Scales & Scoundrels #8 Review
Writer Sebastian Girner and artist Galaad’s Scales & Scoundrels opens its second arc with heroine, Luvander, having survived her adventure in Dened Lewen (AKA The Dragon’s Maw) and parted ways with her companions, Koro, Dorma, and Prince Aki. With issue #8, Luvander begins a journey of self-discovery, which brings her into contact with a troupe of Elven sell-swords, adding a new race and mythology to the narrative.
Iriel, Captain of the mercenary Elves, The Blades of Grass, instantly recognizes Luvander as an Urden, and venerates her because of her racial background. She reveals a shared mythological history between the Elves and Dragons, and tells the tale of a paradisiacal, Eden-like city, called Irilesh, formerly inhabited by the two races. Irilesh’s location is long lost to time, and it is the perpetual purpose of The Blades of Grass to rediscover their ancestral home.
Luvander heartily welcomes a new adventure, and happily agrees to join the Blades of Grass in their current commission. However, her enthusiasm wanes when she discovers that The Blades of Grass are regular profiteers of slave trading. Iriel likens a cave full of captured humans to cattle, compounding earlier decried discriminatory derisions. Claiming the captured congress as her bounty, Luvander commands the Captain to set the collective free. Resistant to Luvander’s charge, Iriel refuses until her conservative ways are invoked through the evocation of the ancient oath, “Asmaria oreth,” which translates to “Ever in service.” In parting, Luvander remarks that if Irilesh is ever found, The Blades of Grass would likely not be welcome, as they would corrupt the purity of such a paradise.
This issue acts in direct response to the riddle, “Who are you?” posed to Luvander by Prince Aki in the depths of Dalden Laria (The Hall of Dreaming Treasures). Through isolating the protagonist, and navigating themes of race, religion, and slavery, writer Sebastian Girner tests Luvander’s moral fortitude, and develops her character in ways that would be unachievable with the rest of the first arc’s party present. Exposure to the Elves showcases Luvander’s lengthy lifespan, the complexities of being an Urden, and that with age does not necessarily come wisdom. Griner’s ability to discuss darker themes, while still maintaining an overall light-hearted feel, is a credit to his superb writing skills. Scales & Scoundrels’ effervescent nature is also equally credited to Galaad’s minimalist, cartoonish art style and pastel pallet, which makes for a wonderfully whimsical world. Galaad’s art also excels in its ability to convey a myriad of emotions through the manipulation of characters’ facial functions, especially in this most recent issue, when used to show Iriel’s malevolence and Luvander’s transition from smugness to dismay. It remains to be seen whether this issue marks a one-off occurrence or if Luvander will continue to roam her fantasy realm like Caine in Kung Fu for the unseen future; however, the story of her self-discovery is off to an excellent start.