The Campbells v4 by Jose Luis Munuera cover detail

The Campbells v4: “The Gold of San Brandamo”

Prelude to a Review

The thing that impresses me the most about this series is how well Jose Luis Munuera is writing it.  He’s an artist, primarily.  Although he’s written one or two books before this series (see “Zorglub“), he’s mostly drawn comics that other people have written. It looks like he paid attention and learned a lot from those experiences, though.

This is a complicated narrative for a relative newbie at writing.  The story consumes the entire lifetimes of all its characters, seeing how they intersect and interrupt each other over the span of some 30 or 40 years.  Knowing that story is one thing, but presenting it in a dramatic and occasionally surprising way is another.  Munuera pulls that structure off.

 

Campbell, Morgan, and Turk

Campbells thinks about the past on the beach

This volume sends us back to the beginning of Campbell’s pirate career. The story focuses on his mentor, Turk, who died in the previous book. It affects him more than he could have imagined, and it has him thinking back to those early days.

It also covers a period of time when he and his wife, the Formidable Captain Morgan, have their first child.  As you might expect, the story of that baby’s birth is a great comedic romp, surrounded by pirates fighting and an impromptu bucket brigade.

There is a twist near the end that I think has been hinted at once before in the series, though I’ll have to read it all over again to find it.  As I mentioned in the last review, there’s more tragedy to come in this series. This little twist adds another layer to that expectation.  It gets a little soap opera-ish, but I’m so committed to this series and its characters by now that it doesn’t bother me too much.

The looming questions of how Captain Morgan dies and what Inferno’s involvement in it is hover over the series. I keep dreaming up new theories as the series continues, and Munuera keeps adding new wrinkles.

The possibilities are piling up and things are only going to get worse.

In the meantime, always study this panel from the first book when Morgan’s ghost haunted Inferno, and see how these curses might come together in your mind now:

The Formidable Captain Morgan lays out her three curses to Inferno

There’s also a lot of attention in this book paid to the pirate lifestyle, and how the career is changing over time.  This is putting a spotlight on Campbell’s brother, who we’ve seen already ditch piracy for politics.  That’s a far more lucrative trade for someone looking to steal other people’s money. We learn in this book just how long he’s been considering the career shift.  And while Munuera fleshes out his background, he also adds a great running gag around aristocratic screaming that pays off nicely.

 

One Minor Nit-Picky Critique

The coloring on this book by Sedyas is always spot on. I’m always impressed with the way the colors shift to denote the different time periods the story is set in, as well as the different characters and locations. They’re beautiful.

Take, for example, this section where everyone is talking at night.  It’s entirely done in shades of blue, with the exception of the orange light coming out through the windows. It’s a standard color grading job in movies, but it works well in comics, too.  See how easily Sedyas separates the layers and lights the characters with only ever using shades of a single color. it’s great.

Blue color in The Campbells

Click for a larger version. (I edited out the dialogue for spoiler purposes, as always.)

There’s one technique early in the issue that doesn’t quite work for me, and that might be because we’ve seen a much better example of it recently that looms large over this one.

Check this panel out:

Bad dappling coloring effect on The Campbells

Look on the shoulders and the tops of the heads of the characters. See those bright yellow and pinks spots?  They’re standing under palm trees at the edge of the beach.  That’s a light dappling effect Sedyas is going for here.

I don’t think it works well.  It looks like someone in production had an accident with a brush in Photoshop more than the light poking holes through the fronds of the palm trees.

The dappled lighting of Jordi Lafebre's Les Beaux Etes

For comparison, take a look at Jordi Lefebre’s work on “Les Beaux Etes,” a book that’s being translated by Europe Comics for release in the spring.  The dappling is much bolder, but it works for me somehow in a way th one from “The Campbells” does not.  I’m not sure I can explain why. Maybe it’s the way it falls more consistently over the entire image?  Maybe the light feels more muted?

It’s an interesting technique to try out, and an advanced one to even think about using. I just think Sedyas needs to play with it a bit more to make it feel more natural, even in the relatively cartoony world of “The Campbells.”

 

Recommended?

Of course.  Read the first three first, though. There’s no need to start at volume 4 when volume 1 is still delightful and easily available.

I love this series so much I’m running out of ways to say it without repeating myself; I’m forced to pick nits on dappled lighting.  C’mon, people, just read this book! Let’s all talk about it somewhere…

(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #74.)

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3 Comments

  • bacta October 8, 2017 at 8:18 pm

    Coincidentally I read Les beaux étés 1 last week! I absolutely loved it, I’m pretty sure you’re gonna love it too. It’s a beautiful, sentimental story and I think the only bad thing I could say about it is that it would have benefited from being a lot longer, because it kind of felt like too much for 50 pages. At the same time though, it’s perfect as it is. I don’t yet know how I feel about it being a series, because it would totally work as a one-shot. I’m gonna try the other albums, but it would be hard to reach the heights of the first.

    Reply
    • Augie October 9, 2017 at 12:47 pm

      Thanks, Bacta, for the review. You’re just making me more excited for this book now… Thankfully, I have enough stuff backlogged to keep me busy until those books comes out in the spring. =) I’m getting very sentimental in my “old age,” so this sounds good to me…

      Reply
  • Stern v1: "The Undertaker, the Vagrant & The Assassin" - Pipeline Comics October 11, 2017 at 5:50 pm

    […] talked in my “The Campbells” v4 review about the way colorists are playing with depicting dappled light. That’s the way light […]

    Reply

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