“Sometimes I sit and count all day, but sometimes I get carried away”
Ibrahim Moustafa has been drawing some good comics for a while, and now he’s writing, so good for him! He decided to do a sci-fi version of The Count of Monte Cristo, because why not? It’s a great story, and it can fit pretty much anywhere. Brad Simpson, a terrific colorist, is on the book as well, and Hassan Otsame-Elhaou letters it, while Amanda Lucido is the assistant editor and Rob Levin is the editor. It’s published by Humanoids, by the way.
Moustafa sets the story in a sci-fi world, which works pretty well. Redxan Samud (look at it closely; you’ll figure it out) is a common-born sailor (on a flying ship, but still) who is, of course, super-duper. He is promoted to captain after some heroic acts and because the captain he’s replacing is a drunkard, and he’s engaged to a high-born woman whose uncle thinks he’s keen but whose cousin is arrogant and dismissive of poor Redxan. The cousin, Onaxis, is angry because the drunken captain was smuggling for him, as he’s plotting a coup against the government, which is more democratic than the one it replaced, which Onaxis wants to restore so he can become a dictator. Redxan gets married to his lover, but then, of course, Onaxis frames him for smuggling, he’s given a show trial (where the judge has been promised a high position in Onaxis’s new government), and he’s thrown into a prison on a floating island. You know the drill!
In prison, Redxan befriends an old dude who teaches him about fighting, then leaves him his entire fortune so he can get his revenge. So far, so familiar. But Moustafa decides to change the story a bit (at least I think so; it’s been a while since I read the book) – he makes Onaxis the dictator, as he was planning, and he twists the tale a bit so that Redxan is getting justice for his class as well as revenge. It feels like a cultural shift, which is interesting. Back when Dumas (or, as William Sadler might call him, “Dumb-Ass”) wrote the book, a manly man getting revenge on his enemies was perfectly fine and dandy. That’s what manly men did! These days, we frown upon it a bit more, and a story about Redxan simply getting his revenge might not have a wide appeal. At least that’s how I see it! So Moustafa creates the “overthrowing the government” plot, which works well in the context of the story. Redxan is a commoner, but his fortune allows him to pretend to be a nobleman. He spends time with a smuggler (and hooks up with her, having learned his wife is dead), which gives him an army when he needs it (as she’s connected to the rebels), and he discovers that the old fellow who left him his fortune had a robot bodyguard with a highly sophisticated AI … which his enemy is trying to recreate so he can have an invincible army at his command. Things go from there.
It’s not a complicated story, and Moustafa doesn’t do too much to surprise us (the one surprise isn’t really a surprise). That’s okay, though – it’s a fine adventure story, and everyone loves a well-told adventure story, right? Moustafa’s art elevates the material, because he’s quite good. His style is vaguely reminiscent of Stuart Immonen before he went all angular on us, but with a bit more roughness in the inking. He does a nice job with the characters, who are all interesting and different enough that it’s easy to tell who is who, he gives us an unusual futuristic world (there are floating islands, for instance) but one that isn’t too bizarre, and his action scenes are well choreographed and clearly done, so it’s easy to follow along. The story is extremely focused on Redxan, naturally, so we don’t really get too much of what the world is like that would make people want to rebel, because all we really see is the prison, the decks of some flying ships, and the palaces of the rich. There are some nice drawings of the natural world, but it’s unclear what kind of squalor the commoners live in, so it’s hard to see why they hate it so much (this is a bit of a problem in the writing as well – Onaxis is a total douchebag, but we don’t get a ton of information about what a horrible ruler he is). In stories like this, we accept that the rulers is evil and needs to be overthrown, but it would have been nice to get a bit more about that, because the reader has to do the heavy lifting in this regard. But the art is very nice, and beautifully colored (Simpson is always good), and the book looks great.
Count is certainly not revolutionary, but that’s okay. It’s an adventure story, and Moustafa takes the Dumas template, adds some nice touches, takes away some things, and comes up a clever version that is indebted to the original but not a slavish copy. It’s a well-drawn book, and it’s a good, entertaining read. Ain’t nothing wrong with that!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