Scales & Scoundrels Volume 1: Into The Dragon’s Maw

Writer: Sebastian Girner
Artist: Galaad
Letterer: Jeff Powell
Publisher: Image Comics

Review by Evan Maroun

Every week I meet up with my party and we play Dungeons and Dragons. Rarely is someone absent to this meeting of like-minded lore lovers; we thrive off it. The characters, the world, and most importantly, the adventure. That’s why fantasy is considered by many to be one of the most compelling genres. Just take a look at Game of Thrones, which draws record high viewership each season. Delving into a rich world that isn’t your own proves to be an escape for many and quite simply, very entertaining if done right.

Image Comics’ Scales & Scoundrels Volume 1: Into The Dragon’s Maw is decidedly NOT like Game of Thrones. In fact, it may be the antithesis. It’s vibrant in both its looks and its approach to characters. Its world is far less bleak, and it does not bother itself much with politics. It’s also aimed at a younger audience.

However, it does put a fiery white-haired heroine in the forefront, so they do have that in common. She goes by the name Luvander, or Lu for short: A young vagabond if there ever was one. The book opens with her cheating (allegedly, as she would attest) at a card game, and she takes quite a beating for it. That is, until a torrent of Dragonfire rips through the pub, scattering the assailants and patrons. Lu walks out unscathed by flame with an inhuman look in her eye. She is clearly something more. Eventually, as Lu continues with riches on her mind, she stumbles across three adventurers: Prince Aki and his hesitant bodyguard named Koro, along with Dorma, a red-headed dwarven girl. They invite Lu to come with them, and this is really where the story begins.

The writing by Girner portrays these characters as mostly wide-eyed enthusiastic adventurers with different backgrounds; they all feel like they were part of the world before we got a look at it. With this, comes a welcome aura of mystery (even though Lu’s seems more telegraphed earlier than I was expecting) that readers will look forward to discovering. The world that he surrounds them with is alive with monstrous creatures, legends, and diverse cultures inhabiting it. These things never feel forced or just thrown in the background either because they derive from the story beats themselves, making everything feel organic.

As I said once before, this book is primarily aimed at a younger audience, but that doesn’t mean an older crowd won’t enjoy it. Girner does something that is always appreciated in books with that demographic– in that, he never talks down to the reader. He aims to tell a story, and he does so without overexplaining or simplifying dialogue. He maintains each character’s unique voice, so much so I could probably cast a voice actor for them in a cartoon adaptation. I know I did in my head. In all honesty, this would make a stand-out show finding a similar tone to something like Voltron: Legendary Defender combined with the mythical flair of the short film, The Reward. You can thank me later, Netflix.

Another big part of why I say that is because of the art on display here. I almost had to go get a bowl of cereal, because it just drips of a warm, Saturday morning cartoon vibe. Not a lot of blacks and greys to be found here. Galaad fills pages with clean lines, accentuated only by his fantastic choice of color palettes for any given location our heroes find themselves in–the establishing panels of which are usually beautiful splash pages. When it comes to panels though, the layouts are relatively basic. This remains true even during action sequences. I would’ve liked to see Galaad have a bit more fun with that, as it would’ve made them feel more dynamic. I can’t complain too much though because this is consistent throughout and it still works. Jeff Powell tackles the lettering here, and he does it quite effectively. A fittingly sportive font style, with some expressive onomatopoeia peppered throughout. He even crafts a unique ancient language,  but I can’t get into that without getting into spoilers.

Verdict: Buy it.

Haven’t made up your mind about Scales and Scoundrels Volume 1: Into The Dragon’s Maw yet? Below you will find a checklist to help you decide:

If you like…

  • Sprawling fantasy romps through distant lands
  • Strong female characters
  • Joyful journeys rather than dark and depressing destinations
  • A fun on-going comic that can be enjoyed at any age

…Buy Scales and Scoundrels Volume 1: Into The Dragon’s Maw!

Evan Maroun
A writer, photographer, and part-time crime fighter currently based in Upstate, NY. You can usually find him watching the latest indie flick, planning an adventure, or geeking out on Twitter about the latest in pop culture.

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