Written by: Laura Hong-Tuason, CC2K Comics Editor
If there’s one type of story I get a kick out of reading, it’s a story that looks like it’ll be about one thing, but turns out to be something entirely different. It keeps me guessing about what I’m really getting into and whether particular mysteries will ever be revealed. Smuggler’s Luck is one of those stories!
Writer/Illustrator: Luke Santiago
Smuggler’s Luck: Book One follows smuggler Sen Lusan and bounty hunter Mosa Ilad on a hunt for the mythical Lazarus Device said to possess an unknown, insurmountable amount of power. But power isn’t a priority for Sen and Mosa. Cashing it in and fetching a huge sum is! Their thirst for fortune takes them to Sigma-451, a barely inhabitable desert world with a colossal trash recycling facility referred to as the “Ziggurat”. Inside the Ziggurat are thousands of decommissioned androids, many of which are over a hundred years old. The only living beings on the planet are a small group of Tulgey Corporation workers maintaining the facility. Or so they all thought.
On their search for the Lazarus Device, Sen and Mosa are attacked by rogue androids. They’re saved by Alice, a specialized infiltration android. While thankful for her help, her strange child-like mannerisms combined with her keen skills in combat troubles Sen. Afraid of what Alice is, or could be, Sen warns Mosa to tread lightly, for they will learn she may be more valuable and more dangerous than what they were originally looking for. What started out as a search for a mythical device will turn into an epic and emotional fight for survival, and fortunately, they’re not in it alone.
Though Smugger’s Luck is not totally unique, treading on familiar sci-fi territory that question whether androids can be more than their written code, it exhibits some strong characters that make the story powerful and raw with emotions. Alice is the best example of a well-thought out character. As her backstory and motives unfold, her character development from start to finish makes perfect sense. She’s endearing, fun, and loveable. At the same time, there is something unsettling about her presence. After all, her model was created to infiltrate and assassinate specific targets. For readers to reconcile between the two personas and grow with Alice is quite the adventure. Her character alone is enough to make you both laugh and cry. I’m not kidding. Real tears will be drawn!
The next in line of great characters is Mosa. She’s tough, someone who can hold up her own amidst a fiery battle. She can be quick-tempered and impulsive, but she’s also selfless and kind-hearted. She’s definitely the yin to Sen’s yang. Her interactions with Alice is priceless and I love every scene where they’re together. She doesn’t take crap from Sen either, which is a comedic bonus.
Then there’s Sen, who is up in the air for me. He is likeable, but his character isn’t all that consistent. He’s supposed to come off as stoic, ruthless, and calculating. There’s absolutely a softer side to him too which Mosa brings out, but some of his actions are questionable and at times, out of character. He clearly appears to be a guy who will stand his ground when it comes to his opinions, but several of his change-of-heart moments are too immediate to feel all that genuine.
There are plenty of other supporting characters in the mix that I have come to really enjoy as well. Though I will admit that at the beginning, I didn’t care much for Sen, Mosa, or any character at all and here is why.
The overall graphic novel has way too much exposition in the form of dialogue. While the exposition is good information, I felt it could have been executed more fluidly in a different way rather than a character giving me a history lesson on terms I would not have otherwise understood. The initial large dialogue bubbles were daunting, and the placement of the dialogue was difficult to follow. Therefore I had a hard time understanding who was talking and at what moment. That prevented me from immediately connecting to Sen or Mosa because I couldn’t tell them apart.
The characters also kept switching between first names, surnames, and nicknames, making it hard to place names with faces. For instance, Lusan/Sen, Salazar/John, Keiko/Hamada/Trixie, and Bolechi/Steve. Readers will eventually get the hang of the names and the dialogue, but it does cause disconnect between the reader and the story. In the end, Santiago finds his footing and I could personally become attached to various characters. It just took some unnecessary time.
Speaking of time, it is the only other problem I had with the story. Transitions between different scenes and sequences were a bit off and there’s no clear indication of how much time has passed since Sen and Mosa arrive at the Ziggurat.
The art is pretty decent and gets better after every chapter. For Santiago to write both the story and provide the illustrations is an amazing feat on his part. There are interesting hybrid androids and starships to be seen and it’s easy enough to distinguish the difference between characters. For some reason, only the first four pages of each chapter are in color. However, I find it’s a better experience reading all of it in black and white.
The second half of Smuggler’s Luck is just fantastic and gets the ball rolling to a climatic end. I predicted a few things to happen, but there were plenty on-the-edge-of-your-seat moments that led me to become utterly shocked and sentimentally satisfied.
Being Santiago’s first graphic novel, he sure told a wonderful, engaging story. It goes full circle and I for one appreciate how it all comes together.
4.0 out of 5.0
Author: Laura Hong-Tuason, CC2K Comics Editor
Laura is a writer from the San Francisco Bay Area, but currently resides in Southern California. She drinks too much milk tea, talks too much about Green Lantern, and would marry Barry Allen if he were real.