Indie Comics Spotlight: Bad Blood, Nova Phase and The Provider


By Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Bad Blood #1

“I heard you were looking for a vampire.”

Vampires are creatures of myth and legend, with everyone and their brother writing tales of their, well, tales. The big characteristic with them is there required affinity for human blood, but very few of them actually chronicle what happens when they ingest “faulty” human blood. In Bad Blood #1 from Dark Horse Comics, one such vampire is making it a point to get back at the human with the aforementioned blood. The first issue is written by Jonathan Maberry and illustrated by Tyler Crook.

Trick is your typical college student, his whole future ahead of him. The only thing is that he’s also terminally ill with some form of cancer and is essentially living on borrowed time, arising every day to keep fighting what he perceives to be a losing fight. He’s got great friends who support him, but their encouragement still isn’t enough motivation to get him through the trying times. Once he meets a vampire though who feeds on him and is poisoned by his sick blood, all bets are off.

Vampire stories are all the rage these days, but Maberry has offered up a very unique and fresh take on the genre. The vampire who feeds on Trick is your typical vampire, but his surprise at the tainted blood is presented with great shock. What’s more is that the vampire personally holds Trick responsible and begins targeting his friends as retaliation, something which prompts Trick to start a war with the undead. The concept of vampires not being able to handle various types of human blood is novel and new, generating a great conflict between Trick and the vampire who bit him. What’s more, the fact that the vampire holds Trick responsible for his illness adds further insult to injury when it comes to Trick’s diagnosis.

Crook’s illustrations are very appropriate for the story. The vampire is the picture of greed and avarice, rife with arrogance at his position as a vampire. Trick is effectively a walking corpse, courtesy of his illness. There’s a colored pencil finish to the illustrations that speaks to the simplicity of the situation, which boils down to a vampire and a human squaring off. The panel layouts are the standard grid format, which very little in the way of deviating from that pattern, but those grids showcase Trick’s emotional transformation. He goes from someone unwilling to continue fighting to one who wants to fight until all vampires are killed and his friends avenged.

Bad Blood #1 is the start of a very fascinating series about vampires and terminal illness. You could argue that being a vampire is itself a terminal illness, considering the lack of feeding will kill them. The vampire who bit Tricky is full of horror and malice, proving more than enough for Trick to capitalize on in seeking out all vampires. It’s a very interesting premise in that it gives Tricky something to push himself with when it come to fighting his illness; something those with such an affliction struggle to find. Where the series goes from here is anyone’s guess, but it’s looking to be a very positive direction.

Bad Blood #1 is in stores now.

Nova Phase #1 & #2

“I’m going up on the next ship…”

These days, when you look up at the stars, it’s not too far-fetched to think that you’ll be making a trip up there. Advancements in science are getting us closer and closer to getting off this planet and as the future creeps closer more and more of us will be getting up there. Even bounty hunters will find work among the stars, setting the state for Nova Phase, published by Slave Labor Graphics. The first two issues are written by Matthew Ritter and illustrated by Adam Elbahtimy.

Veronica Darkwater is a down on her luck bounty hunter who finds herself plunged into an intergalactic treasure hunt for a legendary world of untold wealth. But she must compete with a crazy military commander who will stop at nothing to cement his name in history. Will she stay alive long enough to see if the legends of the mythical world of Una Tesara are true? Mix in some space-travel, bounties and a cast of varied characters and you’ve got the trappings of a truly adventurous space tale.

Ritter has taken a western and thrust it into space, presenting a very exciting tale. Veronica is very convincing as a bounty hunter, extremely skilled but almost reluctant in her craft. Her ultimate goal is to make it into space and her path there is a little unconventional. The dialogue is very snappy and reads like an 8-bit video game would, save for the grammatical errors and cheesy lines. It presents extremely ambitious characters, each of whom are seeking their own fortune in life; sometimes though, that fortune isn’t wealth. There are elements of a western interspersed throughout the book, evoking comparisons to Star Wars and Firefly.

