Indie Comics Spotlight-Armor Hunters #1, That’s Because You’re a Robot, The Empty Man #1

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By Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Armor Hunters #1

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“This world’s cultures are imitating the armor? Do they not understand what it is, Primary?”

On the off-chance that an alien armor makes its way to Earth, it’s very possible that someone will equip it. It could possibly work out for them or it could consume them. Either way, it’s likely that others out there will be looking for it and will stop at nothing to get it. Valiant Entertainment is centering most of their universe around such an event in Armor Hunters #1, written by Robert Venditti, illustrated by Doug Braithwaite, colored by Laura Martin, and lettered by Dave Sharpe.

A relentless and surgical strike team from the farthest reaches of space, sworn to exterminate the X-O Manowar armor and all like it, have found finally their final target. They will hunt. They will trap. They will kill. And they will rid the universe of the X-O Manowar’s incalculable destructive power…even if it means taking the Earth with it.

Valiant Entertainment has been building to Armor Hunters #1 seemingly forever, seeding the storyline throughout their entire universe. That has made the wait for the book painfully long, but Venditti knocks it out of the park. The pacing of the issue is extraordinary, offering up a very evenly timed first issue that moves the reader along at a slow burn. Aric is just as much the disgruntled warrior that he’s always been and the new enemies are sufficiently frightening. The final few pages are pretty insane all things considered, really hitting home how feared the Armor Hunters really should be. Their arrival is pitched in a way that offers salvation from the X-O Manowar armor, even if it’s a near impossible situation for the inhabitants of Earth to fully comprehend their choice.

There’s a certain look that Valiant tends to stick with, mostly because they use many of the same artists. If Venditti knocked the story out of the park, then Braithwaite crushed it even more – if that’s possible. His characters are depicted with very crisp lines that make it really easy for the reader to keep up with what’s happening. The Armor Hunters look like they’re very serious about their mission, as Braithwaite presents them in a manner that’s both intimidating and demonstrates their brutal potential. Beyond his characters, the settings and world they inhabit is equally as breathtaking, with Braithwaite filling the book with painstaking detail throughout. Armor Hunters #1 reflects some really impressive artwork that more books would be lucky to have.

Considering the wait, it would’ve been easy for Armor Hunters #1 to be something of a letdown. Thankfully, the book delivered on all fronts. The premise of the book falls prey slightly to what seems to be the “Get X-O Manowar” theme present throughout most of the Valiant books, but it works very well in this book. Venditti is one of the best writers in the business and he’s played a big part in most of the Valiant universe to this point and his work in Armor Hunters #1 is yet another example of rather exemplary comic book writing. Braithwaite’s illustrations are beautiful and reflect a pretty immense talent, fitting the book perfectly and getting it off on the right foot. Armor Hunters #1 is a book that anyone will want to read, even if they’re not caught up on the happenings in the Valiant Universe. The cliffhanger ending proves that it’s something to be taken seriously and isn’t looking to waste words or lines.

Armor Hunters #1 is in stores now.

That’s Because You’re a Robot

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“Jeff – Matt, I’ll keep this simple. One of you is a real human cop — and one of you is a robot. Only we don’t know which is which!”

There are philosophical questions about our lives that many have spent years attempting to answer. Some of those questions we’ll never answer. For instance, the meaning of life still seems to escape us. A slightly less tumultuous question is whether or not your friend is a robot, possibly answered in That’s Because You’re a Robot from Image Comics. The issue is written by David Quantick, illustrated by Shaky Kane, and lettered by Jimmy Betancourt of Comicraft.

Jeff and Matt are two cops. They like being on the job. They’ve got a good partnership. And one of them is a robot. The thing is, they don’t know which one of them that is. Still, the near-future Los Angeles needs protecting and the two of them will do everything in their power to ensure that justice is upheld.

If the above seems like an oversimplification of what you would expect to be a much more in-depth plot, you’d be wrong. That’s Because You’re a Robot thrives on the fact that it’s a very simple premise, but it’s through that premise that Quantick delivers some pretty amusing dialogue. For most of the story, Jeff and Matt make fairly idiosyncratic arguments explaining why it’s the other who’s a robot. Their banter is what carries the book and reminds the reader that they’re not ones to evolve into deeper conversations. In fact, their back and forth nearly costs them their jobs and a high-profile case, allowing Quantick the opportunity to show just how inane their debate really is.

