Blackbeard, Legend of the Pyrate King
by Robert Place Napton, Jamie Nash, Gregg Hale, Eduardo Sanchez, Mario Guevara (Dynamite, 2010)

The art by Mario Guevara is colorful, almost cinematic in its style, as befitting a rollicking tale of pirates. It's appropriate, too, given that writers Gregg Hale and Eduardo Sanchez are first and foremost filmmakers (The Blair Witch Project), and Jamie Nash, who worked with Robert Place Napton to turn the story into a comic-book script, is one of their regular collaborators. Blackbeard, Legend of the Pyrate King was being considered at first to be a film, not a graphic novel.

But, while I tend to enjoy a lot of the books from Dynamite Entertainment's shelf, the story here is a wan reflection of Edward Teach's personal career. I hesitate to term this a biography, since little is known of Blackbeard's early life, and the writers here fill in a great many blanks with their active imaginations. I certainly don't mind a little creative license but, oddly, the story itself never makes it clear that this is fiction, so the unwary reader might believe the events here to be a true account of Teach's history. (If you read the dense text of Steven W. Fussell's afterword -- "Who was Blackbeard the Pyrate King?" -- you'll realize that many of the details supplied here just don't fit the existing facts.)

The writers paint Teach as an anti-hero of a sorts, as much noble freedom fighter as bloodthirsty killer. I'm not sure their interpretation reflects the reality of the situation, but hey, that's what fiction is for. (Blackbeard also has an insatiable appetite for women, which does sound about right.) The narrative jumps forward and backward at will, skipping chunks of time and piecing together a choppy tale that is, ultimately, less than satisfying.

I'd love to see more nautical films being made, but I'm probably just as happy this one wasn't made. The story, exciting as it is, deserved to be told better.

Why, by the way, did they spell the word "pyrate" in the title? It defies sense.

review by
Tom Knapp

14 April 2012

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