Indie Comics Spotlight (10/12/16)


by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)
Big Trouble in Little China/Escape from New York #1
“Welcome to the office, Snake.”
In the history of action movies, few characters have been as buoyantly garish as Jake from Big Trouble in Little China. The role popularized by Kurt Russell improved the movie dramatically and added in the right amount of action and humor. Russell’s portrayal of Snake Plissken was quite different, although the two characters did share similarities. Those similarities are on display in Big Trouble in Little China/Escape from New York #1 from BOOM! Studios. The issue is written by Greg Pak, illustrated by Daniel Bayliss, colored by Triona Farrell and lettered by Simon Bowland.
As lightning cascades around Jack and his good ol’ Pork-Chop Express, he finds himself transported and driving through the horrors of what seems to be the dystopian future of…Escape from New York?! Snake Plissken catches wind of Jack and goes on the hunt to find who is trying to steal his identity. Prepare for the road trip of a lifetime, with Jack and Snake rumblin’ down the streets of a dystopian future to find what craziness caused Jack to jump through worlds. 
Pak knows what it is that makes Jack and Snake tick: the fact that they were both portrayed by Russell. Because of this fact, there are inherent similarities between the two characters that Pak uses to his advantage, playing one character off the other as a foil. The best part of including the Big Trouble in Little China component is that Pak doesn’t have to spend much time explaining how the two characters actually cross paths–the universe is pretty crazy as it is. The story is paced pretty evenly and builds up slowly to the two main characters meeting in a situation that will require the two of them to work together. The surrounding narrative is pretty light and it’s clear Pak will focus more on the conversational exchanges between the two leads more than anything to keep things moving.
The art style by Bayliss is a little gritty which is appropriate for the characters and tale involved. Bayliss uses pretty rough edges and a vague attention to detail for showcasing the characters, illustrating a very dystopian world for the characters to inhabit and play around in. Both of the lead characters maintain their trademark appearances and Bayliss doesn’t show a desire to stray too far from that formula, ensuring that each of the twin characters are easily distinguished. The panels are arranged in a pretty traditional format that relies on insets and overlays cleanly presented. Farrell’s colors are vibrant and an homage to the 80s providing a sense of nostalgia for fans of both characters.
Big Trouble in Little China/Escape from New York #1 is a pretty random crossover that wouldn’t make any sense at all really were it not for the involved of Kurt Russell in both. Jack and Snake are two very iconic characters in their own rights and bringing them together is a fascinating concept that could be very entertaining. Pak is having a lot of fun writing the story and relying on both characters to carry the excitement. The artwork by Bayliss is somewhat frenzied in its approach and reflects the equally outlandish environment Jack finds himself in. Big Trouble in Little China/Escape from New York #1 isn’t meant to be anything more than a fun jaunt for two pretty popular characters.
Big Trouble in Little China/Escape from New York #1 is in stores now.
Army of Darkness/Xena Warrior Princess: Forever…And a Day #1
“Summon the warrior who walks through time.”
Xena and Gabrielle face all manner of enemy in their travels and the two of them can typically handle whatever is thrown at them. Sometimes the odds are a little too overwhelming though and they need help. Xena has an in with Hercules, but when his strength isn’t the right type of help she needs a little more boom. Army of Darkness/Xena Warrior Princess: Forever…And a Day #1 from Dynamite Comics offers plenty of the boom. The issue is written by Scott Lobdell, illustrated by Elliot Fernandez, colored by Pete Pantazis and lettered by Taylor Esposito.
You’re Xena the Warrior Princess and your thousand strong army has fallen to an implacable and ancient evil. What do you do? You suck it up and summon the only ally who stands any hope at all of helping you prevent the end of the world. Unfortunately, that lone man is the wise ass, ass kicking, time traveling, woman kissing, boom sticker known as Ash!
