Will is an avid comic book collector based in Denver, Colorado. He is Crazy About Comics!
Setting the Stage
Scout's Honor is a comic book series from AfterShock that falls squarely into the post-apocalyptic genre, but with a nice twist.
This is a full review of this issue. Heavy spoilers follow.
The story starts when a group of nuclear war survivors emerges from their shelter in Fort Collins, Colorado, a little over 26 years after the bombs fell. We quickly learn that this group follows the teachings of an old Ranger Scouts of America survival guide. The manual appears to be the group's bible, as their leader refers to it as "the good book."
The idea of a survival guide becoming the guiding force in the development of a people's creed is certainly not the only allusion to Christianity that we're in store for within the pages of this impressive debut issue. Writer David Pepose certainly had some deep thoughts percolating as he penned this story, and the art by Italian illustrator Luca Casalanguida goes a long way toward realistically establishing the religious imagery that permeates the tale.
The survivors are shocked at the devastation they see after emerging from their bunker. "What do we do now?" one asks. The leader tells them to have faith. "We are the Ranger Scouts of America," he says. "And so long as we live by the good book ... we'll always be prepared." He is, of course, holding a copy of the Ranger Scout Survival Handbook that we can see was written by "Doctor Jefferson Hancock."
Don't forget that name, because the good doctor plays an integral role in this thrill ride of a story. This first part of Pepose's story is, in fact, titled "The Seven Laws of Doctor Jefferson Hancock."
Ready for a time jump? Let's do it!
Meet Eddy, Kit, and Dez
Jumping forward 260 years, we are introduced to Eddy, Kit, and Dez—teenage boys who are all proud members of the Ranger Scouts of America. It seems that whatever Doctor Hancock wrote really had some staying power.
The story picks up in the Colorado Badlands, with our trio of Scouts on the trail of a dangerous Gamma Boar responsible for death and mayhem at the nearby outpost of New Meridian. The boar is apparently not too keen on the idea of being hunted, as it attacks and swiftly kills Eddy. Oh, Eddy. We hardly knew ye.
But we're about to get to know Dez and Kit a little better. Kit wants to kill the boar and rescue Eddy's body. Dez disagrees and quotes what he calls "the sixth law" to justify his opinion. "No burdens - we gotta leave him," Dez says. That Doctor Hancock had some convictions, we can assume.
Kit wins the argument, mostly because the boar is still there and still presents a clear and present danger to our intrepid scouts. In this first action sequence, Dez distracts the Gamma Boar while Kit ends up killing the beast with a pair of hand grenades. Hey, always be prepared, right?
In an exchange after the boar's termination, we learn some key information. Dez's father is the Scoutmaster and may not have a very high opinion of his son's survival skills. Dez asks Kit to allow him to claim credit for the kill, to "give my poor Dad a break from thinking I'm a failure for once."
Later, at Eddy's funeral, we get our first visual cues that religious imagery is going to loom large over this story. A statue of Doctor Hancock holding tablets engraved with the text of his Seven Laws immediately demands comparisons to Moses and the Ten Commandments. Dez's father looks an awful lot like Jesus as he's saying some words over Eddy's lifeless body, which itself looks angelic. These pages are where Casalanguida's exceptional artwork shines brightest.
The funeral segues into a feast where the Scoutmaster and the boys feast on the Gamma Boar. The Scoutmaster singles out Kit for the successful hunt (much to Dez's chagrin) and presents him with the Merit Badge for Valor—"the highest honor a Scout can achieve before joining the ranks of the Eagle's Guard."
So far, so good. We've learned that this post-apocalyptic civilization has survived and even thrived by following the teachings of Doctor Hancock. We've met our protagonist, Kit, and a few supporting characters. And we've been treated to a fair dose of adventure storytelling sprinkled with some religious imagery and allusions.
Ready for what's next?
The Seven Laws
After Eddy's funeral, Kit walks home and, along the way, saves a damsel in distress from a generic knife-toting villain who just wants "a little private time" with his intended victim. Kit makes quick work of the bad guy, and in a cool montage, we learn more about Dr. Hancock's Seven Laws.
They go something like this:
- 1st Law: Always be prepared.
- 2nd Law: A Scout's duty is to protect others.
- 3rd Law: A Scout is forged in brotherhood, beyond our sisters and wives.
