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Home ¦ Reviews ¦ The Red Seas - Under the Banner of King Death

2000 AD - The Red Seas
The Red Seas: Under the Banner of King Death
by Ian Edginton and Steve Yeowell

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What to Expect: When pirate captain Jack Dancer and his motley crew relieve a Spanish Galleon of it’s cargo they unwittingly take possession of the missing chapter of a feared occult tome. Dr Orlando Boyle and his zombie
crew will stop at nothing to recover this artifact even if it means a three way confrontation with Dancer and the devil himself.

Review by Stephen Watson
23rd January 06

This excellent book collects the 9 episodes and sixty pages of this now fondly regarded strip, which originally ran in 2000AD Progs 1313 - 1321.

This means the strip debuted on 16th October 2002 almost a year before ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ opened in America on 28th June 2003. I mention this fact because the similarities between the two franchises are inescapable. Both have lead pirates named Jack who are pitted against a crew of zombies in a traditional pirate tale with a supernatural twist. With the differing gestation periods between comics and movies it’s difficult to see who first came up with the concept, but Steve Yeowell comes out fighting in his interview on this site when he states this series was originally
pitched to Epic comics years ago.

This debate is similar to the ‘E.T.’ Vs ‘Skizz’ debate of a few years ago and, frankly, if the product measures up who cares what its ‘influences’ are?

2000 AD - The Red Seas

This relatively short book has the difficult task of introducing an extended cast while also trying to place the story in a historical context while also weaving in the supernatural elements which will become a corner stone of the series in later adventures. Add to this the need for an exciting plot and you will see what a difficult task has been pulled off here.

The story opens with action, with the second and third pages being an excellent double paged spread which is also used as the end papers for the book. If it wasn’t in 2000AD we’d thing we were reading a ‘Boy’s Own’ pirate adventure, but the stakes are quickly raised when Dr Orlando Doyle makes his memorable, zombie laden, entrance.

The story crackles along with some great cliff-hangers and introductions, notably Erebus the wise cracking, sooth saying dog’s head in a jar of vinegar - or is it brandy? The story has many surprises along the way, most notably the early demise of Dancer’s ship ‘The Red Wench’. The final showdown is well done, with a confrontation that takes place in another world, dispelling all suggestions that this may be conventional pirate fayre.

2000 AD - The Red Seas
The witty and humorous script by Ian Edginton is a cracker and it’s clear early on that the ‘The Red Seas’ will be a long running series for 2000AD. The dialogue is funny without ever being distracting although I do doubt 18th century pirates would say ‘Great steamin’ arses’ but I could be wrong!

The supernatural elements are not overdone and clearly Dancer and his men have no experience of such matters, although the adapt pretty quickly especially to the floating dog’s head! The swashbuckling heroics you’d expect in any pirate yarn are present and correct as are welcome slices of sex and swearing!

Although clearly an introduction piece, the story stands up fine on its own and it’s great to see plot lines being casually thrown in which will be tied up in the volumes to come. The salty dog seamen of Dancer’s crew predictably play background roles but do serve well as comedic foils, delivering such lines as “Stitch this y’maggotty bone bag”.

Steve Yeowell’s art is excellent and clearly benefits from being in black and white. The crisp lines and momentum in every panel are a joy as are the detailed character designs. The book also has numerous sketches from the development of the strip and I was amused to see an old ‘Look and lean’ book being cited as a reference point in his interview.

2000 AD - The Red Seas

The book itself is a lovely thing, presented in Rebellion’s now familiar graphic novel format. The cover is great although slightly misleading. I wonder how many pirate loving 10 year olds will be given this based on the cover only to be bewildered by the content! That said, the cover I mention is for the review copy and this differs from that seen on Amazon, so this point may have already been addressed. Sorry!

The thick glossy paper stock and the reproduction of the script are perfect and, as previously noted, the endpapers are fabulously decorated by the two page spread appearing in the strip, but without the captions and dialogue. To round off the package we also get the original pitch for the series as well as the script for episode one. The pitch makes for interesting reading and I wonder why Edginton was denied the ragged page caption boxes that he so specifically requests!

An excellent strip presented in an immaculate edition. Perhaps a touch pricey at £9.99, but a bargain at Amazon’s £7.69. Go on, you deserve it!

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Original content (c) 2002 Gavin Hanly (contact 2000AD Review).