Captives (#1) – Alexander Banchitta

3 out of 5

‘Captives’ is well-produced, wholly standard fantasy fare: there’s a dungeon with a monster; best the monster and win a princess and a kingdom.

Admittedly not everything has to rewrite the rules of genre tropes, but it’s kind of upsetting or frustrating when something produced in a modern era shows no signs of modernization; ‘Captives’ absolutely adheres to the “I only care if my wife is pretty” unspoken caveman rules of classic fantasy, where the girl is chastised and tossed in a tower for no real good reason ‘cept dude pettiness, and then she’s a trophy for our various D&D types – axe-wielders, archers, mages, etc. – to lust after. Writer Banchitta at least mentions that some of the potential suitors are moreso after riches or power, but nonetheless – this is a very cut and dry, heterosexual, penis-pumped world. You could tell me further issues subvert or expand on that, but the previews suggest that it’s simply a sword and sorcery romp.

With that out of the way, accepting those tropes, Banchitta and his artists – Robert Ahmad (inked by Dan Parsons) and Vojislav Vasiljevic – aren’t male gaze-y indulgent. Yes, the princess is a trophy, but she’s also just a background macguffin, featured on a couple of pages (fully clothed, no gregarious butt or boob shots) just to establish she exists, and then the rest is setup for the dungeon, and the initial phalanx of monsters with which our various adventurers scuffle. It’s paced well, juggling competently written dialogue so that we circle around the group and get a taste of each of their attitudes – no one’s writing any madly impactful psychological tomes, but the characters have enough personality to make them a step or two beyond cutouts – and our artists do a great job of keeping both talking heads lively, and action choreography clear and varied; Ahmad has a Mike Wieringo bubbliness to his style, but there’s a fair amount of setting detailing that keeps it grounded in the fantasy vibe, and Vasiljevic handles a flashback sequence with a bit more Prince Valiant-y stateliness.

My mind is for sure not blown, but this is a notch above your general indie offerings.