Elbahtimy’s art steals the show for sure though, primarily because it dutifully pays homage to the 8-bit games many readers will likely have grown up on. While Ritter’s story is pretty scalable in terms of art, Elbahtimy’s style is truly fantastic and specifically pushes the story further. He plays around with panel layouts and let’s the art feel organic, as if you’re watching a cut-scene from a Nintendo game. There’s a great amount of detail given to the characters, something that you wouldn’t expect considering it’s all 8-bit and thrives on heavy shadows. Elbahtimy successfully conveys the feel of the old-school games and is a treat for the eyes.

Nova Phase #1 & #2 is, quite frankly, a lot of fun. Ritter and Elbahtimy make a great duo and have a book that evokes nostalgia in readers. The story is concise with crisp dialogue, while the art is phenomenal and really hits the mark when it comes to what it set out to do. Veronica Drinkwater is very vulnerable, which is a good trait to have as it will keep the reader on their toes as to how she’ll deal with future situations. The western elements are blended in very cleanly and the characters’ motives are diverse, presenting a myriad of viewpoints and rooting interests. It’s sort of a comic version of what Cowboy Bebop would’ve been as an NES game, which is very high praise indeed.

Nova Phase #1 & #2 will be available on Comixology on January 15. The first issue will be available for free and the second issue will be up the same day and on sale for just 99 cents. A print version of the first two issues will be collected and for sale in February through the SLG website and Amazon. Issue #3 and #4 will be out in March and April respectively, with another two issue collection out in June, and issue #5 and #6 shall be out in July and August, with the final two issue collection coming out for print in September.

The Provider #1

“He does not pay for my insurance so I can run around helping him show off.”

If you’re a superhero do you use your powers to save the day? Better society? Fight supervillains? Or do you sell your talents to the highest bidders in form of protection in an effort to make money? If you’re Luke Ryan in The Provider #1, then you’re the last on the list and business is good. Until it isn’t. The issue is written by Brett Rounsaville and illustrated by Bruno Oliveira.

Luke Ryan is a superpowered capitalist. That is, instead of using his powers to save the day, he leverages those abilities into Luke Ryan Insurance Services, selling premium policies to the mega-rich. His clients are issued a watch used to call on Luke when they’re in danger, something that seems like easy money. It doesn’t take long for the sheen to wear off though, as Luke finds himself facing an insurance fraud case. Meanwhile, one of his few remaining clients has mysteriously disappeared leaving him with some tough choices to make.

Rounsaville’s story is actually very original and slightly discouraging. Not because the story is bad, but it’s a pretty realistic look at how people would react if a superhero did offer their services for private protection. Luke is just as flawed as the people he protects in a way, as he commoditizes his ability much in the way the people he’s protecting handle their wealth. The rich love their thrills and using Luke’s service as a means of impressing friends is something that offers a sobering twist to the concept. The dialogue is very concise and doesn’t really waste words, bringing the reader fully up to speed on the situation while also presenting a new direction for the story as well.

Oliveira’s art is scratchy and defined by thin, black lines. There’s not a wide variety of facial expressions (most of the characters look angry) and there are some panels where the characters seem to be in the exact same pose as a prior panel. There is a good mix of panel layouts though, with Oliveira relying on insets and staggered layouts. There’s also a lot of blank, white backgrounds where the characters exist against, which is interesting and makes the characters stand out that much more.

The Provider #1 is a book where a superhero tries to make an honest living by fleecing the rich. It sort of makes him the same type of person as his clients, so the fact that he’s the subject of an insurance fraud case is a little karmic in a way. Luke isn’t really painted as an anti-hero per se, but he’s not exactly depicted as a hero either. He’s really looking to make a quick buck and is taking advantage of those taking advantage, so the twist of the lawsuit provides conflict for Luke to overcome. The bigger takeaway from the first issue is the secondary plot teased towards the end, where one of Luke’s preferred clients disappears. It’s an interesting book worth checking out if you’re looking for a different take on superheroes.

The Provider #1 is available via Comixology now.

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