The first few pages of Kate Lawson and the Ship of Lost Souls, the initial issue in what seems to be a continuing series following the characterís adventures, introduces us to the concept: Australia is racked with invasions by ghosts and other supernatural creatures, apparently caused by the intrusion of the white man (who we see blowing off a nativeís head before even getting off the boat). So a federal agency investigates and deals with these incidents, and their top agent is the fetching Ms. Lawson. So far, so good.
After that intro, we move on to the main story of the issue, which involves some ghost sailors attacking a fisherman who found their compass, which we saw them lose when they shipwrecked in a flashback to 1812. Wayne Nichols does a nice job with the art, although his action is sometimes confusing; in two cases during the shipwreck scene, characters suddenly arrive from off panel to punch someone else, but we never saw them moving toward the punchee. But he does a great job with the characters and locations, using Mike Mignola-esque shadows to make things especially creepy. In the present, when the dead sailors return, they take the form of skeletons, and they are nicely-detailed and expressive, considering they have little in the way of facial features. Unfortunately, they are difficult to tell apart; Nichols does give the captain long-ish hair and a scraggly goatee to match his appearance in the flashback, but you have to look closely to discern these details, and later action scenes involving the skeletons become confused when itís hard to discern who is who.
The real artistic missteps come when the title character shows up to investigate. Unfortunately, she maintains the same expression she sports on the cover during her entire on-panel time. Sure, sometimes she furrows her brow a bit to make an angry face, but she mostly wears that same blank expression. Nichols has some other trouble with her as well; several panels of her holding a gun look really awkward. Itís a shame, since most of the other characters and background details are so nicely-detailed, but the star of the book comes off as the worst-looking aspect.
Sheís not helped out by the script either. In fact, her arrival marks the point when the plot turns from a creepy ghost story into a fairly nonsensical action tale. Tasked to dispatch the dead when they harm the living, she canít leave well enough alone, deciding to chase the skeletons down after they try to leave peacefully. And then the captain of the ghost sailors exhibits some bizarre changes in motivation; I canít tell if heís trying to fight her or not. He also needs to work on his dialogue; the old ďdonít bring a knife to a gunfightĒ saying is a pretty stale one-liner.
So while I canít really recommend this book, Iím tempted to give it a pass in hopes of encouraging some promising creators. Nichols is especially good in parts of the book, delivering moody, expressively creepy vistas and some really nice pictures of sailing ships. I hope he continues to develop his artistic skills and moves on to work on better material. But unfortunately, this book isnít really up to par yet.
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