Cursed Pirate Girl #1

By Jeremy Bastian
36 pages, black and white
Published by Olympian Publishing

Strictly as a title alone, Cursed Pirate Girl was going to get my attention. It’s a strange turn of a phrase, and I think creator Jeremy Bastian knew just that when he used it. But honestly? What it really took for me was the cover of the first issue. Looking at the main character, sword in one hand, and tendrils of hair extending and crawling across the space? Well, I was hooked with just that single glance. As it turns out, lucky us, the insides are even cooler.

It’s 1728, and in Port Elisabeth, Jamaica, young Apollonia is bored. She’s the daughter of Governor Maygun, and her birthday celebration is in the works even as the town itself is still crawling with pirates and other undesirables. But still, Prince Povy is making his first visit ever to Port Elisabeth in order to attend Apollonia’s birthday banquet, and that’s something to be excited about, right? Actually, Apollonia is more interested in her new friend, the Cursed Pirate Girl. If Apollonia is really ready for this sort of friendship, though, is another issue entirely.

Bastian’s art in Cursed Pirate Girl is nothing short of enchanting. It reminds me a tiny bit of Troy Nixey’s art, with its slightly grotesque, just-not-quite-right look about the majority of the characters. It’s the adult characters that Bastian draws this way, perhaps because the entire comic is from the perspective of either the Cursed Pirate Girl or Apollonia. So sometimes an adult’s head is particularly bulbous and top-heavy. Or perhaps their body is particularly swollen and distended, like a massive onion with limbs sticking out of it. Maybe their hair looks more like a rain of maggots falling out of their head. Or their head is that of a massive boar. Wait, that last one is a little less than normal even for this book. But with his multiple thin, meticulously drawn lines, Bastian brings all of these characters to life. They’re actually a little disturbing to look at for too long, like their generally wrong appearance actually hurts your brain if you stare at them too long.

Mind you, there’s more to Bastian’s art than just misshapen forms. I like how Bastian draws his action sequences. From one big panel where each motion and movement flows into the next, to individual panels where the Cursed Pirate Girl points her cutlass at a boy who thinks he’s tougher than her, there’s a high level of energy in this comic that makes it look immensely attractive. Even Cursed Pirate Girl walking down the alley with a swagger in her step and a swing in her arm comes across as lively and bouncy. It’s a great looking book, with details even down to different labels for empty wine bottles.

The story itself is fun as well, with Cursed Pirate Girl having her own goals and trying to pull Apollonia into her larger plans. I was surprised but pleased that Bastian shows things from Cursed Pirate Girl’s viewpoint as well as Apollonia’s; it would be an easy way out to focus entirely on Apollonia and thus keep Cursed Pirate Girl extra-mysterious, but the focuses on her help solidify her as a character instead of just a plot contrivance. It’s actually a little disappointing to see that this is only the first of three issues, though; at the end of this issue it feels like things are barely starting and we’re already a third of the way through the series. Either this is just an introduction to much, much more, or things are going to have to speed up immensely in the remaining two issues to have a satisfying enough conclusion.

Cursed Pirate Girl #1 is one of those comics where my local store manager handed me a copy and said, "You need to buy this." Within about 10 seconds, I absolutely agreed. Even the production values are nice, with a heavy parchment paper stock for the cover that helps bring about that old-time feel that Bastian evokes here. It’s a pleasant surprise to see this book show up out of the blue; hopefully we’ll be seeing a lot more of Bastian in the years to come.

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