Indie Comics Spotlight (10/05/16)


by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

X-O Manowar #50

“I am Aric of Dacia. Last King of the Visigoths of old.”
X-O Manowar is a stalwart of the Valiant Universe. The character has been pivotal to the relaunch of the universe a few years ago and now he’s getting some final praise as he prepares for the next phase of his life. X-O Manowar #50 from Valiant Comics gives readers plenty of things to praise the character for. “Long Live the King” is written by Robert Venditti, penciled by Joe Bennett, inked by Marcio Loerzer and Bellardino Brabo and colored by Ulises Arreola. “The Two Deaths of Gaius Maelus” is written by Fred Van Lente, illustrated by Clayton Henry, colored by Brian Reber and lettered by Dave Sharpe. “His Greatest Failure” is written by Jody Houser, illustrated by Javier Pulido, colored by Muntsa Vicente and lettered by Sharpe. “The Future” is written by Matt Kindt, illustrated by Thomas Giorello, colored by Diego Rodriguez and lettered by Sharpe.
Spanning X-O Manowar’s five-year-long impact on the people of Earth, and setting the stage for star-spanning adventures yet to come in 2017 and beyond, no comic book fan can afford to miss the ultimate cosmic battle for the fate of Valiant’s most powerful hero!
Leave it to Venditti to craft and extremely introspective and insightful tale that emphasizes the impact that X-O Manowar has had on the universe. The issue plays out much like a “This Is Your Life” and gives readers a glimpse into everything Aric has accomplished over his fifty issue run. Venditti infuses the issue with plenty of heroics that remind the reader why X-O Manowar is such a great character and he jumps between X-O Manowar introspection and the other characters fighting to save him. Venditti gives the book some great dialogue–all of which further reinforces the notion that X-O Manowar is a force to be reckoned with. The supporting stories each offer a different take on the lead character as well, further elaborating on what makes him so fantastic.
Bennett’s pencils are fantastic and he offers plenty of gorgeous, two-page spreads rife with tons of action as the characters are in the thick of battle. There’s very much a grandiose aspect to the issue that comes with these massive scenes and Bennett doesn’t let up even when it appears the battle is calming down. Each character is rendered with sharp lines and emphatic shading, courtesy of the inks by Loerzer and Brabo. The page and panel layouts invoke a sense of curiosity in the reader as they venture down a path of exploration akin to that of Aric’s. Arreola’s colors are darker than expected, but it helps to add a dour sense of doom that feels pervasive throughout the issue.
X-O Manowar #50 plays out like an homage to a great character. Aric of Dacia relaunched the Valiant line a few years ago and it’s only fitting that he gets plenty of feting in the final issue. Venditti’s script is perfect in that it reminds the reader of all of Aric’s strong qualities while also showcasing them to the reader. The artwork by Bennett, Loerzer and Brabo is very clean and sticks with the action very well. X-O Manowar #50 is a fitting ending for a strong character and it reminds readers that even the best of us deserver a proper send-off.
X-O Manowar #50 is in stores now.


