REVIEW: Space Pirate Captain Harlock (2021)

A Graphic Novel by Leiji Matsumoto and Jerome Alquié

Ablaze Comics has come out of nowhere as one of my new favorites when it comes to comic book companies that I follow. Having read The Cimmerian and The Breaker, and thoroughly loving them both, I was pumped to see one of my favorite franchises, Space Pirate Captain Harlock, under their wing. Written in collaboration between Belgian artist Jerome Alquié and the legendary Leiji Matsumoto himself, with art by Alquié, every page is a trip back in time to the Captain Harlock that everyone grew to love. Melding the sensibilities of both western comics and manga, this is an interesting hybrid project that excels in it’s goal – bringing this beloved franchise to a completely new audience.

Leiji Matsumoto’s original Space Pirate Captain Harlock series ran from 1977-1979 and became a worldwide hit. This was especially true in French speaking countries where “Capitaine Albator” became a immediate classic. Ablaze Comics is a French language comics publisher that thankfully has an English Publishing arm, so they were perfect to bring a project like this into the world.

From the legendary Leiji Matsumoto, along with Jerome Alquie, comes an epic new story! Set within the timeline of the original series, this brand-new Captain Harlock adventure marks the beginning of a new story arc. Planet Earth is threatened by an upcoming invasion by the Sylvidres and despite being banished as a pirate, Captain Harlock won’t give up trying to save the world. This time, the source of danger comes directly from Earth, not outer space. A team of scientists discovers a Sylvidres mausoleum where they find information about terrifying genetic manipulations and a destructive power capable of either providing the Sylvidres with immortality or putting an end to their civilization. The unprecedented cold spell hitting Earth might only be a taste of what this new enemy has in store…Will Captain Harlock and his crew manage to solve this mystery and save the Earth from yet another menace?

Book description

The first thing that you will notice is that Jerome Alquié has mastered the art style and tone of the original manga and TV series, albeit with his own flourish. For many years, there has been an effort by cynical media executives to change what Harlock is, whether it be art style, tone, or characterization. The 2013 film commits a lot of these sins, attempting to alter the story to a much darker affair. Ablaze’s Harlock, however, runs head-first into the source material, existing as a sequel of sorts to the original story. We are greeted with a prologue that brings the reader up to speed with the characters and some big events that took place prior to the events of this book. Harlock is seen brooding over the death of his best friend Tochiro, then BOOM new story-line and the introduction of the new villains.

This story starts out a bit slow, but moves forward pretty fast into an action packed feast for old and new fans alike. Temperatures on Earth have started dropping and it’s immediately apparent that something is going on. We get confirmation that the new alien threat to Earth is an older version of Harlock’s primary foe, The Mazon, a sub-race that apparently can exist at extremely cold temperatures. Being a race of humanoid plants ostensibly, it’s confusing why an “Ice Mazon” can exist, but there it is, and it’s pretty terrifying.

Overall, this impressed me a lot. As I stated before, the attempts to re-make this franchise have been very hit-or-miss for me, and I appreciate a “back to basics” approach with the franchise. With Matsumoto getting pretty old nowadays, and merely consulting on many of the works he is often accredited, it seems like Jerome Alquié would be a worthy successor to keep the franchise going. This is a love letter to a great series that continues to make fans happy some 50 years after it’s inception, and hopefully many years to come. Highly recommended!

If you are interested in this book, please click HERE

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

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