Indie Comics Spotlight

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By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)



Pirouette #1

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“It won’t come off!”

There’s a lot to be said about a family outing to the circus. The sights, the sounds…all of it makes for a rather exciting day. What attendees aren’t privy to are the goings-on with the employees of the circus. Sometimes, the interactions are just as ugly some of the circus performers themselves and that ugliness is on full display inPirouette #1. The issue is written by Mark L. Miller, illustrated by Carlos Granda, and lettered by Jim Campbell.

The circus is the Greatest Show On Earth, unless you’re the attraction. Raised from infancy by duplicitous clowns who entertain by day and menace by night, Pirouette dreams of washing the paint from her face and escaping to a better life far away from her cruel adoptive circus family because when the spotlights dim and the crowd disperses, the clown princess’ big-top dreams give way to a nightmarish world of monsters with painted smiles.

Pirouette as a character is one troubled by her current life, one that is implied to be anything but the one she was destined for. In that sense, Miller characterizes her efficiently, positioning her in a world that’s content to abuse her emotionally for the sake of profit. Much of her position in the circus is done by contrasting her with an acrobat named Elena, presenting Pirouette as someone desperate to be anything but a clown. The circus itself delivers itself well as a character too, highlighting a world rife with turmoil behind the scenes, even if it shows joy and entertainment on the part of the masses. There is one instance where Miller relays a sentiment of sexual violence that probably wasn’t necessary to advance the story and does interrupt the flow somewhat.

As the carnival goes, Granda does an excellent job with very clean lines and character depictions. Many of the audience members are done in a way that ensures you know they’re part of the audience, but none of them really stand out so much that it takes away from the main characters. Many of the panels boast a grandiose emotional delivery, further setting the stage for the impending horrors set to be unleashed upon the reader. The opening pages in particular are pretty terrifying, with Pirouette struggling to remove the make-up that hides her true personality and past. Granda’s work effectively handles the energy of the circus as crowd-goers come and go, oblivious to the turmoil behind the scenes.

Pirouette #1is a fascinating foray into the emotional depravity on display in a traveling circus. Sure, there are going to be characters ranging from a bearded lady to an overweight tightrope walker, but all that show does little justice to the emotions behind the scenes. Miller’s pacing is very methodical and the ending of the first issue presents a pretty fantastic set-up for the second issue. Granda’s art is powerful and emotional in a way that underscores the depravity occurring amongst the stars of the show. Pirouette #1 is a very intriguing first issue that piques the curiosity in peculiar ways, offering a tale that will no doubt go much deeper then one would expect from a traveling circus.

Pirouette #1 is available now.


Tall Tales from the Badlands Volume 3

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“There are injustices in this world. Bad things happen to good people.”

Settling the west was no small task. Aside from the unknown of venturing into a new territory, all manner of danger in animals, weather, and people (just to name a few) make the goings extremely tough. Black Jack Press has an anthology that delves more deeply into some of those more emotional terrors inTall Tales from the Badlands Volume 3. “The Judgment of the People” is written by Mark Wheaton and illustrated by Jerry Decaire, “Apologies” is written by Sean Fahey and illustrated by John Fortune, “Rustlers” is written by Robert Napton and illustrated by Franco Cespedes, “All Mine” is written by Matt Dembicki and illustrated by Ezequiel Rosingana, and “Where the Heart Is” is written by Fahey and illustrated by Ruben Rojas. Lettering in all stories is done by Kel Nuttall.

In “Judgment of the People,” a corrupt judge doles out justice rather ruthlessly, not realizing that eventually he himself will be judged. “In “Apologies,” a family finds themselves stranded in the wilderness and faced with extremely difficult decisions for surviving. In “Rustlers,” a train robbery goes really wrong when the robbers aren’t entirely certain what the cargo is they’re robbing. In “All Mine,” a pair of gold diggers learns that they’re not the only ones seeking the wealth. And in “Where the Heart Is,” a family new to the frontier learn that living the old way isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Each of the stories in Tall Tales from the Badlands Volume 3 plays on some base human emotion in an attempt to offer a surprising twist. These aren’t tales of horror per se; rather, they’re more tales of the weird in a Wild West setting. “The Judgment of the People” features a title character whose ego is so large he thinks he’s appropriate to pass sinister judgments on any and all who come before him, while the robbers in the “Rustlers” let their greed cloud their better judgment. “All Mine” flips the greed of others into their demise, while “Where the Heart Is” features a family who misses their former life. The twist at the end of “Apologies” is probably the most severe, as it turns hope into further fear. All stories boast that undercurrent of fear and are tied together by it, even if their use of fear isn’t a direct attempt to scare the reader.

