SCALES AND SCOUNDRELS #9 BY SEBASTIAN GIRNER AND GALAAD
Plot
Art
Characterization
Summary
SCALES AND SCOUNDRELS #9 is a successful experimentation into the realm of silent comics, thanks to a balance of great story pacing, great art and lettering. The themes of loneliness, longing, and storytelling can resonate with anyone. The shades of grey character motivations in this issue also call to mind THE WITCHER series. As SCALES AND SCOUNDRELS approaches its 10th issue, the world, the story, and the art continue be on a roll.
100 %
A SILENT BUT EXCELLENT EXPERIMENTAL ISSUE
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In SCALES AND SCOUNDRELS #9, Luvander comes across the deep blue sea and meets a man who is mysteriously silent, as well as a sea-demon. The issue leaves quite a few questions: Who is this sea-demon? Is it a friend or foe? What caused the man to become mute in the first place? What kind of secret lurks beneath the deep blue sea’s depths?

In this special standalone issue, silence is–literally and figuratively–golden and it’s a wonderful thing for the series to explore. In fact, silence ties into the series’ themes of loneliness, nostalgia, and the power of stories. Please be advised that there are spoilers ahead but, if you don’t mind spoilers, then read on.

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The Mute Man and the Sea

SCALES AND SCOUNDRELS #9 begins with two silent pages that set the tone for the rest of the issue. Luvander makes her way to a beach and greets a man who tries to stoke a campfire. Luvander then learns that the nameless man is mute and offers to light the man’s bonfire. Later, as Luvander and the man eat fish, the man draws on the sand with a stick and explains his story. The man explains that he sailed away from his village to fish but was told to beware of treasure and a sea-demon that lives beneath the sea. However, the man shows that his boat got shipwrecked and that he woke up without his voice on the village shore. Because of his curse, the villagers banished him until he found the sea-demon who cursed him initially.

SCALES AND SCOUNDRELS #9
Courtesy of Image Comics

Naturally, the call of hidden treasure in the sea excites Luvander. As the man sleeps, Luvander strips down to her underwear and dives into the sea to hunt for treasure. There, Luvander finds a sunken ship that contains a treasure chest full of flowers that allows her to stay underwater. Thus, the flowers are effectively oxygen tanks. Luvander then takes a bag full of flowers down into the ocean floor via an anchor. Once on the ocean floor, Luvander discovers another ship that contains an entrance to a blue cavern. Oblivious to the sea-demon’s presence, Luvander goes into the cave and finds a huge treasure trove.

But a violet and blue conch on a pedestal catches Luvander’s eye. It’s then that the sea-demon–a mermaid with seaweed green hair and a mask-like face–reveals herself and takes back the conch. However, Luvander and the siren can’t understand what the other says so the siren draws her story on the sand. The sea-demon’s sand art looks fantastic with its sandy, sketchy texture and splashes of blue and white. In fact, it’s interesting to note that the sea-demon draws her story eloquently versus the mute man’s simple-looking sand drawings.

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The Agony of Loneliness In The Depths

As SCALES AND SCOUNDRELS #9 continues, the sea-demon explains that she misses her friends when she hears the man’s voice and notices his boat on the surface. The man’s voice draws the sea-demon to his boat. However, the sea-demon tips the man’s boat over and saves the man from drowning by kissing him. In the exchange, the sea-demon steals the man’s voice and takes the man ashore. Afterwards, the sea-demon listens to the man’s story via the conch to cope with loneliness. Suddenly, Luvander comically then realizes that she’s about to drown. Thankfully, the sea-demon saves her and bring her up to the surface.  Coincidentally, the mute man catches Luvander and the sea-demon as part of his catch of the day. Then, the man hauls the net onto his boat.

SCALES AND SCOUNDRELS #9
Courtesy of Image Comics

As the man looks at an unconscious Luvander and the sea-demon, the man grabs the conch. Soon, the man hears his voice from the conch and a struggle ensues between the man and the sea-demon. Ultimately, the man literally kicks the sea-demon off the boat and restores his voice. At this point, we finally see dialogue between the man and Luvander. Because of Luvander’s actions, the man sails back to his village and leaves Luvander with these words, “Safe travels and many songs to you!”

Before she leaves, Luvander speaks her story into the conch for the sea-demon and throws it back into the sea. The sea-demon listens to Luvander’s story on how she met Dorma, Akisbjrone, and Koro in Dened Lewen before Luvander goes off on her own. Also, in the conch story, we learn that Luvander thinks about Dorma, Akisbjorne, and Koro while she plays a game at a pub. The issue ends as the sea-demon comes up to thank Luvander with her song. As the sea-demon swims into the horizon, Luvander leaves her with the man’s words, “Safe travels… and many songs to you.” Again, because the text is minimal throughout most of the issue, Luvander’s words ends the story on a hopeful note.

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SCALES AND SCOUNDRELS #9 Explores Nudity Tastefully

The strength of the silent plot in this issue lies in Jeff Powell’s letters and Galaad‘s art. It’s absolutely wonderful to read a mostly silent issue after Girner, Galaad, and Powell teased a silent first-page opener in issue 4. The sea and its undersea world are gorgeous only in the way Galaad draws and colors with a palette of blue, green, and magenta. From the very first page, we can imagine the taste of the salty air, the smell of the ocean, and the sounds of the waves.

One of this issue’s biggest strengths is the aforementioned sand drawings because the textures feel real. Secondly, characters’ body language and expressions are fantastic because it effective communicates the action. For example, in the issue’s climax between the man and the sea-demon, Galaad shows that the sea-demon looks visibly hurt through her eyes. Also, in this same scene the man is moved to tears when he hears his voice from the conch. All in all, this issue is a silent comic done right.

SCALES AND SCOUNDRELS #9
Courtesy of Image Comics

Notably, Galaad’s best strength in SCALES AND SCOUNDRELS #9 is the way he respectfully depicts Luvander’s nudity. We previously saw Luvander nude towards the end of issue #7 with puffs of smoke obscuring her naughty bits. Conversely in this issue, Luvander is topless but Galaad gracefully depicts Luvander as she swims and explores. For example, we never see gratuitous panels that show a close-up of Luvander’s butt or breasts and that’s a great thing. In other comics by male creators, the male gaze tends to focus on close-up shots of women’s bodies. With this issue, once again the creators celebrate women’s bodies like the creators of MONSTRESS do.

Silence Tells a Masterful Story

Overall, SCALES AND SCOUNDRELS #9 is an excellent standalone issue because the creators dare to try new things. The comic medium’s biggest strength is its ability to tell a story through sequential art. This issue shows how wonderful it is to let the story speak for itself via silent panels. Thus, it allows readers to openly interpret the story. In fact, this issue calls to mind ISOLA, another Image Comics series where the story has minimal dialogue and lets the readers read between the lines.

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The plot, pace, and artwork continue to be fantastic. Plus, the themes of loneliness and longing for someone are something that we can all relate to. The conch that sea-demon uses can represent a yearbook, an old photograph, or clothing that takes us to another time. It would be great to see another silent issue somewhere down the line. Until then, the next issue finally reveals Luvander’s identity and it will be interesting to see how Girner and Galaad raise the bar.

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