- 4th Law: A Scout obeys his Scoutmaster without question.
- 5th Law: A Scout always shows mercy; and will grant a swift death to the infirm and the elderly.
- 6th Law: A Scout shall not become a burden to others.
So yeah, there's a lot to chew on there.
A few of those laws may seem a bit problematic to some people. And this is the first hint we get that all may not be as it appears.
The second hint comes soon after. Kit arrives home after a pretty big day and is greeted by his father, who is not a happy camper. He is upset that Kit made a spectacle of himself by killing the Gamma Boar and warns Kit that "if they ever find out who you really are, they'll never let you be a Ranger Scout."
Cut to Kit undressing, and we find out that Kit is a girl.
So yeah, there's that.
This kind of revelation isn't exactly anything new in this kind of serialized dramatic storytelling, but it quickly puts our protagonist at odds with Dr. Hancock's 3rd Law.
The next day, a wounded woman finds her way to the gates of the Scout compound. We learn that she is a survivor of an attack on the New Meridian outpost by marauders known as Highwaymen. The Scoutmaster confirms that it's the third such attack on a colony in the past month.
The Scouts are preparing to hunt the Highwaymen down, but the Scoutmaster needs an Advance Team to determine their numbers. Kit and Dez volunteer, of course, because the plot needs to thicken. They take off on a vehicle called a Sandvulture and are quickly able to locate the Highwaymen.
An entire platoon of the marauders (who would have looked right at home as extras in any of the Mad Max movies) have discovered and unearthed an old military bunker. Kit is fearful of the weapons the Highwaymen may discover within the bunker. Kit sends Dez back for help while she stays behind to surveil the savages.
BUT—when the Highwaymen unearthed the old bunker, they also awakened a robotic, flying sentry with tentacles. The sentry quickly identifies Kit as a "hostile" and attacks her. The skirmish draws the attention of the Highwaymen, who quickly surround Kit with weapons drawn. Things are looking bad for our hero until the sentry also identifies the marauders as hostiles.
The sentry then activates a "USMC Perimeter Defense" protocol. So yeah, we subtly learn that the bunker the Highwaymen unearthed was apparently a Marine Corps installation back in the day.
The defense protocol involves attacking and killing the group of Highwaymen with a barrage of gunfire from the sentry's weapons systems. The sentry then turns its attention back to Kit, who puts up a fight against it, until the sentry scans her closer and changes its tune.
The sentry detects a military identification upon its close-range scan of Kit. It recognizes Kit as a superior office and deactivates the defense protocol. Upon recognizing Kit as a superior officer, the sentry greets Kit as "commander" and activates a "secondary directive."
The secondary directive involves projecting a holographic message from Doctor Hancock. Yeah, kind of saw that one coming at this point, but it was still an effective twist.
He has a warning for whoever is seeing his message. And it involves the real origins of the Ranger Scouts. He explains that Project Eagle was created to enlist male delinquents from across the foster system and to train them in practical survival skills.
But instead of curbing the violent tendencies in these young men by indoctrinating them as the next generation of elite soldiers, "All we did was make them more deadly and efficient."
Dr. Hancock explains that the Ranger Scouts "live only to conquer now." At that point in his message, the Ranger Scouts breach the bunker and kill the good doctor.
Our story ends with Kit standing over the skeletonized body of Dr. Hancock.
"Oh, God," Kit says. "We killed him. We killed Doctor Hancock."
Scout's Honor #1 is full of adventure and intrigue. The story moves along at a steady clip, and the artwork is perfectly calibrated for this type of drama. We all know that there's nothing new under the sun, so execution is everything.
Writer David Pepose takes a familiar post-apocalyptic world and populates it with interesting characters. He peppers the story with enough twists and mystery boxes to keep us turning the pages. Artist Luca Casalanguida nails the aesthetic and translates the action in an exciting and vivid way.
The religious imagery adds a challenging layer to the story. Readers have something to think about after finishing this tale.
Most importantly, readers are curious about what might happen in issue #2. What will Kit do with the new information about the dark origins of the Ranger Scouts?
If one were to quibble, it might be over the lack of any significant character development outside of Kit and Dez. We can hope the other characters get fleshed out better in subsequent issues. There's enough story, ideas, and action in this issue to outweigh most any other criticisms.