Now here's a comic with a great title. Pirate Eye is what you expect it to be — a detective story set in the world of pirates, with all that entails and more. Sadly, however, the story doesn't manage to make good on that initial premise, offering a somewhat convoluted and dull tale, which is only enlivened by some spirited art from Carl Yonder.
Yonder, who I believe colored his own work, puts in some great art here. He manages to tell the story in interesting ways — the first page is a close-up on the main character, with each new panel cutting to him after a beating he's received from his current captors. It's a neat trick, and the comic has several others to offer. Yonder's ability to tell the story is massively important in a story like this one, which is set inside a mystery and has to keep readers confused — but not so confused that they drop the comic before the end.
On that front, Yonder keeps the comic afloat. There are occasions where characters look a little similar and hard to distinguish, but the page breakdowns and layouts leave everything for the reader to piece together themselves. The coloring is also well done for the most part, making the comic look grimy and dirty, but with moments of brightness pushing through. There are some sequences which could've done with brightening up, just for clarity — the final fight scene is sequentially sound, but a bit too dark. For the most part, though, Pirate Eye looks good.
The story is less well done. Starting off in expected territory, the comic quickly veers off into three or four different narratives, all of which are supposed to end up in the same place — but it's very convoluted, and very difficult to work out what's actually happening. None of the characters particularly pop out from the page as memorable, which leaves it difficult to know who to follow, and who to distrust — noir stories tend to focus on a small cast of high-profile characters, but Pirate Eye has what appears to be a very big cast of undistinguished extras.
I have to keep saying "appears," because the comic doesn't make anything clear whatsoever, in terms of the story. There's a lot of skipping through time for little result, and I honestly don't understand what we were meant to think the conclusion was. One of my greatest contributions to the comic industry is my ability to step into the shoes of a clueless dolt — because those are my shoes. And in this role, I read the comic through several times but couldn't get any kind of grasp on the story after around the midway point.
There's a great concept and interesting lead character here, and writer Joe Grahn has a good hold of dialogue. The problem is that the narrative is poor, and structured badly. Rather than being a twisting thriller, the comic starts slowly and then almost immediately falls apart under the weight of an under-explained storyline which doesn't make sense over the course of the comic.
Steve Morris writes for Comics Bulletin and The Beat. He has a webcomic called Stardark City which is well lush, he's on Twitter @stevewmorris, and now he has a blog too — so you can spend every waking second thinking his thoughts and reading his words. Whew!