Xena is a relatiively unsung hero of feminism from the 90s who rarely has difficulty staving off whatever opponent she’s confronted with at the moment. That fact makes Army of Darkness/Xena Warrior Princess: Forever…And a Day #1 feel a little sexist at times, but Lobdell doesn’t let it bog down in the issue in that Xena doesn’t stand for Ash’s brash personality for long. Lobdell does a fantastic job of giving the reader all the Ash they can handle, ensuring that his personality fits the established persona right down to the catch phrases. And there’s always a grander plan in place when Ash is required to assist, but most of the issue is just Xena saying he doesn’t need Ash. It’s a little weird in its approach and Lobdell surely has his own grand plan in mind for how the series will play out; however, Army of Darkness/Xena Warrior Princess: Forever…And a Day #1 is paced oddly and seems content to spend most of its time parading Ash around.
The artwork by Fernandez is very sharp, both literally and figuratively. His style defines the characters with lines that the cut the page and really stand out. Ash is illustrated tremendous swagger that’s offset by the sense of poise Fernandez infuses both Xena and Gabrielle with as they wage their latest battle. The panels are arranged in an invigorating fashion that mimics the sense of chaos that seems to follow Ash wherever/whenever he goes. And Pantazis provide colors that really pop off the page and buoy the issue with a vibrancy.
Army of Darkness/Xena Warrior Princess: Forever…And a Day #1 is an interesting first issue in terms of what it sets out to accomplish with the team-up of Xena and Ash. Ash spends the majority of the issue with Xena, but the two of them don’t seem to click where they need to. Lobdell nails the personality of both characters well and their interplay provides for some very entertaining exchanges. The artwork by Fernandez is clean and slick, providing plenty of gorgeous, two-page spreads to take in. Army of Darkness/Xena Warrior Princess: Forever…And a Day #1 will definitely appeal to fans of either of its starring franchises, but new readers might be a little put-off by the first issue that seems to be running in place narratively.
Army of Darkness/Xena Warrior Princess: Forever…And a Day #1 is in stores October 5.
Spell on Wheels #1
“You didn’t put luck in that li’l horseshoe, did you?”
Witchcraft reflects a pretty dark time in our country’s nascent lifetime. There was a lot of frustration and confusion about the supposed powers of witches in a purely Puritanical society. The concept of witches has definitely waned in the years since, but there’s still some interest in them as evidenced by Spell on Wheels #1 from Dark Horse Comics. The issue is written by Kate Leth, illustrated by Megan Levens and colored by Marissa Louise.
Three young witches are robbed of their magical items, and they’ll have to hit the road to track down the mysterious thief before he does any damage to—or with—their possessions.
Leth does a fantastic job of setting up the characters and the universe they’ll be playing in. Each of the three main witches have very distinct personalities and abilities that Leth leverages successfully in moving the plot forward. And while the issue proceeds in a way that plays out in something of a road trip/investigation, Leth also works in additional plot threads that promise something grander on the horizon. The dialogue exchanges are often pretty amusing and reflect a real dedication to the aforementioned personality of each witch. There are nice nods to the mythology of witchcraft by setting the first issue in Massachusetts and Leth makes it feel like a modern take on an old concept.
The artwork in Spell on Wheels #1 has a certain whimsy to it, courtesy of Levens’ relaxed approach. Levens matches the personalities given to each witch by Leth with very distinct looks that really harness that key traits of that specific witch. Jolene appears be the “wild one” of the group, Claire is somewhat reserved and Leth is the levelheaded one. Her panel layouts largely stick to a grid, but Levens works in some inset and overlays throughout that mix things up a bit. The colors by Louise provide a hopeful and cheery look to the witches, eschewing the traditional darker hues associated with witches for something brighter and airier.
Spell on Wheels #1 is a fun first issue. Each of the three witches have a unique ability that allows them to mesh well with one another and their interactions will serve as the backbone for the plot. Leth has a well-thought out arc in mind for everyone and it will be pretty entertaining to watch the three witches interact with magic in other parts of the country. The illustrations by Levens are pretty cheerful for the subject matter, but they do that in a way that modernizes the concept. Spell on Wheels #1 is going to be a pretty entertaining book that adds a traveling sense of adventure to the concept of witches.
Spell on Wheels #1 hits stores October 19.

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