Chimichanga: Sorrow of the World’s Worst Face #1

“Lula, time to get up!”
The traveling circus is a thing of the past. The idea of a group of strange individuals gathered to impress and frighten attendees is one of the past, but the concept does make for good stories. Dark Horse Comics is offering one such story in Chimichanga: Sorrow of the World’s Worst Face #1. The issue is written by Eric Powell and illustrated by Stephanie Buscema.
Wrinkle’s Traveling Circus’s most adorable bearded girl and her savory-named beast are back, and there is a new act in store! Come one, come all to the Sorrow of the World’s Worst Face! But beware: those who look behind the curtain are in for an awful treat, and it’s not just his face we’re talkin’ about!
Powell ensures that there’s a lot to unpack in Chimichanga: Sorrow of the World’s Worst Face #1. The narrative as it unfolds is pretty zany, as Powell follows Lula (the Bearded Lady) as she cavorts through a traveling circus. Interspersed throughout her romp are encounters with a series of “familiar” faces when it comes to traveling circuses and each of those maintain a distinct personality. The wild card so to speak is Powell’s antagonist who arrives and starts a lot of trouble in a way that’s both suspenseful and entertaining. The dialogue exchanges are very amusing and help further embellish the kooky characters Powell has.
Accentuating the strange tale is Buscema’s cartoonish illustrations. Her style infuses a Ren and Stimpy approach in its look as it adds a level of madness to an already mad circus. Her characters are very cleanly illustrated and Buscema relies on sharp and concise lines throughout. Each of the characters also boast a very unique look that gives the circus a healthy mix of strange–both for the the protagonists and the antagonist. Her colors are very bright and vivid as well, providing an appropriate level of pop and infusing the circus with a big-top feel.
Chimichanga: Sorrow of the World’s Worst Face #1 is a pretty strange issue that is also a lot of fun. Lula and the others in Wrinkle’s Traveling Circus are just trying to do what they do best to live and when that’s threatened things get even stranger. Powell’s script is pretty straightforward an introduces the reader to all the players at the circus. Buscema’s illustrations are easygoing and reflect a generally relaxed approach that helps the issue. 
Chimichanga: Sorrow of the World’s Worst Face #1 is a lot of fun and offers a pretty entertaining story and world to visit.
Chimichanga: Sorrow of the World’s Worst Face #1 in stores October 12.


M.A.S.K. Revolution #1

“Assembling a black-ops team is a delicate affair.”
M.A.S.K. is an unsung hero of the cartoons of the eighties. The concept blended together parts of Transformers and G.I. Joe and the end result were motorcycles that turned into helicopters. It was a fantastic mix of ideas that led to some great creativity on the playground. That creativity shouldn’t be left to the cartoon though as IDW is bringing the universe into their fold in M.A.S.K. Revolution #1. The issue is written by Brandon Easton, illustrated by Tony Vargas, colored by Jordi Escuin and lettered by Chris Mowry.
The origin of M.A.S.K.! Miles Mayhem’s decades long plans are finally coming to fruition, but will the revealed secrets he has hidden from Matt Trakker create a new enemy bent on Mayhem’s undoing? A special story tying directly into Revolution!
For most of M.A.S.K. Revolution #1, Easton doesn’t really offer much in the way of tying things into the broader Revolution storyline. There are mentions of the “Cybertronian threat,” but other than that the issue really plays out more like an introduction to the M.A.S.K. outfit and what makes them tick. What’s a little disappointing though is that Easton’s approach doesn’t really give the characters much time to play with the toys that makes M.A.S.K. so fun. Still, Easton does manage to pack a lot into the issue, effectively showcasing a lot of characters and giving each of them very distinct–albeit stereotypical–personalities. The issue’s pacing also picks up towards the end as Easton gets the characters in place to play a bigger part of the upcoming battle against the Transformers.
Vargas’ artistic approach in M.A.S.K. Revolution #1 is very tight and refined. Each of the characters have very distinct features to them that make them stand out from one another and Vargas offers them in a dossier format that fits with the context of the issue. The panel layouts are also pretty inventive throughout as well, in that Vargas relies on some very interesting shapes for some of the pages that keep up with the action in an interesting way. The artwork is given a science-fiction feel that’s befitting of a property that boasts vehicles changing to different vehicles and Vargas ensures the style will fit well within the universe. Escuin’s colors are very rich and very much cartoon-flavored further giving the book a sense of fast-paced fun.
Revolution is the next big thing for IDW Publishing and bringing M.A.S.K. into the fold is an awesome idea. The characters are up against a very strong opponent in the Transformers, but the team of M.A.S.K. is definitely up to the challenge. Easton’s characters are all capable combatants willing to risk their lives for the upcoming fight. Vargas’ illustrations are clean and action-packed. M.A.S.K. Revolution #1 is a great way to catch up with the team from the eighties that too many people have probably forgotten.
M.A.S.K. Revolution #1 is in stores now.

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