Smitty, the Pirate Eye, is a former pirate turned private investigator. His current job involves the seedy underworld of slave trading and prostitution. Will the Pirate Eye be able to solve the case or will he be led astray?
Writer Josiah Grahn begins the story, as one would expect, with a paid detective as the main character; there is a mystery or problem to be solved. A wealthy man known as The Governor has come to Smitty regarding a woman in the “local house of ill repute.” Grahn uses an internal dialogue to communicate directly to us. He uses this tactic to provide exposition and gives us an inside look into how the Pirate Eye’s thought process works. The tactic works wonderfully, especially when he is weaving in conversational dialogue that complements Carl Yonder’s panels. The opening pages superbly exemplify this tactic as Yonder portrays Smitty handing The Governor a bottle of gin. Smitty then recalls an old tactic from a former pirate captain, “Loosen the tongue, loosen the purse strings.” The consequent panel displays The Governor spilling his guts to the Pirate Eye. It is a magnificent combination of artwork, scripting, and dialogue.
Unfortunately, Grahn relies on this tactic throughout the story and it gets to be a little repetitive. He uses it on three different interrogations. However, there is one page where Yonder shows a multitude of different tactics Smitty uses to procure information. None of it is fleshed out or expanded upon. One panel depicts Smitty flirting with a beautiful woman while the second shows him face washing a lowlife. This is part of his detective routine and Grahn rushes through it.
I suspect the main reason for this is to keep the story suspenseful and the culprit a mystery. However, it detaches you from Smitty’s investigative work and removes you from his thought process. You don’t get to follow along and discover the truth with him. Instead, you are left learning about the culprit when Smitty confronts them.
Despite this major setback, Grahn uses some compelling dialogue whether it is between The Governor and Smitty or Smitty and Collette, the Madame of the local whore house. One of my favorite lines gets to the core of who Smitty is, “My doors always open to the desperate ma’am and I’m exactly as capable as you are rich.” (sic)
Carl Yonder’s artwork is top notch. Despite the number of different characters within the story, each one of them is clearly distinct from the other. He does this through either specific facial features or their dress. There is no confusion between Smitty and any of the people he interrogates. Yonder uses a lot of dark colors; it creates an almost dark, mysterious tone that suits Grahn’s script extremely well.
One of the most important factors for an artist, especially on a story that is heavily focused on conversations with other characters, is the ability to convey emotions through facial features. Yonder does a good job of depicting Smitty’s emotions whether it is fear, pomposity, seriousness, or sadness. It connects you with the different characters, fully entrenching you in the mystery.
Pirate Eye: Mark of the Black Widow is a fun, investigative mystery set in the golden age of piracy. Josiah Grahn has created an intriguing character in Smitty. Grahn takes us on a good detective journey, introducing us to Smitty’s own mysteries. There were some faults regarding the repetition of Smitty’s investigative tactic and the lack of development of his other tactics in order to create a big reveal regarding the culprit. Yonder’s artwork is good whether it is character expressions, the dark tone, or easily identifiable unique characters. If you are looking for something different when it comes to detective mystery comics, you should definitely check out Pirate Eye: Mark of the Black Widow.
- Good use of internal dialogue combined with dialogue and panels
- Identifiable and unique characters
- Yonder’s colors creating a dark, ominous, and mysterious tone
- Over-reliance on Smitty’s “loosen the tongue, loosen the purse strings” interrogation tactic
- Lack of development of Smitty’s other investigative tactics in order to create a shock reveal of the culprit