Indie Comics Spotlight (9/14/16)


by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Surgeon #1

“If in my heart I do not yield, I’ll overcome some day.”
What tomorrow brings is generally a result of what happens today. That holds especially true for larger, societal decisions often made at the hands of a governing body. What that body makes a decision that seems to contradict basic human principles like in Surgeon X #1 from Image Comics, tomorrow might be pretty bleak. The issue is written by Sara Kenney, illustrated by John Watkiss, colored by James Devlin and lettered by Jared K. Fletcher.
Part One What do you get if you cross a far-right British government with an antibiotic apocalypse and a gruesome murder? The birth of Surgeon X and her renegade practice. Extreme times call for extreme medicine.
The premise behind Surgeon X #1 is glaringly simple yet alarmingly effective. Kenney’s proposition is that we’ve over-prescribed antibiotics to a point where they’re no longer effective and doctors must start making ethical choices that will openly defy the government. Surgeon X is a lead character who falls on the help where possible side of the spectrum and it’s interesting to see how Kenney juxtaposes that with the larger government regulations effectively stopping her from doing her job. There’s also a broader message that Kenney seeks to deliver in that giving the pharmaceutical companies the power they have might be the most direct cause of the apocalyptic scenario in Surgeon X #1. Kenney manages to cram all of the above into the issue thanks to some fast-paced dialogue and a bit of time-jumping to effectively present the new world to the reader.
There are a lot of shadows in Surgeon X #1 that Watkiss uses to literally represent the figurative shadow cast by the antibiotic regulations. Devlin’s colors bolster this darkness as he relies on dark reds for the present to further symbolize the chaotic world. The main characters stand out a bit more from the background action as the panels focus on them. Watkiss frames the characters by focusing on their faces and torsos more than anything which allows their emotions to be readily apparent to the reader. Those expressions of emotion eschew finer attention to detail; rather, Watkiss instead focuses on embellishing the emotion through the eyes and mouth.
Surgeon X #1 is based on a pretty unique premise that’s not entirely too far-fetched. Struggling to reconcile helping others with obeying the law will force people to make tough decisions and Surgeon X is clearly up to that task. Kenney’s script is fast-paced and cleanly presents the stakes for all involved. Watkiss does a solid job with the artwork, rendering a world rife with flame and chaos. Surgeon X #1 is a great first issue that poses larger philosophical questions amidst the backdrop of an apocalypse without zombies.
Surgeon X #1 is in stores September 28.

Mr. Teacher and Mr. Panda #1

“You get fired too?”

Pandas are fascinating creature with a penchant for lazing around, climbing trees and dealing with whatever life throws at them. Doing the last thing on that list gets really interesting when the panda can talk and has a teacher for a friend, as in Mr. Teacher and Mr. Panda #1. The issue is written by Andrew Brattica, illustrated by Alan Sharp, Joe Badon, Wayne Lowdy, Sarah Danahy, Ben Doane and Michael Saver and lettered by Saver.
Do you like dumb jokes? Do you like pandas? Well, If you answered “yes”, “no” or “sort of” to either of those questions then, WOW, this is the perfect comic book for you! Like if Calvin and Hobbes were adults, “The Radically Ordinary Adventures of Mr. Teacher and Panda” is a collection of dumb jokes about the easily angered Mr. Teacher and his best friend, a panda!
The concept of a human paired up with a anthropomorphic animal isn’t exactly anything new and Brattica doesn’t seek to reinvent the wheel in Mr. Teacher and Mr. Panda #1.

The issue is really a series of seemingly normal situations made a tad more outlandish because they involve a panda. Brattica’s script is pretty barebones in that regard, relying instead on the humor found in the absurdity of those situations. Each story is relatively short and allows Mr. Teacher and Mr. Panda #1 to operate a rapid-fire pace. And there’s really no overarching plot holding the smaller stories together which reduces the pressure to ruin the one-offs by forcing them together.
The artwork in Mr. Teacher and Mr. Panda #1 is pretty varied. It’s all black and white which definitely fits with the aesthetics of a panda. A lot of the artwork is pretty crude in nature, but the stories themselves are relatively simplistic so it works out. And the artwork in some stories is more stylistic than that of other stories, but–again–the relatively simple nature of the style reinforces the narrative that the stories themselves are meant to be easygoing.
Mr. Teacher and Mr. Panda #1 accomplishes exactly what it intends to by simply being a bunch of jokes about a man and a panda hanging out and living life. Mr. Teacher and Mr. Panda are two halves of a whole, both of whom have very different reactions to certain life events that makes for some amusing tales. Brattica’s anthology approach is sound and doesn’t let any one story ever take itself too seriously. The artwork is equally as lighthearted and emphasizes the humor of the situation over crafting intricately detailed characters and settings. Mr. Teacher and Mr. Panda #1 is a pretty light read that’s meant to be enjoyed for what it is.
Mr. Teacher and Mr. Panda #1 is available now.


Job Dun: Fat Assassin #1

“Job Dun’s the name. And I’m having a bad night.”
Being an assassin is a hard job, what with the contracts and killing and what not. The life of an assassin in a dystopian city is made is even more difficult, but that won’t stop Job Dun from–ahem–getting the job done in Job Dun: Fat Assassin #1. The issue is written by Mark Hobby and illustrated by Ben Michael Byrne, colored by Noelle Criminova and lettered by Bolt-01.
Story begins with Job Dun, rotund killer with a taste for chem-cola, dispensing rough justice upon a couple of bouncers after they refuse him entry into a nightclub. He swears they hit first. It is the year 2112 and the story is set in Ink-Blot City, a cesspool of crime and sex with a price tag. Like all citizens of the city, he is outfitted with a ‘spray-maker’, a piece of digi-tech lodged deep in his pineal gland that enables him to augment his perception to create the world he wants to see. Though essentially a thug, Dun chooses to live in a hyper-real, sexualised reality reminiscent of noir films, laced with fetish overtones – what he likes to call ‘fet-noir’. ‘Cos he’s classy.
Hobby creates a world that’s far from pleasant for Job Dun to inhabit–one that’s rife with sex, drugs and violence. The use of the spray-maker is an interesting narrative device used by Hobby in that it rationalizes the PI narration used in a lot of noir books. Job Dun is anything but a PI, yet telling the story through his perception of the spray-maker is a pretty unique and clever approach. Aside from that, the plot itself feels a little jumbled as Job Dun is tasked with an assignment. A lot of the dialogue feels very stream of conscious and is a little difficult to follow at times and Hobby doesn’t shy away from being crass in the exchanges between characters.
The caricature-like approach taken by Byrne infuses the book with a sense of coarseness befitting Ink-Blot City. Job Dun is illustrated as a mammoth man who surrounds himself with visions of voluptuous women and interacts with a daily fantasy. Byrne’s illustrations border on absurd and help to ground the issue in a sense of fantasy. There’s a lot of violence and gratuitous sexiness for sure, but it’s not necessarily being done in a way that’s meant to be realistic. The colors by Criminova are pretty dulled throughout and apply a grimy polish to the overall artwork.
Job Dun: Fat Assassin #1 is a very coarse book with equally coarse characters. Job Dun is content to live in another world that allows him to blissfully ignore the real world happening all around him. Hobby’s script is a little muddled at points because there’s an overwhelming amount of narration by the main characters. Byrne’s illustrations are exaggerated in a way that makes the book feel like a psychedelic trip.Job Dun: Fat Assassin #1 trades on the shock value of its contents more than anything else.
Job Dun: Fat Assassin #1 is available now.

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