The art in Tall Tales from the Badlands Volume 3 is pretty varied. Decaire’s work in “The Judgment of the People” is very intricate, with detailed characters passing through minimal backgrounds. Fortune chooses something uses something of a cartoonish style in “Apologies,” which somewhat undercuts the severity of the emotion within, but does add a certain level of fantasy to it and still looks good. “Rustlers” includes panels packed with characters and action, all of which Cespedes uses to make the story feel like it’s moving very quickly. “All Mine” feels the most like a “traditional” comic book presentation, with Rosingana presenting neatly arranged panels conveying the action succinctly with attention to detail. Finally, “Where the Heart Is” gives Rojas the chance to offer feature-rich characters interacting with one another amidst the somewhat barren west.

Tall Tales from the Badlands Volume 3 is an interesting anthology that presents the west in a way that’s a little different than expected. Characters interact with one another in ways that speak to the depravities of human nature that we’re capable of when we want to be. Each story in the anthology maintains this baseline of human decision-making as a means of conveying varying degrees of terror to the reader. The black and white art style maintains that atmosphere, setting a tone of uncertainty for both the characters and the reader. Tall Tales from the Badlands Volume 3 is definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for something slightly off-kilter and set in the Wild West.

Tall Tales from the Badlands Volume 3 is available here.


Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive #1

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“If I do say so myself, you make most convincing Klingons.”

If you find yourself on the U.S.S. Enterprise, then you’re in good company. You might know Captain Kirk, maybe Spock. There’s a list of others on the ship who would also be good company and you would want those folks if you find yourself stuck on the Planet of the Apes. In Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive #1 from IDW Entertainment, those folks are put to the test. The issue is written by Scott Tipton and David Tipton, illustrated by Rachael Stott, colored by Charlie Kirchoff, and lettered by Tom B. Lang.

Dr. Zeus has a primate problem of sorts. He’s struggling to protect Ape City, looking for all the help he can get. The crew of the Enterprise just so happens to be willing to contribute their talents and when their pursuit of Klingons takes them through a portal, they’ll get their chance. Captain Kirk and the others are struggling to take it all in; namely, why a bunch of apes are running planet Earth.

Both the Star Trek and Planet of the Apes universes are rich and feature devoted fans, despite both taking slightly different approaches to intergalactic travel and encounters. The approach of the Tiptons to those universes is admirable and does a great job blending them together. The crew of the Enterprise has the requisite characteristics that make them easily recognizable to the reader, right down to Spock’s insistent pursuits of logic. The story leans heavy on the Star Trek side, but it establishes the universe effectively and leaves the impression that the Planet of the Apes characters will mix in effectively. The way it’s broken out does offer a pace that’s a little uneven because of how the two properties are presented.

The issue relies on a look that’s a throwback to pulp comics. Stott’s characters are physically recognizable based on trademark characteristics, even though their looks bear that nostalgic appearance. Most of the panels with a character features them sort of floating against an empty background, which doesn’t really give them much context in terms of the action they’re participating in. There is a disparity in styles when Stott goes from the Star Trek looks to the Planet of the Apes, as the former feels brighter and the latter darker. Despite this, Stott handles the transition well and makes both sides feel like they really are part of one bigger universe.

Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive #1 is a solid mash-up of two storied franchises. Both feature the best of both, yet still manage to make them each feel distinctively natural to that specific universe. The Tiptons offer a story that’s relevant to both worlds, blending them together in a way that feels organic. Stott’s illustrations are concise and maintain the right look and feel to bear the names on the front cover. Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive #1is a book that will appeal specifically to fans of either universe, but also has some appeal to fans of science fiction in general.

Star Trek Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive #1is in stores now.


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