Written By: Stephanie Phillips
Art By: Craig Cermak
Colors By: Brittany Pezzillo
Letters By: Troy Peteri
What They Say:
High adventure on the high seas in the waning days of piracy when men were men, and the best pirates were … women?
Writer Stephanie Phillips (Butcher of Paris, Descendant) and artist Craig Cermak (Red Team, Voltron) bring to life the tale of Anne Bonny and Mary Read as they hoist the skull and crossbones, draw cutlasses, and seek a treasure that will make them legends. In an era when sailing with women was thought to be bad luck, Anne and Mary might be the only people capable of saving the pirate way of life.
Content (please note that portions of review may contain spoilers):
As the rising sun broke the horizon on the Caribbean, a British light frigate found itself being boarded by a familiar sight, its attacker’s grim black standard flying high above with a skull and swords emblazoned in white. Chaos erupted above deck as desperate men attempted to protect their ship, and yet as these brave defenders encouraged themselves to grasp the grand reward for the invader’s leader, a man named Calico Jack Rackham, none stood a chance against this dashing pirate. While this presumptuous braggart cut down each who dared to claim the prize, he failed to notice one redcoat who presumed to strike from behind, almost skewing the overconfident brigand before being taken down by a well-aimed musket ball. Startled by this sudden save, this relieved man turned to see the timely savior of his life, slyly smiling and offhandedly chiding the beautiful crimson-haired woman who fired the unwanted projectile, the one he addressed as Anne.
While this courageous redhead dared to stand up to her commander and they exchanged boastful words accentuating their own skills, this bothersome conversation was thankfully cut short as the crew brought forth a large chest full of golden coins, with the captain playfully telling his shipmate they would finish later during a more private moment. Giving orders to scuttle the smoldering ship, this daring woman dutifully obeyed her orders and walked forward between fallen bodies, only to stop after hearing one begging for help. As she stood over the injured sailor, Anne boldly pointed her cocked flintlock at the despondent man who was in disbelief as to her lack of mercy, only to respond to this coldness with his own bloody spittle. Turning away from the pleading survivor, Anne confidently strode up the gangplank to leave and casually bushed her gloved fingers against a hanging oil lamp, causing the combustible source to shatter upon the splintered deck, leaving the ship to be engulfed in flames. Sailing off into the distance, Calico Jack picked up his teasing discussion with the fiery woman, only to be dismissively interrupted by a demeaning remark towards Anne, which causes the proud woman to erupt in anger and once again charmingly talked down by her leader. Wanting to reward his men for their hard work, Rackham proudly announces they will head to New Providence to toast their latest raid, but what all fail to notice is a small blue-clothed stowaway clinging to the exterior railing, grimly watching these dangerous men prepare for a raucous night of celebrations.
When I read the synopsis of this series and realized it was based on historical figures Anne Bonny and Mary Read, infamous female pirates who roamed the Caribbean Sea during the early 18th century, quite frankly it was frightening to think this story might enclose the same prejudice and sexism of that time period, but after delightfully immersing myself within this dynamic tale, I am glad to realize the narrative has transformed into a much-improved chronicle. Writer Stephanie Phillips has taken the essence of their exploits and managed the account into a lively and modern reimagining which encapsulates what we expect of someone who is forceful enough to gain the respect of this rowdy male crew. In the stolid factual version, regretfully due to antiquated thinking of women being restricted to certain roles, Bonny and Read were forced to disguise themselves as men in order to participate in these illicit raids against the British crown, thus forcing them to hide their true identities under Calico Jack’s protection. And yet Phillips has taken the ferocity of this indomitable woman and allowed it to stand proudly at the center of this premier issue, proving this fiery redhead is a match for any man and is willing to show her worth in the midst of combat. One cannot but smile as her leader treats this formidable force as an equal, and then giggle as we witness Anne being held back by Rackham after she is insulted by the chauvinistic pirate’s remark, two sides of the same pride which drive her to succeed. How can someone not admire the uncompromising audacity of a woman who dares to challenge the rigid standards of the day, and while she may be ruthless in demonstrating this bloodthirsty attitude to anyone who will stand in her way, you cannot but applaud this ambition in proving her own uncompromising strength. To think a woman who is normally seen as a nurturing being becoming this cruel during the boarding would be unthinkable against the backward rationale of the period, but as we witness Anne’s temper forge her way forward within this captivating story, it is stunning to think of how she could monumentally succeed within the present day.
It is said the first impression is always the best, and the opening scene of this premier issue presents readers with an ominous suspicion that what will follow will be to something to our liking, especially after witnessing the prominent black and white symbol emblazoned upon the lead ship, signaling our fill of pirate booty has yet to begin. The contrast of dark ebony waters reflected against an equally oppressive sky gives the feeling of duality, with the sense no one is safe when encountered between the narrow space of the two realms, so brilliantly depicted by the moving colors of Brittany Pezzillo. And yet it is the next sequence of action which whets our appetite of what is to come, like the classic movie Captain Blood, the pulse-pounding fight of buccaneers against redcoats gets our hearts racing, made all the more wondrous thanks to the fantastic artwork of Craig Cermak, allowing for his static images to project a sense of movement due to the ingrained momentum of what we remember from these action sequences. With Calico Jack at the center of the frame, his confident smile is dashing against his dashing actions, made all the more memorable thanks to the synergy of wonderfully balanced light and dark tones in the midst of excellently depicted nonstop thrills. And yet it is the next page which makes the most sincere impression: to witness the captivating pose of a striking figure against the rigging of a ship, a smoking flintlock leads up the slender arm to a seductively appealing hint of cleavage and the shock of red hair waving in the morning breeze with a nonchalant grin on her beautiful face … this is how you make an impression with the viewer; by allowing the curves of a confident woman to be displayed for all to see, and yet not knowing the fury and determination which hides beneath those same distracting distractions, only subtly hinted by a faint scar across her left eye – all cumulating within the dangerous and yet desirable figure who is known as Anne Bonny. Who would dare think this singular image would trigger such a fascination with this indomitable figure, and in turn allow us to become happily engulfed by this Siren of the Sea, never wishing to look away no matter how much danger we are yet to face?
A Man Among Ye has the promising premise of engaging the reader within a fascinating interpretation of what should never have existed during the 18th century: a self-confident woman who is not afraid of expressing herself and challenging the oppression of the British Empire and controlling men. With beautifully expressive colors and captivating artwork attempting to define this singular individual, one cannot but cheer for the pirate named Anne Bonny, becoming enchanted by her confidence and undeniable spirit all as we witness the danger of striking out against an established system, and yet never doubting she will overcome these challenges in what may be a questionable end. I cannot wait to see what will happen next until next chance our paths will once again cross within the excitement of these highly anticipated pages.
Age Rating: T+ (for Mature Teens)
Released By: Image Comics/Top Cow Comics
Release Date: June 17, 2020