While the story is very odd, Kane’s artwork makes perfect sense. His style is very unique and harkens back to a different time, finding a halfway point between Golden Age illustrations and Sunday newspaper comics. The characters look pretty cartoonish and neither of the two tip their hand as to who’s really the robot. All characters also show off rather generic bodies and the near future looks a lot like the past, but Kane’s style is a great fit for the concept of the book. There’s a certain campiness that accompanies an ongoing argument about who’s a robot and it’s a campiness that Kane taps into rather brilliantly with his artistic style.

That’s Because You’re a Robot isn’t really meant to be anything more than a rather superfluous conversation about who’s what. It’s a concept that could easily fall into a “trap” where Quantick attempts to make a broader statement about some aspect of existence, but he keeps it pretty simple. Kane’s style is a lot of fun and is very appropriate for the rather lighthearted nature of the story. That’s Because You’re a Robot is a one-shot, even if there are threads left unpulled for the possibility of continuing to explore the conversation. For the time being, though, feel free to enjoy one of the more positively asinine books you’ll read.

That’s Because You’re a Robot is in stores now.

The Empty Man #1

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“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked about this church.”

Humanity has a lot of enemies, some of which aren’t even necessarily visible. Diseases, illness, viruses…these are all threats to our existence that care little for our intelligence or strength as a species. What if one of those enemies had an element of the supernatural mixed in as well? Would we be completely screwed? BOOM! Studios seeks to find out in The Empty Man #1, written by Cullen Bunn, illustrated by Vanesa R. Del Rey, colored by Michael Garland, and lettered by Ed Dukeshire.

It’s been one year since the first reported case of the Empty Man disease and no drug has been able to slow its progress. The cause is unknown and the symptoms include fits of rage, hideous hallucinations, and suicidal dementia, followed by death, or a near lifeless “empty” state of catatonia. As murder cults rise nationwide, the FBI and CDC enter a joint investigation of the Empty Man, hoping to piece together clues to stop the cult and uncover a cure.

Whenever you mix religion with the South, the results typically are a little eerie. The thing about The Empty Man #1 is that there seems to be more of a possible cross-section between religion and viral outbreak. Bunn successfully infuses the tale with equal parts of both, but there are hints that the outbreak may be something more sinister and unexplainable than just a virus. The two lead detectives (Special Agents Jensen and Langford) offer a pretty great rapport with one another that addresses some of the theories as to what exactly is causing the rash of strange behavior attributed to Empty Man. Their dialogue moves the story along while simultaneously delving deeper into the mystery of the rather violent deaths.

The Empty Man #1 doesn’t pull any punches artistically, with the full brutality of the Empty Man on display repeatedly. In this regard, Del Rey does a fantastic job with her gritty style that feels perfectly appropriate. There are some panels where the action looks a little muddled and it’s somewhat difficult to discern what exactly is going on; still, there are other panels that feel almost like pin-up pieces, showing off a pretty wide approach. She uses a lot of cross-hatching to accomplish the severity of injury inflicted by Empty Man, further reinforcing the notion that it’s something not yet completely understood. Garland’s coloring only furthers that severity, as he relies on darker colors and an abundance of reds and blacks throughout to convey the danger inherent in Empty Man.

It would be easy to make The Empty Man #1 just another book about a massive viral outbreak, but it’s more than that. Couching the fear of disease with the fear invoked by religion is a very powerful alternative in storytelling that makes The Empty Man #1 feel creepy. Bunn’s tale doesn’t rely on supernatural elements on its surface to carry the chills and the interplay between the two empirical agents when faced with something they don’t understand is pretty powerful. Del Rey’s illustrations are a great match for the content as well, presenting characters who are clearly affected by Empty Man, both physically and emotionally. The Empty Man #1 is a promising first issue in what could be an intriguing series, depending on where the religion angle ends up.

The Empty Man #1 is in stores now.


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