In this three issue story arc that came out last year, writer/illustrator Jeff Nicholson finishes up the inland journey of the motley group of pirates and otherworlders that began in issue #6 and is collected in the new On Into the Great Lands graphic novel (pictured above). It’s the second Colonia collection and I can’t recommend this great fantasy series enough if you haven’t tried it yet. (You can read my review of issue #8 here.)
Things start out with our hero Jack and his pals lost somewhere in the wilds of Florida. Although it’s the year 1999, in the land of Colonia the panhandle state is a rough, unsettled land with a few outposts along the coast. After some slight misteps, the crew stumble upon the port of Cartier, where most of the action takes place. Pirate queens Anne Reed and Bonnie O’Malley and their reluctant companion Cinnabar strive to buy a new ship to head back out to sea while Jack and his uncles look for clues to figure out how they arrived in Colonia and how they can get back to “our” world.
In addition to the main action, these three issues really belong to the fantastical supporting characters who pop up to cause trouble. #9 features the brief return of the fish man Adarro, easily the coolest designed character in the book, so it’s great to see him even just for three pages. Adarro hints at larger events taking place behind the scenes of Colonia, but the best part of his appearance is how Jeff draws the sequence of Adarro getting revenge against a fisherman without any dialogue regarding his actions. It’s a subtle joke that goes a long way simply because it is so subtle.
Issue #9 also features a mysterious barmaid who should look very familiar to regular readers–even though it passed me right by who she was, so the revelation of her identity came as a pleasant surprise in issue #11–as well as a pirate obviously patterned after Adam Ant in his full New Wave days and who is ready to sell his ship to Anne and Bonnie.
In #10, Jack and his uncles take a side trip into a dark forest to find Rip Van Winkle, whom they believe holds the key to getting back home. Rip turns out to be a surprising new character who doesn’t have any answers, but provides some even stranger questions. More amusing than “Rip” are the goofy hill dwarves who take care of the old man. These strange little fellers are very cutely designed and although they lack individual personalities, their strange mannerisms provide most of this chapter’s jokes.
Finally, most of the action of issue #11 revolves around the dread pirate Smokebeard, who is probably one of the most interesting characters to ever appear in the entire series. Smokebeard is holding the town of Cartier hostage and it’s up to Jack and Cinnabar to get rid of him so everybody can get back out to sea. The bulk of the issue, i.e. pages 13-23, is an extended action sequence leading up to a confrontation with the smoking pirate (and I don’t mean he smokes cigarettes).
The arc then concludes on a major cliffhanger that leaves Jack in very dire straits. It’s a great setup for the next storyline that I hope begins soon.
You can read more about Colonia and buy either back issues or the two collections at the Colonia Press website.