Tony and Brendan have very different tastes in comics. Tony loves his capes, super powers, and sci-fi. Brendan tends to stick to horror, noir, and weird indies. Occasionally, their paths cross, but like most readers, they tend to stay in their own lanes.
New To You Comics is here to break up the pattern a little. Tony will throw some of his favorites at Brendan, and Brendan will hit Tony with some of his. Every NTYC title is brand new to one of them. Every once in a while a title will land with both of them. Most of the time they can find some common ground, but even when they don’t, it’s fun to watch them go at it. Brendan fights dirty. Tony kicks like a mule.
This week, Brendan introduces Tony to AfterShock’s Scout’s Honor, from David Pepose and Luca Casalanguida. Here’s what AfterShock says about the book:
‘Years after a nuclear apocalypse, a new society has risen from the ashes…and their bible is an old Ranger Scout manual. A young Ranger Scout named Kit has endured the harsh survivalist upbringing needed to conquer the irradiated Colorado Badlands. But after discovering a terrible secret once lost to history, Kit must risk everything on a dangerous quest to uncover the truth behind the Ranger Scouts’ doctrine.
From multiple Ringo Award-nominated writer David Pepose and artist Luca Casalanguida comes a post-apocalyptic coming-of-age tale that proves when all you know is a lie, a Scout’s Honor is the only way to move forward.’
Brendan Allen: There’s a hell of a lot to unpack in Scout’s Honor. A running theme in post-apocalyptic societies (most societies, really) where the people cling to a chosen relic from an ancient social order. A religious text, a statue, dessicated body parts… These relics inspire cult-like devotion from followers. In this case, the relic in question is the Boy Scout Manual.
I spoke to David Pepose ahead of the release of the first issue, and he told me he was looking for the absolute weirdest thing someone could use as a Bible when the idea struck him. It’s really not that far of a stretch. Beyond the requirement that all Scouts believe in a ‘higher power,’ there is a quasi religious element to BSA with their uniforms, manuals, and strict bylaws. It’s only a tiny nudge to make them a full on religious cult.
Tony Thornley: I’m an Eagle Scout, and I got involved through the LDS faith, of which I’m still an active member. So… this resonated with me hard. I could see a lot of Scouting die-hards in the roles that Kit and Dez were in for this story. The only thing it’s missing is cheesy camp songs as the hymns, which… Given the ending of the first issue, and just the cheesy nature in general, I can see why Pepose didn’t take that last step.
Brendan: It’s also really easy to see how Scout training could be twisted into paramilitary ideology. The structure, uniforms, rewards system, rank, status, weapons/survivalist training… That all sounds a hell of a lot like Army BCT.
I remember when I was in the Army, stationed at Ft. Bragg, NC, we were on TDY at Ft. AP Hill, VA to host the National Boy Scout Jamboree. We had all kinds of stuff set up, where the kids could interact with soldiers and try out our equipment and stuff. They did PT with us, ate with us… Those kids were eating it up. Scouts training lines up alarmingly well with the entire Army structure.
Tony: Yeah, I could see that. But beyond that, the world building here? It just killed. Which is something Pepose is good at. All his books I’ve read just have this great world-building throughline.
Brendan: Yeah, the Scouts thing is only part of the equation. Kit is a ridiculously complex character. She’s an up and coming superstar, hiding her true gender within the exclusively male Ranger Scouts of America. While she’s off killing gamma boars and racking up the badges, everything threatens to collapse on her at any moment if she’s discovered.
There’s the fall of society, the rise of the RSA as the ruling cult faction, Kit’s nuanced relationship with her BFF Dez and their fierce competition to win the approval of Dez’s wannabe Jesus-figure father, the huge conspiracy that the whole damned thing hinges on… All cleverly woven into an anything-but-standard hero’s journey.
Pepose called it Fallout meets Mulan, by way of The Handmaid’s Tale. That’s fair, but I also picked up some elements of Mad Max, Revolution, The Postman…
Tony: Yeah, this thing had so many moving parts. That’s all on top of telling a nuanced character portrait of someone whose life is simply a lie. That’s a stunning moment for anyone, and putting it in the backdrop of this world is gripping.
Brendan: A lot of moving parts, yes, but at no point does the story lose the thread. This is a really easy read, because it’s planned and executed so well, in spite of all the complex elements.
I also love that it ends right where it does. Five chapters was a perfect length to get the story told and get out.
Tony: Yeah, this is another one that if the team has the right story, they could return to the world, but I also don’t feel like they need to by any means. It’s a good solid, complete story, and it’s all the better for it.
Brendan: Luca Casalanguida and Matt Milla bring a style that works incredibly well for this post-apocalyptic high concept piece. The quiet moments (quieter moments?) are really clean and contemplative, balanced against some insanely frenetic action. It’s a hard line to hit, and yet…
I think I called it “beautifully savage” at one point in a review. It’s a viscerally powerful aesthetic that doesn’t resemble anything else on the spinner rack.
Tony: Oh definitely. Casalanguida has a style that’s just a few notches to the left of a Big Two house style. In that sense, it feels realistic, and has a sense of pacing and storytelling that some more abstract independent and creator owned books don’t have. But it’s also more rough in his linework that fits the setting and story being told better.
I think Milla is a really under-appreciated color artist. He did some really good work on some Big Two books, and I’m always happy to see him pop up. I think here he adds a grit to the world, but uses just enough color that it doesn’t feel too far removed from our own.
Plus, for all the freaky elements, like the mutated animals, he uses really unnatural colors, so they pop right off the page as wrong and freakish.
Brendan: I absolutely love this series. It’s a great commentary on flawed and corrupt institutions (religion, government, fraternities, military culture…) mashed up with gritty post-apocalyptic action and giant sci-fi insects. That’s the stuff, right there. Where’d you land?
Tony: I liked it. Good sci-fi, post apocalypse storytelling, with some relevant undertones.
Brendan: Word. What’s up next week?
Tony: There’s a pretty big superhero movie out this weekend. Featuring a character you might have heard of- Spider-Man? Well, we’re going to do Spider-Verse by Slott, Coipel and Camuncoli.