Pirates of Coney Island #1

Written by Rick Spears
Art by Vasilis Lolos
32 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

There are some titles that just grab me the second I hear them. The Pirates of Coney Island was definitely one of them; the mixing of a familiar genre phrase (“The Pirates of…”) with the part of Brooklyn known for its boardwalks, beaches, and amusement parks. I actually laughed out loud when I first saw the title and figured I knew exactly what I was getting in for, with such a funny, silly name. And boy, was I wrong on all counts.

Pattrick’s a runaway from Richmond, Virginia, just looking for somewhere else to be. Unfortunately for him, his first encounter on Coney Island is with the girl gang known as the Cherries. If Pattrick can somehow survive his meeting, though, there’s gambling dens, feared enforcers, helpers-of-runaways, and the dreaded Pirates all waiting for him. The question is really just who he’d want to encounter—if anyone. This isn’t the fun Coney Island of legend.

Reading the first issue of The Pirates of Coney Island, all I could think by the halfway point was that it had been a while since I was so off-base on a basic assumption about a comic. The Pirates of Coney Island, despite the fun name, is anything but light-hearted. This is a pretty grim and brutal book, with our protagonist getting horribly maimed amidst other killings within its pages. When we meet the main antagonists of the first issue, the Cherries, we also learn that they’re afraid of the titular Pirates of Coney Island. The insinuation is pretty clear to the reader by the end of the first issue: the Cherries are tough, but the Pirates are far, far worse. It’s almost as writer Rick Spears is throwing down the gauntlet to the reader; if they can’t handle this first chapter, the next seven are going to be even tougher. As for the rest of the story itself, it’s actually pretty minimal, seeming to set up the rest of the mini-series by shuffling the cast on stage. It’s a little tough to judge as a reader if you want to continue as a result; aside from some pretty violent moments, there’s almost nothing to base an opinion on. You want to know more, but the underlying fear as a reader is that there might not be any more substance down the line.

I don’t remember encountering Vasilis Lolos’s art before but it’s certainly striking. The characters have sharp, angular faces that remind me more than a bit of Dean Ormston’s art. With the limited color palette used in the early pages it’s a visually stunning creation, with the deep purples and reds contrasting with the almost fluorescent blue that glows off the page at the reader. It’s a great contrast between the night and day scenes, with the latter using bright yellows and orange as the sun makes an appearance. It may sound simple, but the choices in how to differentiate the two scenes is better done than a lot of other comics on the market these days.

Like Spears’s script, Lolos doesn’t shy away from the more gruesome events of the comic. The seagulls picking at Pattrick’s wound is nothing short of stomach-churning, and the fight in general is well enacted. Lolos understands how people move; the Cherries gang with their bad posture as they walk around in stores is wonderfully drawn, for instance, and the scene at the Sal’s keeps its tense nature in part because you can feel the fear radiating off of the characters involved. Lolos is able to ultimately sell Spears’s script (which in other hands may have felt over-the-top) thanks to his strong storytelling, always taking each scene very seriously.

As said earlier, The Pirates of Coney Island was not at all what I was expecting. It can’t help but make the reader feel a little grungy and dirty by the time the dust settles, and its high level of violence and harsh nature makes it not for everyone. For people looking for a comic with hard-hitting action and tough if sarcastic characters, though, this is absolutely for you. The Pirates of Coney Island slaps its reader in the face repeatedly, but you may find that you’re eagerly waiting for the next punch.

9 comments to Pirates of Coney Island #1

  • Greg, I had exactly the same reaction, at least in terms of the misleading title and the surprisingly gritty, ugly circumstances that actually make up the story.

    The fact that people expected something lighter from this book seems to be an almost universal reaction.

  • Honestly, the violence was a bit disturbing at times (the seagull panels were a bit over the top), but overall I loved the book. I think it’s one of the most creative and quirky books I’ve seen on the market in a while. I can’t believe I haven’t seen Losos before, because his art is right-out amazing. (reminds me a tad of Jamie Hewlett in its punker-esque style)

  • Hey man thanks for the kind words, it was nice that the comic was a pleasant surprise to you, a Trojan Horse if you will haha.

  • yeah. Also, sorry I made a typo in your name up there.

  • Mark

    Absolutely loved it – i only bought it cos my wife kept calling a band we were watching Coney Island Pirates instead of the correct name of Coney Island Jesus… next day I go in the comic shop and see this!!! Hell yeah, it was fate!!! Superb work fella!

  • Travis Dececca

    Dude i freakin love this comic i just discoverd it a few days ago and now im hooked im looking for all the issues of it its hard but i have three after 4 days. Thanks for a great read!!!!!!!!!!:)

  • chasity

    i love this comic, great artwork, and as for the violent nature of the story…love it, shit happens and i think everyone is too concerned with a pg13 rateing now a days, it helps this story start off with a bang.

  • […] a long way towards creating its mood and atmosphere. While I was familiar with Lolos’s art in Pirates of Coney Island, it’s in Last Call that things really stood out for me. I think in part it’s because of […]

  • […] a long way towards creating its mood and atmosphere. While I was familiar with Lolos’s art in Pirates of Coney Island, it’s in Last Call that things really stood out for me. I think in part it’s because of […]