The Mercenary Vol. 1: The Cult of the Sacred Fire HC
Publisher: NBM
Release Date: October 2017
Price: $17.99
Creator: Vicente Segrelles
Format: 64 pgs., Full-Color, 9.25" x 12", Hardcover
ISBN: 978-1-6811-2124-6
Age Rating: Mature
ICv2 Rating: 4 Stars out of 5

The death of Francisco Franco was more than just fodder for Saturday Night Live news sketches.  His death led to a cultural reawakening in Spain, as rules and regulations for art and publications loosened.  As a result, there was a sudden growth in the creation of graphic albums in Spain in the late 1970s.

One of the artists who blossomed in this new environment was Vicente Segrelles, a painter and designer whose early artwork was technical illustration for an engine company.  From that he went into advertising, but as a demo piece, he created a series of painted images that he hoped would lead to a job creating comics.  His agent came back with six contract offers, apparently contingent on him turning the demo piece into a book.  The demo piece became the multi-volume Mercenary series, filled with combat and nude women in a fantasy world above and below world-dividing clouds. Imagine a graphic album by a Frazetta or a Vallejo, and you wouldn’t be far off.

There are actual plot reasons for some of the unclad women, but others were really there just to draw attention to the book.  This gets a little silly at times, which is the story’s only real weakness.  The main character is a good-hearted warrior-for-hire whose honor and honesty occasionally get him in trouble.  The other characters are not well-developed (other than their physical attributes, basically beautiful women and fat, ugly men).  The story in this volume includes aerial combat, believable dragons, inventions that shouldn’t quite work, multiple kidnappings of beautiful nude women, and interesting but violent adventures.

Segrelles thought out the details of his world carefully, including the design of the "dragons" and the implications of various kinds of weaponry and armor in such a setting.  The material in the back of the book includes designs and explanations, but as fully realized paintings rather than rough drawings.  For comics fans and art students alike, this may be interesting. This first volume of a planned series reprint, on the 40th anniversary of the original, shows an important step in the development of graphic albums in Europe.  Since each panel is an oil painting, the artwork may seem more static than more modern comics illustrators might want, but it’s gorgeous, even in the scenes of graphic violence.

For adults, due to ongoing nudity and some graphic violence.

--Nick Smith: Library Technician, Community Services, for the Pasadena Public Library in California.