A post-apocalyptic future in which a new society has been founded and forged around the ideals of an old copy of the Scout Rangers Survival Handbook. A world in which survival skills are necessary for your own survival. But also a world in which our hero – a young Scout called Kit – must keep their real identity a secret. And that’s not the biggest mystery in this exciting new series AfterShock’s ‘Scout’s Honor’ #1, from David Pepose, Luca Casalanguida and Matt Milla.
AfterShock Comics’ Scout’s Honor #1 opens up in a very cinematic way, pulling back from an extreme close up of the good old stars and stripes – torn and weathered both symbolically and literally – and presents humanity’s first steps into a post-apocalyptic landscape. All that’s left of America, before jumping some 260 years into the future when society has establishing itself. But, instead of the Bible guiding these new founding fathers (and mothers) we have an old Ranger Scout Survival Handbook instead. Not the worst guide to survival you could have, right? And after 260 years it must have informed them well enough, right? But, like the Bible before it, it’s only helped in establishing a very patriarchal society indeed. No change there then.
Of course, any new issue of an all-new series must spend a good deal of comic book real estate (i.e pages) establishing characters, the world they live in, and more, which writer and co-creator David Pepose does while including a good deal of peril, action and danger to keep you turning the page and invested in the unfolding story. His pacing is spit on and his revelations always well timed with both mid-point twist and a “final arc” twist, all in the first issue!
What could just as easily have been a rather comical take on the whole ‘post-apocalyptic’ sci-fi sub-genre (Boy Scouts running the USA just rights itself, doesn’t it?) is treated as serious sci-fi. Earning your merit badges is more than just a bit of teenage fun. Here it’s a badge of experience, which comes in useful when foraging the still-damaged cities on this future world. Over more than two centuries, the humble handbook that helped keep society from falling apart becomes something far more important. It becomes their Bible with all the symbolic power associated with that text – and other religious texts such the Quran – and a social hierarchy that wouldn’t be too out of step with the Catholic-ruled Medieval Europe. But, instead of ten commandants, we get given the seven central laws of the Ranger Scouts as mantra: Always Be Prepared, and so forth.
All the while, Kit – a teen and skilled Scout – is established as our central protagonist. A confident red-head youth who’s a bit of an all-rounder when it comes to survival. And, in the way Kit behaves also reminds me of another aspect of medieval society; the chivalric knight as depicted in many a Medieval tome such as Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (in which he is held up as the yardarm by which all others are judged on their worthiness) or Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’arthur. But with one Mulan-eque different to the other Scouts. If you get what I mean. After all, these chosen few seem to live the life of a knight but following the Scout’s Honor list rather than the code of chivalry, which the knights of the Round Table often broken anyway. So, expect them same at some point down the road in this sci-fi story too.
One part Mad Max, one part Excalibur and another part Mulan, Scout’s Honor #1 makes for a memorable first issue with some great artwork from Luca Casalanguida. An artist who’s art grew and grew on me with each new page. Somewhat akin to Ron Garney in style, Casalanguida’s style is loose which I think better incorporate the requisite speediness to imply action when needed. And it works really well, with many high-action, fast-paced scenes suitably blurry to suggest the ferocity of the action or attack. Making colour artist Matt Milla’s contribution to this issue all that more worth mentioning as he had to help create the definitive lines where there weren’t any. A great partnership. The use of think, marker lines to imply shadow and depth give the whole book an Impressionsts feel about it which I really liked in the context of the sci-fi story being told. A bit scruffy works well when depicting a world that’s very scruffy.
All of this and one last, jaw-dropping twist at the end too! And I thought the mid-point twist was a pretty big narrative reveal, even though it’s been done many, many time before.
Oh, and an honourable mention must go to cover artists Andy Clarke who I adored on DC Comics’ Doom Patrol, so I’m more than delighted to see him on cover duty here. I only hope we get to see some interiors from him soon.
The debut issue sets up a plot that give me great hope that we aren’t simply reading another re-run of the tried, tested and tired formula of the damsel-in-disguise narratives of Mulan, Shakespeare’s As You Like It, or more recent examples – and sticking with the great bard himself – such as Shakespeare In Love. No, with the last minute revelation, we are promised a good deal more, but Kit’s story as well.
But, putting this aside, Scout’s Honor #1 is a turn-paging, thumping good read that takes some pretty conventional tropes but adds complexity and further mystery too. Not the least is why, after 260 years, they still haven’t rebuilt their cities? But then, I suppose the Scout Rangers Survival Handbook isn’t too good on anything architectural beyond building shelters out of twigs and branches, right?
Scout’s Honor #1 is available Wednesday 6th January 2021 from AfterShock Comics
Check out our first look at Scout’s Honor #1 here.