Indie Comics Spotlight (10/20/16)


by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Black #1

“They patrol the places, but they don’t know the faces.”
Various peoples have faced various levels of hardships throughout history and the one concept is a general feeling that one group is “better” in some way than the other. It’s something that leads to violence, hatred and a rapid descent into becoming even more close-minded. Black #1 from Black Mask Studio looks at that concept and puts a superhero twist on it. The issue is written by Kwanza Osajyefo, illustrated by Jamal Igle, inks by Robin Riggs, tones by Sarah Stern and letters by Dave Sharpe.
In a world that already hates and fears them – what if only Black people had superpowers? After miraculously surviving being gunned down by police, a young man learns that he is part of the biggest lie in history. Now he must decide whether it’s safer to keep it a secret or if the truth will set him free.
Osajyefo recognizes the social calamities occurring today, one of them being racism and Black #1 taps into this pretty well. The start of the story is pretty believable as a confrontation between black youths and anxious cops escalates alarmingly fast and Osajyefo uses that as the catalyst for his tale. And there are definitely those same social undertones pervasive throughout the issue; however, aside from that Black #1 is really a superhero origin story. Kareem’s powers are a little mysterious, but he’s entitled to them due to his racial heritage and that’s a pretty interesting twist. The dialogue supports this angle more than the plot itself which is pretty vague throughout the first issue in terms of long-term threads to pull on.
The entirety of the issue is presented in black and white which Igle could easily use as a metaphor on multiple levels with the most obvious being white police and black suspects. Igle’s characters are very expressive and are illustrated with poses that establish their perceived social status relative to those they’re sharing the panel with. Igle handles the action in the book well, demonstrating the shooting in a way that doesn’t feel gratuitously violent; rather, he accomplishes his goal by presenting it as realistic. There is plenty of action throughout the book and Igle’s panels frame that action effectively, allowing the reader to keep up with Kareem as he escapes the situation to the Project assisting him. The somewhat traditional panel layout is a safe approach that doesn’t let the message of the book get overwhelmed by a sense of hyperactivity.
Black #1 is a very blunt look at a very raw topic. Kareem has a lot to come to terms with in Black #1, but he’ll also have to face off against someone stronger at some point. Osajyefo’s script is clean and straightforward, drawing on recent real-world events to set the stage for the series. Igle’s illustrations are crisp and do a great job of capturing the essence of the book’s aim. Black #1 challenges readers to think even more abstractly than most comics require in a way that hopefully encourages more positive and powerful conversations down the road.
Black #1 is in stores now.


