REVIEW: Scales & Scoundrels #1 is a Smart, All-Ages Fantasy Epic

It starts in a tavern, like all fantasy adventures must. A group of adventurers are sitting around the table playing a nice game of Dragon’s Horde, until a white-haired newcomer reveals her final card and wins the game by 80 points. Unfortunately, her opponents are none too happy about this and the biggest one draws his sword to give her what-for. But this rogue — Luvander, as we’ll learn later — leaps up and runs along the length of his sword to kick him in the face. Scoundrels? Yup, there are scoundrels.

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Luvander’s not all bad. She may or may not have been cheating at Dragon’s Horde, it’s unclear, but it doesn’t really matter. She ends up leaving the tavern with a busted lip and one single copper, which she ends up giving away to a young girl she encounters in the poor quarter of town. But that act of charity doesn’t mean she’s above causing a ruckus to steal an apple from a street vendor, or set the tavern on fire. You shouldn’t try to steal a girl’s hard-earned gold! Luvander’s a rogue through-and-through, mostly good and definitely chaotic, with a penchant for getting in trouble and a knack for getting out.

Luvander does manage to escape the town with her life intact, and even manages to rescue a prince and his entourage from a gang of thieves. She bites a man in the middle of battle — “Are all women in this land so… uncouth?” asks the prince — but she’s terrifying enough that after a bit of butt-kicking, the rest of the thieves just run away. The best way to win a fight, clearly. When the prince gets introduced, all titles and “son of so-and-so,” we finally learn Luvander’s name: “You stand before Luvander. No one’s daughter. Treasure-hunter. Adventure-seeker. Life-saver.” Maybe not quite as impressive as Daenerys Targaryen, but this is only the beginning of the story.

Sebastian Girner (co-writer of Image Comics’ Shirtless Bear-Fighter) is just fantastic at writing snappy, witty dialogue, and the fight scenes he and Galaad create in Scales & Scoundrels are epic brawls from the best Dungeons and Dragons game you’ve ever seen. Jeff Powell does masterful work with the lettering; the SFX is loud and brash while the dialogue balloons are perfectly placed.

Scales & Scoundrels is a smartly-written fantasy epic for all ages, with art that levels it up from merely fun to absolutely riveting. It includes tons of characters of color, female characters that move beyond “badass women” tropes, and most importantly demonstrates that any party of adventurers needs a rogue as well as a warrior. Issue #1 introduces plenty of plot points for the next few issues to follow up on including a treasure hunt, a bounty hunt, and the mystery of Luvander’s past. You want to pick this up and share it with any and every kid you know. This is the kind of story that reminds us fantasy doesn’t have to be all battles and bloodshed, it can be fun and whimsical, too. It’s all about adventure!

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