Captain William Kidd’s out-sized fame as a pirate rests on how well-documented his trial for piracy was. In reality, the Scottish-born Kidd was a relatively minor player in highly contested seas – and many historians even hesitate to designate him a pirate, but rather a forward-thinking proto-capitalist “privateer.” It’s sort of like there’s a fine line between a gangster and an overly aggressive businessman. After some time as a well-trusted law enforcer in the Adventure Galley, Kidd and his increasingly rowdy crew realized that hunting pirates was nowhere near as profitable as BEING pirates. So they switched sides.
That’s the historical Kidd.
The not-so-historical one in Wander Antunes’ “Eye of the Devil” switches from merchant sailing to blood-thirsty piracy on a random whim, and fares rather well at it until he robs a conquered ship of a cursed red ruby and vaguely supernatural trouble begins. Kidd has an earthier problem within his crew: our real hero, Sean Hawkins, a man who has sworn to take revenge on all piracy – and who remains undercover to undermine Kidd from within.
That’s the book’s mutinous best “twist” and, had it been more leisurely explored, it could have given “The Eye of the Devil” a “Donnie-Brasco-on-the-High-Seas” feel, and some semblance of originality.
But notice that the name of our undercover pirate is Sean Hawkins. That’s a too-lazy wink to Jim Hawkins from Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island,” and the album has more winks like it, to everything from Daniel Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe” to the Tom Hanks/Wilson duo from “Castaway” to “Pirates of the Caribbean.” That level of obviousness lets you know that writer Antunes and artist Tirso Cons are steering right through sailing routes that are too familiar… but they do so swiftly enough that few travelers will have time to be dissatisfied.
RATING: GOOD ENOUGH
The New Pornographers with “Mutiny, I Promise You.” It’s not in any way related but it was coincidentally playing as I wrote this and I couldn’t resist.