Warning: Minor spoilers for Scout’s Honor!
In Scout’s Honor, writer David Pepose comes up with an original premise that breathes fresh life into the post-apocalyptic subgenre of science fiction. The survivors of a nuclear holocaust have rebuilt society, including their religious beliefs, upon the teachings of the Ranger Scout Survival Handbook. The Scout’s seven laws have become their Ten Commandments, complete with a giant statue of their prophet, Jefferson Hancock, holding two stone tablets engraved with these laws.
From there, part of the fun in reading this series is seeing typical Boy Scout ideas and experiences exaggerated to fantasy levels appropriate for the ultimate post-apocalyptic, survival adventure. The Swiss army knife becomes the switchblade, a sword with multiple blades for various uses. Merit badges are given as military honors (what they were originally patterned after), but now include such skills as tactical driving and handling explosives.
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This clever premise finds its setting in a classic dystopian wasteland, and Luca Casalanguida’s art style fits very well. He gets to draw giant, mutant bugs and Mad Max inspired gangs. He adds interesting details to the massive destruction displayed in every landscape, including a downed space shuttle as well as the crashed International Space Station. His action sequences read really well, without any confusion as to what is happening. He somehow manages to draw some truly crazy scenes, including the protagonist riding a giant spider, in a way that makes them feel appropriate and not laughably absurd.
Matt Milla’s colors add just the right atmosphere to each scene. His darks aren’t so dark as to make everything unidentifiable — he obviously uses plenty of browns and washed out colors, typical of dystopian wastelands, but also creates scenes of brightness, relating hope.
Although the setting might not be all that original, with obvious ideas and imagery derived from other post-apocalyptic classics, it’s still very entertaining. And the original premise more than makes up for the more derivative elements. We basically get to read the fantasy adventures of teenage Boy Scouts who have just finished watching one too many post-apocalyptic movie.
The story then starts to deconstruct the overt masculinity inherent in such boyhood power fantasies and turns into a feminist narrative. After all, as we find out early on in issue #1, the main character, Kit, is actually a girl pretending to be a boy (with obvious shades of Mulan) in order to fulfill her dream of becoming a Ranger Scout, saving and protecting the innocent. She soon ends up leading the fight to take down a misogynist, patriarchal and militaristic system.
As a man, I am not the right person to assess whether Scout’s Honor works as a feminist narrative. But I do want to point out that Kit is really the only female character in the entire story. Two other women with speaking parts do come to mind, but they show up for only one scene each. Also, if it means anything, the entire creative team is as male as I am. Be that as it may, the narrative purposely and rather effectively subverts the male power fantasy that one might at first expect from the “Boy Scouts in a dystopian wasteland” premise.
Furthermore, Pepose uses his story to openly question and criticize the militaristic myth that true strength and valor are only formed through the struggles on a battlefield. He recognizes and condemns the fact that this myth requires perpetual wartime in order to achieve its goals.
Within this framework, Pepose explores other important themes along the lines of a right vs. wrong dichotomy. We see the virtue of true belief compared to the evils of indoctrinated religion. The teenage protagonists struggle to become who they are meant to be rather than what society or authorities tell them they should be. The father-child relationship is explored by contrasting Kit’s good father with the story’s ultimate antagonist, a bad father.
Maybe these themes aren’t really anything new, and they may be a bit too black and white without any ambiguous grays, but they are universal, relatable topics that always hit home. Plus, the intended morals or lessons aren’t presented in any sort of preachy or expositional way, but rather through the decisions, interactions and relationships of the characters, which makes the message more authentic.
Scout’s Honor is easy to recommend based on its clever premise and tremendously entertaining action sequences alone. On top of that, Kit is a wonderful leading character, loyal and good at heart, who goes through an exciting heroic journey. The universal themes come across authentic and relatable. The narrative may be a bit too predictable at times, but you’ll be enjoying it too much to care.
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