Indie Comics Spotlight: 13th Artifact One-Shot, 3 Devils #1, and Lords of the Jungle #1

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By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

13th Artifact One-Shot

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“Is our mission a success?”

Breaking into comics is nothing if not impossible at times, which is why publishers such as Top Cow put together talent contests from time to time to make things a little easier. 13th Artifact One-Shot is the 2015 Top Cow Talent Hunt Winner and the one-shot is a solid science-fiction tale. The issue is written by Amit Chauhan, illustrated by Eli Powell, colored by Andrew Elder, and lettered by Troy Peteri.

Stranded on a mysterious alien planet after her shuttle crashes, astronaut Valentina Kedr is desperate to find a way to survive. With her oxygen rapidly running out, she decides to explore her new surroundings. Upon discovering a civilization on the planet, will her curiosity lead to her downfall?

The core concept behind 13th Artifact One-Shot is one of an explorer in a strange land, but Chauhan infuses the issue with plenty of deeper subtexts. Those subtexts draw upon notions of human’s greed, trust, and myopia that turn the world into a shell of its former self. Chauhan doesn’t really want to trick the reader per se with his approach that draws inspiration from Planet of the Apes, but he does spend some time building up a hellish landscape for a payoff at the end that’s thought-provoking. The issue is paced in a way that crashes both Valentina and the reader through the new world she’s exploring, yet despite the short length of the issue, Chauhan still manages to make things feel tense. And while most of the issue features dialogue in the form of narrative boxes, there’s still enough interaction among characters to give the book some sense of natural conversation.

The world that Valentina is exploring is nothing if not desolate and Powell captures that desolation well. Many of the characters are loosely defined against fairly vague and grimy backgrounds, underscoring the state of affairs in the world. It’s made very apparent that this new world is polluted by a toxic atmosphere and inhabitants who are equally as poisonous in terms of living amongst one another. Panels change page to page in terms of some floating and some defined by empty or black gutters. Elder’s colors are grim and dark, further accentuating the notion that the aliens aren’t very nice.

13th Artifact One-Shot is a fantastic one-shot that hits all the right notes. It packs a solid story into a relatively short timeframe that brings with it a pretty emotional gut punch at the end. Chauhan could’ve easily made 13th Artifact One-Shot a series, but the one-shot aspect gives the story a great sense of opening and finality. Powell’s illustrations add to the sense of a polluted atmosphere and provide nightmarish renderings of the aliens enslaving humanity. 13th Artifact One-Shot effectively sets a moody tone from the start and doesn’t let up as it progresses.

13th Artifact One-Shot is in stores now.

3 Devils #1

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Life in the old west was hard. Things we take for granted today like advances in medicine, travel, and life in general just weren’t there in the past. Mix into that the threat of the supernatural and things aren’t much better. IDW Publishing blends together the rough and tumble western life with the supernatural in 3 Devils #1. The issue is written and illustrated by Bo Hampton and colored by Jeremy Mohler.

3 Devils #1 centers around a pact of vengeance sworn by a tragically orphaned Gypsy girl, an ex-slave with no soul, and a carnival freak billed as the Human Wolf. Gaining strength and courage from each other, they set off across the Old West — in search of the three hideous, inhuman entities that caused their torment and haunt their lives.

From the very first page, the reader gets a sense of uneasiness through Hampton’s relatively dark script. The young orphan girl is a stoic main protagonist, but she has a strength about her that is buoyed by her newfound companion. Hampton relies on a tried and true set-up in terms of a highway robbery in an old west setting, but that’s really about the only thing “normal” about the opening. There’s a slow reveal for the remainder of the issue where Hampton pulls back the curtain on the level of supernatural at play. The tension is built up quite nicely by Hampton who offers up a relative slow burn to get to the end where it’s clear this isn’t your standard western tale.

Hampton’s artwork is up to the task of maintaining the creepy atmosphere as well. There’s an elegance to how he renders the characters that makes them feel fluid and realistic, inviting the reader to the side of the road to witness the horrors of the heist. The empty gutters further exacerbate the solitude of the encounter, as Hampton infuses the panels with a detached quality that promotes a quiet fear on the part of the assailants. Facial expressions show both sides of the encounter as both assailant and victim and gives the reader plenty to latch on to. Mohler’s colors are largely muted and cover everything from a moonlit heist to an encounter in broad daylight.

3 Devils #1 is creepy without being outright scary. The union of the “heroes” by the end of the issue is one marred by convenience, but they’re still better off together than apart. Hampton’s script doesn’t waste words and gets straight to the point, effectively establishing a mood along the way. His illustrations offer a subtly stated glimpse into a world that blends together the terror of monsters with sweeping western landscapes. 3 Devils #1 is a first issue that starts things off on an eerie note and only gets eerier from there.

3 Devils #1 is in stores now.

Lords of the Jungle #1

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“There will be no help for you!”

Tarzan and Sheena are very similar in many regards. Both reside in the jungle, both hate when man infringes on the peace that is nature and both are formidable when fighting on their own. Pairing them together though is a whole other ballgame and Lords of the Jungle #1 from Dynamite Entertainment is all-in in that regard. The issue is written by Corinna Bechko, illustrated by Robert Castro, colored by Alex Guimarães, and lettered by Simon Bowland.

Tarzan has long been the protector of his jungle stronghold, but this time the fight has to be taken to his enemy’s territory, deep in the heart of London. Half a world away and nearly a century later, Sheena is battling foes of her own when she is mysteriously swept through time and space to 1930’s Africa, leaving her own land unprotected. Will these two Lords of the Jungle find enough common ground to join forces? Or will the resulting culture clash lead to mutual destruction?

Both Tarzan and Sheena are regularly compared to one another and rightfully so, as on the surface their general reasons for being are very similar. Bechko does a great job of underscoring this fact primarily with Sheena, as most of the issue follows Sheena as she’s fighting to stop interlopers from destroying an already ancient and seemingly sacred ruin. The event that thrusts Sheena into Tarzan’s world is quite jarring and not really explained – it’s presumed that it’s a direct result of the destruction of the ruins by man. Much of the dialogue throughout the issue Sheena essentially chastising humans, but Bechko’s take on it doesn’t feel overtly preachy. And the issue seems to purposefully focus on Sheena for the most part, but even with only a slight appearance by Tarzan you get what makes the two characters similar to one another.

The artwork by Castro is very strong. Considering a lot of the book is Sheena weaving her way through bullets, spears, and fists, Castro does an admirable job of keeping up with the frenetic action. Most of the panels focused on the action feature characters with plenty of facial detail, although there are some instances where the perspective is more distant and the characters feel a little incomplete. The panel layout is very conducive to the flurry of kinetic energy that seemingly radiates from Sheena and keeps the reader on their toes. The colors by Guimarães are bold and present plenty of vivid contrast between the settings, such as the rich blues of the water where the ruins are to the lush greens of the jungle.

Lords of the Jungle #1 is a very bold opening to a crossover that makes a lot of sense and is similar to the recent Conan/Red Sonja crossover in that regard. Sheena gets most of the top-billing in the issue, but Tarzan will get his time to shine as well. Bechko’s script is very fast-moving and effective at getting the pieces in the right places to advance. Castro’s illustrations are adventurous and add a great vibe to the work. Lords of the Jungle #1 is a pretty strong first issue that is setting up what could be a great series.

Lords of the Jungle #1 is in stores now.


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