“If the laws of nature cannot prevail here, what chance have the laws of the land?” This introduction to Keith Page’s Strawjack from novelist and film maker Stephen Walsh sets the tone for this new graphic novel perfectly. It’s a tale of salty sea dogs, scarecrows and magic but should you send your hard-earned doubloons on it?
Publisher: Crucible Comics
Writer and Artist: Keith Page
Editor: John Freeman
Price: £7.99 on Amazon
Strawjack: The Terror of Romney Marsh tells the story of the eponymous smuggler and his crew, a rough and ready type who’s no friend of the law. An evil spirit is released from a cursed treasure chest (these things happen) and Strawjack finds himself in the role of an unlikely hero in a tale of ghost ships, zombie pirates and phantom scarecrows. It’s a yarn that consistently entertains and doesn’t overstay its welcome. The story is a period piece set in the eighteenth century albeit one that describes itself as being “almost historical”, helping to explain how hot air balloons and submarines are thrown into the mix.
Strawjack’s writer and artist is Keith Page, a veteran of the British comics scene best known for his work on Commando and Eagle and that spirit of boy’s own adventure is certainly on show here. It’s a pacey, action-packed affair with a lot of memorable characters. Page knows his genre and his audience, filling his script with plenty of references to Jack Tar, Davey Jones and calls of “Steady as she goes!”. The mixture of pirate action and supernatural thrills might conjure up thoughts of Pirates of the Caribbean but the story owes as much to tales of the high seas such as Treasure Island and Captain Blood as well as classic British comics such as Victor and Lion.
Page’s art is a real treat here. The black and white illustrations really help to evoke memories of comic strips of the past and also help to show of Page’s impressive line work which here is often reminiscent of Steve Parkhouse. Strawjack is edited by none other that John Freeman, perhaps best known for his role in developing the Marvel UK universe and as writer on some of the most iconic British comic characters from Dan Dare to the Doctor. It’s reassuring to see John on board here, helping to steer the ship through the sometimes choppy waters of comics publishing (the next volume Figgerty’s Gallop is trailed in this edition).
There’s something for most readers in Strawjack: The Terror of Romney Marsh, a yarn that mixes the maritime adventure with the occult in a story that combines the nostalgic with the contemporary. It looks like there’s still treasure to be found on the high seas.