Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"Get your lazy asses up, you filthy rats. Your useless lives just became worth something again.
"You're free. Contracts is up.
"The captain took on your debts when he bought you, a fair bit of coin. Now you're all paid up.
"Started with a dozen of you. I been cracking the whip across your backs, trying to teach you somethin' and now comes the day of reckoning. You got a choice to make, boys."
"One, ya stay on the Bellwood. Sign up for another go-round. Only now you'd be pulling wages, equal with the rest of the men. No more sleeping in the hold.
"Two, soon as we land in Shanghai, you walk. Make your own way home. Though I'm not sure how you'd be able to, skint as you all are.
"You got two minutes to decide. Captain wants me back on deck. Smile boys. You're sailors now. Just need all five of your names on..."
Wow, that is one tough YTS scheme.
Get shanghaied in Portland, be locked up in a ship's hold for two full years with a mortality rate of over fifty percent, repeatedly getting hell thrashed out of you, before being told you're free to go if you want when you land - oh irony of ironies - in Shanghai... It's almost like the Captain and his first mate aren't really giving you that much of a choice, right?
Well, "Jack" certainly thinks so.
It's just that her choice to kill the Captain and the entire crew, seize the ship and set sail back for Portland to deal with the people who put her on the Bellwood in the first place in a similarly rewarding manner might not be the most obvious one. Unless of course getting kidnapped and effectively kept in slavery on the high seas for two years is the holiday you've always been dreaming of... Because nothing says "thank you" for giving someone the opportunity to see the world quite like slitting their throat.
Yes, that's right, for "Jack" is in fact Molly, or Red as she now prefers to be known.
Here is the sad sea shanty from the publisher to make you salty seadogs shed a tear or two as they clue you in on Red's revenge mission...
"Red is one of hundreds of people who were shanghaied out of Portland in the late 1800s. Drugged, kidnapped, and sold to a ship's captain for $50, she wakes up on a boat headed out to sea, unable to escape or reveal who she is. Now, she's coming back in a blood-soaked boat to find her family and track down the men responsible for stealing her life out from under her. Eisner-nominated writer Christopher CROWDED Sebela & Joshua Hixson bring you a tale of revenge, family, and identity that stretches from the deck of a ship outside Shanghai all the way to the bleak streets and secret tunnels beneath Portland, Oregon."
Oh yeah, it is ON! I love me a good bit of retaliation, retribution and reprisal. So do remember to pick your standing orders up won't you, me hearties...? It's just that finding those responsible for the shanghaing shenanigans shore-side and dealing with them is going to be a lot harder than clearing the decks of the not-so-good Captain and his lackeys. No, the second part of Red's equalising errand is going to take considerably more guile and cunning. Good job for her she's got those skills in abundance. Perhaps she'd like to take on those responsible for Brexit next?
There's a lot of the suitably rough and ragged about the art for the bruising fist-fights, comfortless conditions and blood pooling over the floorboards. And, I kid you not, everyone is glaring at each other throughout with such effectively depicted ice-cold hostility and suspicion that you may find your own eyes narrowing, however subconsciously.
If you have a need to see wrongs righted and wrongs 'un sent off to sleep with the fishes (who presumably might have a little nibble on them after they wake to find breakfast has been kindly served up), this is for you. Brutal, nasty, probably exactly what life in 1800s Portland was like, both on ship and shore, this is a cautionary tale awash with all shades of pale blues and bright reds that a tot or two too much rum in a less than salubrious local can lead a to - a hangover that might last a very long time indeed...