Sunday, 30 April 2017

Obscure Comic of the Month - Salvagers: Abandoned Cargo

Obscure Comic of the Month takes a detailed look at a little known entry from my personal comic book collection. Some will be from major publishers, others self published projects, Original Graphic Novels, issues and Manga. What they'll all have in common though, is that I've rarely, if ever, seen anybody talk about them.


Salvagers: Abandoned Cargo by Bob Salley, George Acevedo, DeSika and Hde – Think Alike Productions 2016

In the distant future, the habitable planets are connected through trade of natural and artificial resources. The import and export business is flourishing for some systems, while leaving others at the mercy of major trade corporations.

After the Galactic War ended, peace blanketed the galaxy; however planets with little shipping resources turned to piracy or developed small guerilla military units geared to pillage trade ships. This spawned the necessity for trade companies to hire private security contractors for protection.

Even under the security of peacetime, there is no shortage of violence in outer space; from looting raiders, Navy destroyers neutralizing a rebel movement to the simplest space station falling victim to a rogue asteroid.

These destroyed or abandoned ships and stations are classified as “WRECKS”.

Licensed crews are commissioned by governments, empires and corporations to remove these wrecks.

In a hostile galaxy, the risk and reward is high for these crews.

They are known as... the SALVAGERS.

I picked up book one of Salvagers while I was at Toronto Comic Con back in March. It was the last day, and the comic's writer, Bob Salley, pegged me as somebody who might be interested. He gave me a heartfelt pitch, selling the idea that this was a series that really focused on the working men of a sci-fi universe. No soldiers or scientists or astronauts here. Just everyday Joes who have jobs to do and bills to pay.

I snagged the last copy, and he threw in a couple of issues of the next arc with it.

That is to say, I really wanted to like Salvagers.

It's competent to be sure. The writing comes together nicely, the plot is framed well enough, and George Acevedo's art fits well with the story being told, beyond a few panels feel weirdly off. By and large, there wasn't anything really wrong with Salvagers, but there wasn't anything for me to really get excited about either.

Look, I get it. Doing comics isn't easy, I know that. I'm sure my own stuff has it's fair share of flat writing and I'm certainly still making my way when it comes to art. So I know how much love and hard work you have to put into these things, and how you want what you come out with to be the best it can be.

But what you also have to remember is that a lot of small press and self published comics are done by writers who are just starting out. Fresh talent still forming. So when you see problems, it's best to point them out now, while there's time to iron out your bind spots.

See, here's the thing; when I read independent comics I'm going to be forgiving of a lot of things. There's going to be jank and cheese in the writing, there's going to be a little bit of the art that feels off. What makes up for that though, is getting to see fresh ideas, bold new voices. Subject matters that might not have a broad appeal but that the writer really cares about. Stories that might get a little scrubbed clean of character if it was under a major publisher.

Salavagers though, it doesn't have any of that. The story follows a crew of four as they explore a derelict ship, clash with some security bots, and find out that there is more going on with the derelict than meets the eye. You've seen this story before, you've seen these characters before. There's the big alien guy who's stoic and professional. There's his little funny looking best friend who's quick with a joke but is always getting into scrapes. There's the purple skinned pilot who's strictly business but can relax around the main character, and of course she's smoking hot with a dark and troubled past.

By far the biggest problem is our main character Bill Roenick. Bill is a rough, rugged ex-soldier (despite the fact not focussing on soldiers was supposed to be one of this book's selling points.) He's what I like to thing of as a 'place-holder' character. He's perfectly fine for the first draft but should have been replaced by a more interesting character by the time we got to print.

Here's a little experiment for all you writers out there. Next time you write dialogue for your main character, ask yourself if it sounds like the kind of thing John Mcclain would say. And I'm not talking about flawed, interesting, Die Hard 1 – 3 John Mcclain here, I'm talking about boring, invincible, no personality, Die Hard 4 -5 John Mcclain. If the answer is yes, I suggest you scrap that character immediately.

There are plenty of Bill Roenicks in the world of comics, I read indie comics to expressly avoid them.

So Salvagers real, and in it's defence, only problem is that it isn't bringing anything new to the table. There's nothing wrong with using archetypes, but you have to do something interesting with them. Even the comic's main selling point, working Joes in space, isn't all that original when you consider Alien did that back in 1979.

Fortunately, Salvagers can be salvaged (ah-heh). Abandoned Cargo is only it's first book, and I've seen far worse comics turn themselves around to become classics. The talent is certainly there for it.

But by it's own merits, Abandoned Cargo just sort of gets swept away by the dozens of other sci-fi comics that have covered similar ground over the years. If you're new to comics, there's probably a lot you'd find to like, but it's not what I'm looking for when I pick up a self-published comic.


Jack Harvey 2017. Salvagers is (c) Bob Salley and George Acevedo. Images used under fair use.

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