Rogues! vol.2: The Cold Ship (#1 – 5) – El Torres

2 out of 5

Outside of the brilliantly condensed ‘Ghost Wolf,’ Amigo Comics – the majority output of which is written by Torres – has yet to release something really spot on.  The previous ‘Rogues!’ volume was what garnered my respect for the publication and allowed me to see the earnestness – and creativity, and true appreciation for the medium – which Amigo creators brought to the table, well overcoming the language and editing flubs that are frequent in their books due to the ESL nature of the company.  And despite my lower rating for this volume, ‘Cold Ship’ continues that admiration, and eagerness to pickup whatever else they’re putting out.  Our titular rogues are Bram and Weasel, and the characters started out as a spin on fantasy warrior tropes as told through a comedic / erotic filter.  Revealing outfits, lots of cleavage and innuendo, lots of muscles… but then lots of off-the-wall humor and plotting smarts as well.  There are moments in volume 2 where that comes through, particularly in our story setup and a diversion in issue three that sees the duo fighting an amusing battle with a gigantic, naked, man-eating woman, but moreso this feels like a Sophomore slump of sorts, with Torres feeling the need to expand on Bram’s past, and, in doing so, getting too mired in seriousness that doesn’t match the tone of the book.  It’s also a bit too much setup with too little payoff: a ghost ship stocked with 13 undead warriors arrives in town, and the leader knows Bram and says it’s time to do his duty.  So Bram drops the grinning barbarian shtick and sulks off to say he knows what must be done.  Weasel sneaks aboard, theoretically giving us our humorous angle to cut through the turmoil of sifting through how these undeaders came to be and what that duty is.

And it just doesn’t quite connect.  The quest storyline would’ve been better served had we been discovering the story along with Bram and Weasel instead of it being told to us via flashback, and I’m all for fleshing out these characters, but, again, humanizing them so broadly isn’t necessarily best for maintaining the quirky vibe that was established.  So ‘Cold Ship’ is a bit of a jumbled storyline, with some wonderful flashes in there (a monster battle that comes out of nowhere; that giantess) but almost, heh, too story-heavy to do any of the pieces justice, and forgetting to keep things light and fun along the way.

Thankfully, artist Lolita Aldea is amazing, her art given wonderful depth by Sandra Molina (whose contributions are even more apparent vs. Ittai Manero’s flatter colors in the last half of issue 5).  While some moments betray Aldea’s anime influences too directly – some shirtless man battles lack the wonderful embellishments of the ship scenes or more widescreen moments – overall she really gets the cheesecake aspect of the characters and successfully blends that with the winter animal-pelt-cloak setting.

As mentioned – this is still a publisher to watch.  I see ‘Cold Ship’ as a valid misstep as Torres can figure out how to parse an ongoing storyline as opposed to the isolated mini-series the publisher’s done up until now.

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