Indie Comics Spotlight

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By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)



Bitch Planet #1

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“You will live out your lives in penitence and service here…may the mother have mercy on your souls.”

Prison was designed as a deterrent. Unfortunately, it’s become more of an extended stay for most, housing all manner of criminal (guilty or not) as a means of rehabilitating them for a return to society. Part of the prison routine is just that, a routine imposed by the guards. InBitch Planet #1 from Image Comics, that routine is referred to as compliance and the prisoners are women. The issue is written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, illustrated by Valentine De Landro, colored by Chris Peter and lettered by Clayton Cowles.

The Auxiliary Compliance Outpost was designed to house non-compliant women, but it has another name that’s slightly more vulgar: Bitch Planet. It exists on another planet and relies on corporal punishment as a seemingly effective means of forcing compliance. It all sets up as the backdrop for the arrival of Marian Collins, a new inmate swearing her innocence amidst a veritable bonanza of organized chaos. Meanwhile, Marian’s husband is on the outside making moves that will have a direct impact on Marian’s treatment while incarcerated at Bitch Planet.

Good prison stories are always good reads and Bitch Planet #1 is certainly no exception. In fact, DeConnick’s first issue is basically a template that other first issues should follow in terms of set-up and delivery. Marian’s demeanor in the prison is very similar to that of Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption, as neither Marian nor Andy exhibit traits that would make one think they were prepared (physically or emotionally) for imprisonment. And where the first issue truly excels is in setting up Bitch Planet as a character itself for Marian and the others to interact with; DeConnick gives just enough information so that the reader somewhat understands the situation, but not enough where it’s completely explained. The “reveal” at the end regarding Marian’s husband is genuinely surprising and further sets the context for women being punished for being “non-compliant.”

The art style does a fantastic job of offering characters are diverse, yet manage to exist together in a certain harmony. De Landro illustrates a lot of naked women throughout the book, using that as a means of truly showcasing a wide variety of body types and looks. It’s refreshing in that it’s not trying to use sex to sell the book; rather, it’s perfect at offering a sober realization that women are often subjected to the whims of others holding authority over them. The women on Bitch Planet feel alive and unique, which offers a great contrast to the soulless, yes-men bureaucrats on the outside who manipulate the women and punish them for non-compliance. Peter imbues the work with an array of neons and emphatic shading that affords details like blood to be more pronounced and meaningful.

Bitch Planet #1 is an extremely satisfying first issue that does everything it should, including offering an ending that makes you more fully realize the true plight of the women on Bitch Planet. Regardless of the decades committed to gender equality, women still face an uphill battle in many regards and Bitch Planet #1 explores the concept of women “not coming to heel” as expected by society brilliantly. DeConnick has charged the script with an abundance of emotion; strong-will and refusal to accept the status quo on the part of the female characters and a “woe is me” attitude on the part of the men. De Landro’s art is equally as electric, pitting silhouettes of fighters against more fully illustrated characters to emphasize the action. Bitch Planet #1 is a ruthlessly honest look at gender relations in society that shows no signs of abating in its assault on the norm in future issues.

Bitch Planet #1 is in stores now.


The Valiant #1

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“You have no choice. This is the way of things.”

Being immortal is a gift and a curse. Sure, you get to live forever and see all sorts of things. You also have to live with yourself and your actions, realizing that the consequences of some actions have longer to linger. For The Eternal Warrior, things have historically been a little rough, but in The Valiant #1 from Valiant Entertainment, there’s a slight glimmer that things will improve. The issue is written by Jeff Lemire and Matt Kindt and illustrated by Paolo Rivera.

The Eternal Warrior has protected the Earth for more than 10,000 years. A master of countless weapons and long forgotten martial arts, he is guided by the Geomancers – those who speak for the Earth. During his long watch, the Eternal Warrior has failed three times. Each time, the Geomancer was killed and a new dark age for humanity began. Each time, he was unable to stop The Immortal Enemy – a monstrous force of nature. A civilization killer. A horror that appears differently each time it arrives and whose seemingly only purpose is to bring disorder and darkness to the world. Now, the time has come for The Immortal Enemy to return once more. But, this time, the Eternal Warrior will be ready. This time, he has a force greater than any single warrior. This time, he has The Valiant.

