I love a good pirate story. Given that I have written a series about space pirates, that should come as no surprise, but I’m pleased to read a well-told tale about pirates in any era. One of the reasons pirate stories appeal to me is that pirates exist outside the norms of social propriety. Because of that, you can use them as a way to examine social structures and moral codes. Do those structures, laws, and moral codes keep people from harm, or are they about keeping certain people in power? They’re also interesting in a narrative sense, because the best pirate stories explore these kinds of issues while giving us an anti-hero we can root for and putting them into a situation that’s fun and exciting to watch.
Tom Hutchison, owner of Big Dog Ink comics, has a show on the Comic Book Shopping Network called the Midnight Collector’s Club, where he sells interesting collectable and new titles from other comic companies. One of the books he showed off was issue number one of A Man Among Ye written by Stephanie Phillips and featuring art by Craig Cermak. The cover caught my eye as something that looked like it took on the topic of pirates in a way that was both serious and fun. I read the first issue and immediately wanted to know what happened next. I lucked out and my local comic shop had issue 2.
The time period and general setting of the comic will be familiar to viewers of the series Black Sails. The protagonist is Anne Bonney. She’s aboard the Kingston, commanded by Calico Jack Rackham. We have some scenes on Nassau and Charles Vane makes an appearance. Unlike Black Sails, we’re not mixing in characters from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. It’s clear Stephanie Phillips has read many accounts of real life pirates and is both inspired by them and understands their limitations.
A Man Among Ye opens with the crew of the Kingston raiding a British ship. A young sailor from the British ship survives and sneaks about the Kingston. The young sailor soon proves to be Mary Read. Those who know their pirate history will recognize Mary as another real-life pirate who sailed with Rackham and Bonney. As the story progresses, we discover that not all the crew are happy about Anne Bonney’s presence on the Kingston or with Rackham’s captaincy. A sailor named Biff makes plans to dispatch Bonney and lead a mutiny against Rackham. All of this makes for an exciting and thrill-packed adventure story. Phillips shows a deft hand in her scripting by keeping the action moving and making me want to turn the page to see what happens next.
While there’s plenty of action, there’s also an exploration of women’s roles in society. We learn that Anne was expected to marry and become a housewife. She rejected that life to become a pirate, but clearly not all pirates think she has a place among them and they are even less thrilled when young Mary Read shows up. Even beyond that, there’s some mythological underpinning with the story taking some inspiration from the Greek myth of Actaeon and Artemis. Two issues in and I’m hooked. If you’re looking for a good rip-roaring pirate yarn that will also make you think a little more about society and its structures, check out A Man Among Ye. If you want to do the same, but in space, checkout my Space Pirates’ Legacy Series.