In AfterShock Comics’ latest futuristic drama, Scout’s Honor, a new world order has been built on an archaic belief system. This new series flings the reader into the distant future and asks the question on everybody’s mind, What happened to the Ranger Scouts of America? The comic is a character driven thriller from the writer of Going to the Chapel, David Pepose, and artist Luca Casalanguida.
Badge of Honor
A group of survivors fight to stay alive in a world that has turned against them. The remnants of a civilisation long since destroyed has grown up on the beliefs and teachings of one man, the true profit, Doctor Jefferson Hancock. With a problematic system of trial and reward, the new religion is based on the Ranger Scouts of America, with the worship of bravery and honor. But as the plot unfolds, age old corruption and greed are shown to have survived along with the hierarchy of power.
Scout’s Honor is a story told through character moments. David Pepose has crafted an elaborate world but it is presented to the reader by defining the people Pepose introduces. A dramatic opening plants the seed for the future environment before jumping forward in time to introduce Dez and Kit, the central characters. A battle with a radioactive boar is a chance to shape the environment and cement the characteristics of Dez and Kit but the moment is quickly over. The boar itself is a plot device to establish the dangers of the world and highlight the bravery of the two boys before the plot moves on.
Pepose plans each scene as a way of expanding the reader’s understanding of Kit and leaves the difficult world building to Luca Casalanguida. The art work is detailed and portrays an uninviting world where the only warmth is indicated through the orange glow around the uncomfortable religion. The contrast between the words the Scout Master says and the realities depicted across the pages is a scathing indictment of religion. The written words of a childhood organisation have been twisted to form a misogynist gang of reward seekers. It’s like the Cat Religion from Red Dwarf but without the jokes, or the assimilation of Church and Military in certain episodes of Doctor Who. Pepose has deconstructed two modern institutions and turned them into a hellish nightmare world.
The atmosphere created in the opening of Scout’s Honor is reminiscent of The Last American published by Marvel in the 1990’s. John Wagner and Alan Grants dystopian future has a single character walk through the detritus of American culture in a burnt out, forgotten world. Casalanguida appears to be channelling Mike McMahon’s style in the opening pages of Scout’s Honor before he populates his world with a host of survivors. The sense of dissolution within the landscape is forefront in the art even as the action sequences swirl through the panels like miniature whirlwinds blowing up dust. It is clear that the actions of these survivors have no great impact on the world and this gives the entire book a solemn feel, punctuated only by the brightness of the central character.
Kit is bold and beautiful throughout. Written as a true hero, Casalanguida imbues Kit with a dynamic element that it’s impossible to ignore. The coloring throughout the book is reflective of the locations but Kit’s bright orange hair is both a reminder of the all consuming religion and a way to make Kit stand out on the page. Matt Milla makes sure that the reader can find the hero at all times. His use of lighting within the panels is cinematic at times but goes beyond this, creating a hyper-realistic setting. The emotional charge of the story is brought out through the ever changing emphasis on light and shadow. Returning to the character as the central theme of the comic, the lighting is a representation of Kit’s many emotional aspects, changing as the character’s situation changes.
Throughout the comic there are a number of overlapping voices. At some points the caption boxes relate to a church service while the panels follow Kit through the, mostly unseen settlement. Three different voices speaking together, overlaid across the panels. Carlos M Mangual gives each voice a distinctive color. He changes the intensity of the color in the caption boxes to represent the strength of the voice or voices that are speaking so that you can easily distinguish between preacher and congregation.
Scout’s Honor is packed with twists and turns. Pepose leads the reader through this world in the wake of Kit’s adventures, always one step behind and playing catch up. This story format never lets you take a breath so that by the end you find yourself totally engrossed in the world. It’s difficult not to be swept up in the action and, before you know it, you’re on the final page, eager to turn back to the start and retrace your steps at a slower pace. You will find yourself wanting to take in the majesty of the art work and the complexity of the storytelling.
The comic contains some big themes that it has only just begun to explore but because these fit snugly into the plot it never becomes preachy. The characters are engaging and the art work is superb. AfterShock Comics have a successful track record with thrilling and intriguing stories, check out Bad Reception and Undone by Blood as perfect examples. And with Scout’s Honor they have another surefire hit on their hands.