Indie Comics Spotlight (5/31/17)


by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Grrl Scouts: Magic Socks #1


”Daph! Hook me up wid a twenny ‘a that quality broccoli!”

Getting involved in the drug trade comes with highs and lows (no pun intended), some of which involve violence. The entire game is predicated on supply and demand and that brings with it a need for force sometimes. In the case of Grrl Scouts: Magic Socks #1 from Image Comics, that force comes from three young women and a pair of magic socks. The issue is written and illustrated by Jim Mahfood, colored and lettered by Justin Stewart.

Join Gwen, Daphne, and Rita as they reunite for a pulse-pounding psychedelic adventure through the streets of Freak City. This first issue is stuffed to the gills with an action-packed story, bonus art, soundtrack, sketchbook, and a behind-the-scenes comic thingy.

From the outset it’s very apparent that Mahfood’s tale in Grrl Scouts: Magic Socks #1 is going to be unorthodox. Each of the characters act in ways that are purposefully over the top and a visual representation of hyperbole in the sense that every action is purposefully overstated. Mahfood infuses each of the main characters in Gwen, Daphne and Rita with very distinguishing personality traits that allow them to effectively play off of one another. And the entire premise of the series seems to revolve around a pair of magic socks which should make the read that much more enjoyable. The dialogue exchanges between characters are rife with sardonic retorts that Mahfood infuses with a healthy does of profanity for effect, but it all works.

Mahfood also handles the artwork for the book and his loose, detached style fits the book’s attitude very appropriately. Similar to the different personalities, each of the three main character sport a look that’s unique to them and gives the reader a sense of what they’re all about. And Mahfood’s style is edgy and bold, affording scenes like fights in night clubs and gang showdowns to come off as caricatures of themselves–in a good way. The line art is jagged and focus is shifted from front to back for many of the panels, giving Mahfood the chance to show the reader what he thinks is most important. Stewart’s colors shouldn’t be undersold as his palette choice further helps that visual pop.


Grrl Scouts: Magic Socks #1 is extremely trippy and a blast. The premise of the series is just as ridiculous as the characters in it and things promise to get zanier before they get more grounded. The script by Mahfood holds nothing back in its approach, eschewing formality for a more rugged approach. Mahfood’s art style is just as frenetic as his story and it’s definitely going to turn some people off, but it’s such a good match for the story. Grrl Scouts: Magic Socks #1 is a pretty trippy adventure that doesn’t really care who it offends. 


Grrl Scouts: Magic Socks #1 is available now.


Wonderland: Birth of Madness


”There dwelled a land where peace ruled…and dreams became reality.”


Based on its name, Wonderland implies that things are cheerful, happy and full of wonder. While that may be the case most days, there are other days when things aren’t so nice. Wonderland: Birth of Madnessfrom Zenescope is one of those days. The issue is written by Dave Franchini, illustrated by Renzo Rodriguez, colored by Leonardo Paciarotti and lettered by Kurt Hathaway.
Before Alice, before the madness, there was a peaceful realm of dreams called Wonderland. This is the story of corruption, the birth of madness, how the realm of dreams became the realm of nightmares.

What starts as a rather idyllic look at Wonderland quickly goes off the rails in Franchini’s script. His approach focuses on Evelyn and Adelaide, one of whom because seemingly corrupted by an ancient darkness in Wonderland that tears the world in half. Franchini paces the world’s decline very methodically, slowly building up to the complete chaos that comes with death and destruction. There’s a steady back-and-forth that exists between the characters speaking with one another and an omniscient narrator of sorts that helps move the story along. And by the end of the issue things are sufficiently deranged enough that the reader can see how Wonderland got to its current state and is a nice homage to fans of the series.


Rodriguez handles the art duties on the book and his work is pretty slick. Wonderland itself is illustrated with an attention to its happier days where people are generally jovial and look the part as well. Thick lines define the characters and landscapes, allowing Rodriguez to pay particular attention to the garb of those in Wonderland. The gutters transition from black to empty to none as Rodriguez transitions throughout the various scenery, drawing the reader’s focus from one point to the next. The colors by Paciarotti are vibrant and do a great job of showcasing the gradual decay of Wonderland as it descends into madness.


Wonderland: Birth of Madness doesn’t really require an in-depth knowledge of the Wonderland universe as it instead focuses on where things started. Evelyn and Adeline are two sisters torn apart by the temptation of power and Wonderland suffers as a result. Franchini’s script is cleanly presented and effectively covers all the events leading to the world’s downfall. The artwork by Rodriguez has a sheen to it that makes the events in Wonderland feel bold. Wonderland: Birth of Madness doesn’t really tread new ground as far as books that share in its universe do, but is nice to see the Hatter actually become “mad.”


Wonderland: Birth of Madness is available now.

Mass Effect: Discovery #1


”…we found a hostile surprise waiting for us when we touched down.”


Life throughout the galaxy largely depends on what alien race you’ve managed to upset for whatever reason. And there’s a lot of that in the Mass Effect series as players delicately balance tough choices with alien political relations. In Mass Effect: Discovery #1 from Dark Horse Comics, making those decisions drives the story. The issue is written by Jeremy Barlow (story by Barlow and John Dombrow), illustrated by Gabriel Guzman, colored by Michael Atiyeh and lettered by Michael Heisler.


A young Turian military recruit goes undercover in order to infiltrate the mysterious Andromeda Initiative and ultimately retrieve a scientist who’s made a potentially devastating discovery.


Steeped in the Mass Effect universe is Barlow’s story in Mass Effect: Discovery #1. Tiran Kandros is a young Turian determined to learn more about the mysterious Andromeda Initiative and Barlow does a great job of slowly building up the larger story. The issue focuses primarily on Tiran as the focal point of the narrative and it gives the issue room to breathe by funneling interactions with new characters through Tiran. Barlow understands that the Mass Effect universe is vast, but Mass Effect: Discovery #1 doesn’t feel overwhelming to new readers unfamiliar with the territory. The issue is pretty straightforward in terms of its approach overall and by the end it’s fairly clear to the reader what the stakes are and who the players are.


Guzman’s artwork feels big because of his artistic approach. The characters’ looks will look readily familiar to fans of the Mass Effect universe–everything from Tiran’s Turian build to the haunting visage of a Geth head for instance. The panels are laid out atop empty gutters which allows Guzman to focus more on the characters and their actions. Guzman also pays particular attention to physiology in the character; even though they’re all aliens that doesn’t mean they can’t look natural in their poses and movements. Atiyeh’s colors are darker and set a somewhat grim tone for the story itself.


Mass Effect: Discovery #1 is an interesting first issue that plays out like a side-mission in a Mass Effect game. Tiran is seeking out answers for both himself and a larger initiative and it’s likely the results won’t be pretty. The story by Barlow and Dombrow seems well-thought out so far and promises to hit all the Mass Effect high notes. Guzman’s artwork is sound and does a great job of conveying the Mass Effect look to the reader. Mass Effect: Discovery #1 definitely has appeal to fans of the games, but it’s also accessible enough to new readers and reads like a good science-fiction book.


Mass Effect: Discovery #1 is available now.

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