Doctor Crowe #1

“So we’re walking into a trap, eh?”
Doctors have a way of curing what ails you. Sometimes it’s just a viral infection, whereas other times it’s a werewolf. Those experienced in the latter like Doctor Crowe in Doctor Crowe #1 from 215 Ink are definitely few and far between. “Beneath the Black” is written by Corey Fryia, illustrated by Tony Gregori, colored by Josh Jensen and lettered by Micah Myers. “Wretched” is written by Fryia, illustrated by Matt Horak, colored by Doug Garback and Mark Dale and lettered by Nic J. Shaw. “The Lost Coven” is written by Fryia, illustrated by Karim Whalen, colored by Laura Lee and lettered by Myers. “Dreamwaker” is written by Fryia, illustrated by Gregori, colored by Jensen and lettered by Taylor Esposito.
Unrelenting otherworldly terrors lay hidden in shadows of our world, but one man dares to stand in their way…in the name of science! Follow the harrowing adventures of Dr. Victor Crowe, an adventuring scientist, expert on the occult and all-around pulp hero as he travels the globe using advanced technologies to battle gruesome, supernatural horrors.
Each of the four stories by Fryia are rife with pulp in terms of their approach and content. Those stories involve everything from bog men to witches to werewolves to dream eaters–all of which Fryia uses to great effect. Doctor Crowe is certainly no stranger to the strange and Fryia writes him with a confidence in his abilities that gives the reader encouragement that he’ll survive whatever he faces. And the fact that each story in the issue has a clearly defined arc and resolution is very satisfying, allowing Fryia to further expand upon the lead character. The opponents in the stories all draw inspiration from myths and legends, allowing Fryia to essentially build Doctor Crowe up to be something of a legend himself.
The artwork throughout the issue is pretty varied, owing to each of the different stories having different artists. Despite the different artistic approaches, Doctor Crowe himself is illustrated with a plague doctor mask that gives him a sense of nostalgia that’s befitting of his adventures. All of the artists actually tap into a vaguer, steampunk approach in their artwork that populates the world with simple weaponry and an attention to pretty inventing environments. All four of the artists tap into this atmosphere very effectively, really giving the reader a sense that they could be going along on Doctor Crowe’s latest adventure as well.
Doctor Crowe #1 is a pretty solid introduction to the character and the world he lives in. Doctor Crowe goes up against opponents who live in legend and his methods for dealing with each are pretty entertaining. Fryia gives Doctor Crowe a lifetime of experience dealing with the unknown and that shows through in the issue. The artists each do a great job of rendering Doctor Crowe in action against all manner of evil.Doctor Crowe #1 is a very entertaining first issue that gives readers a new globetrotting monster hunter with a penchant for flair.
Doctor Crowe #1 is in stores December 7.


Warlords of Appalachia #1

“You drawn from the river, big man?”
There are clear, cultural biases based on where one calls home. Many of those biases are typically the reason why wars break out and why one of America’s bloodiest in the Civil War occurred. For Warlords of Appalachia #1 from BOOM! Studios, the fallout from one Civil War wasn’t enough. The issue is written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson, illustrated by Jonas Scharf, colored by Doug Garbark and lettered by Jim Campbell.
After the New Confederacy is crushed in a second Civil War, only Kentucky holds out, not recognizing U.S. sovereignty. This leads to a particularly brutal crackdown in a small mountain town called Red Rock, where a mechanic and reluctant folk hero named Kade Mercer rises up to become the first feudal warlord of Appalachia.
There’s always been something of a romantic sense of rebellion in the state of Kentucky and Johnson harnesses that well in Warlords of Appalachia #1. The premise behind the book is clearly inspired by the mindset of present-day events and Kade Mercer is disinclined to make a broader statement about anything; rather, he really just wants to protect his family first and foremost. Johnson’s characterization of Kade is inspired by other strong, silent types, but his type is very similar to that of Earl Tubb in Southern Bastards. Outside of Kade’s character, the world created by Johnson is one rife with mistrust and anger at the world around it. The issue is paced in a way that really spends the most time investigating how strained things are for everyone involved and it’s likely things will only get worse from there.
Scharf does a great job of matching the seemingly dystopian environment with artwork that feels gritty. The characters are displayed with an emphasis on sharp lines throughout, giving them a sense of presence that cuts against the Kentucky wilderness. The panels are laid out in a manner that’s very organized with few insets and overlays, all of which lets the reader keep up with events as they unfold. Johnson excels at imbuing the characters with a physical heft to them as Kade especially looks like he’s a one-man wrecking crew physically. Garbark uses colors that are darker variations of primaries and relies on an abundance of heavy shading for emphasizing the clandestine activities of many of the characters.
Warlords of Appalachia #1 is a bold first issue that sets the table for a lot of chaos down the line. Kade cares for his family and puts them above all else, even if it brings him further into the fold when it comes to the events in Kentucky. Johnson’s script is very straightforward and and keeps things moving, establishing the key characters and giving them a world to play in. Scharf’s artwork is rife with chaos and effectively mirrors the burgeoning madness that will unfold as the series continues. Warlords of Appalachia #1 takes a very relevant approach to its subject matter that is offered plenty of context by the somewhat angry climate the world finds itself in.
Warlords of Appalachia #1 is in stores now.

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