he thinks it'll do him some good. It's all great fun, and although the issues keep a brisk pace, they deliver satisfying stories that left me curious enough to keep me coming back for future issues.
TL;DR: He's a hardboiled pirate, what more could you want?
Pirate Eye is written Joe Grahn with art by Carl Yonder. Published by Action Lab Entertainment, ask for it at your local comic book shop.
Review copies of Pirate Eye were graciously provided to Spandexless by the publisher.