To say that Kindt and Lemire have talent is an understatement and that talent is on full display in The Valiant #1. Gilad is The Eternal Warrior, which is good from a physical immortality perspective, but it also means he has to endure tremendous emotional pain as well. Gilad’s characterization as a somewhat tragic protector is very well done, Kindt and Lemire do a fantastic job delving into his past failures in protecting Geomancers as a means of giving him depth. The inclusion of other Valiant heavy-hitters gives him even more depth in terms of support and helps him to mitigate the losses in his next encounter. And the issue is paced very methodically, gradually traveling through time alongside Gilad into the present where the next grave danger awaits.

As The Valiant #1 includes familiar players, there’s a certain look expected and Rivera nails it. His interpretations of some of history’s most famous mythological creatures is very well done and brings with them even more fear. There’s a wide range of emotion shown on the part of all the characters, but Gilad especially is illustrated with looks of sheer sorrow and desperation on quite a few occasions. Rivera handles this emotion perfectly, ensuring that the impact of the events on page fully resonate with the reader. And Rivera displays everything from simple conversations to physically brutal confrontations with ease, giving the book a look that feels befitting of the story.

The Valiant #1 is a very strong first issue that offers the quality story and art that Valiant has become known for since its relaunch. The story is extremely engaging and promises to be full of intrigue and action, all of which is set against the backdrop of Gilad’s growth through the centuries as the Eternal Warrior. Lemire and Kindt cast a pall over the proceedings with their script and its hints of being subdued; it’s as if the characters know something bad is coming even if they don’t really. Rivera’s illustrations are the perfect match for the issue and give the reader a great look at all things good and evil. The Valiant #1 is an issue that should definitely be on everyone’s pull list as it promises to go to dark places for the heroes of the Valiant Universe.

The Valiant #1 is in stores now.


Lady Demon #1

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“My title is Lady Demon.”

Chaos Comics hasn’t been around for a while, but that hasn’t stopped Dynamite from tapping into the reservoir and revitalizing many of the old favorites. The latest to get the revival treatment is Lady Demon #1. The issue is written by Aaron Gillespie, illustrated by Mirka Andolfo, colored by Gabriele Bagnoli-Mad5 and lettered by Marshall Dillon.

On the run from Lucifer’s hit squad, Lady Demon rides a newly arrived soul back to earth. Little does she know, the soul is attached to Violet, a woman in the middle of a dark conspiracy. That suits Lady Demon just fine because it means she gets to kill a whole lot of people. And the first issue doesn’t show the series will be shy about upping the body count when it comes to either lady getting what they want.

Lady Demon has been around for a while; in fact, she had a run with Chaos Comics way back in the day. This incarnation is very familiar to those who read that run, yet Gillespie does a great job of getting new readers up to speed as well. As far as first issues go, Lady Demon #1 is very straightforward: Violet’s boyfriend and father are murdered by seemingly unsavory men, giving Lady Demon the vehicle she needs to hit Earth and escape Lucifer. The plot makes sense given the characters and Violet seems more than capable of handling her business–even without Lady Demon sharing her body. The dialogue reveals the tale as Violet learns the facts, which is something that affords the reader an even exposure to the story.

Andolfo offers a layered panel layout that keeps the action from feeling stale. The characters depicted in each panel are created with bold outlines, set against backdrops that are detailed enough. Lady Demon offers a pretty stereotypical female demon look, but Andolfo doesn’t go too crazy in oversexing her. Still, there are a few gratuitous shots here and there that may feel a little exploitative. There is a fair amount of blood and gore throughout the book, but it’s not so much that it’s overwhelming or takes away from the experience; rather, it feels to be an appropriate amount. There’s a fairly cartoonish or anime feel to the characters, with Violet’s doe-eyed look an emphasis on her presumed innocence when contrasted with Lady Demon’s guilt.

Lady Demon #1 is a reboot of an older series and Dynamite does it right. Lady Demon and Violet are two halves of a whole and both are seeking different things from their upcoming “adventures” together. Gillespie infuses the book with an appropriate amount of vengeance and anger, both of which explain the motives behind Violet and Lady Demon. Andolfo’s illustrations also emphasize the violence without being overtly graphic and presents Lady Demon in a way that’s easily recognizable to familiar readers. Lady Demon #1 is a straightforward first issue that offers a direction for Violet and Lady Demon without getting too bogged down in elaborate plots and schemes.

Lady Demon #1 is in stores now.


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