Indie Comics Spotlight – Bad Dreams, Turok Dinosaur Hunter and Mariachi-Dachi


by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Bad Dreams #1


“Mary has just awoken in an unfamiliar world…”

Bad dreams have a way of staying with us. Even long after you’ve woken up, there are still aspects of some dreams that just haunt you for the remainder of the day. If there was a way to venture into those dreams and fight through them, things may be a tad more bearable. Venturing into a dream as an adventure is one step better and occurs in Bad Dreams #1 from Red 5 Comics. Bad Dreams #1 is written and illustrated by Gary Winnick.

Nimrod, Spide and Sir Spanks the Insistant join Mary on a mission for Mother Night. Mother Night had something taken from her that’s subsequently imprisoned her in a tower and prevented nightfall from falling over the aforementioned unfamiliar world. Alas, a journey for a key wouldn’t be simple enough, as there are other forces at play seeking to prevent Mary from accomplishing her mission. As with every adventure, the travelers need some obstacles and Bad Dreams promises to throw those at the merry band in spades it would seem.

Winnick started at LucasArts and co-designed Maniac Mansion and Bad Dreams has that sensibility to it. It’s very much an RPG comic in a way, in that the characters are clearly established and objects are given to them that unlock the next part of the story. Take this token, use this compass…these are tools to advance the story and makes it feel like a comic book of Maniac Mansion to an extent. Winnick leaves the actual treasure being searched for as something of a mystery, giving the reader just enough to know what they’re reading. The dialogue is pretty simplistic and Winnick relies on the reader drawing upon their knowledge of the general format of the plot (a la Wizard of Oz) to move them along.

Winnick’s art is very fantastical, thrusting the reader smackdab in the middle of a strange new world. Nimrod embodies the dark unknown, Spide is deceivingly strong and Spanks is equal parts feisty and helpful. Winnick illustrates them all with bold white outlines and black infill, keeping with the concept of a bad dream. Mary feels a little cartoonish herself especially when put next to Mother Night and Winnick uses a style for all humans that’s very similar. The panel layout is pretty formulaic and boasts a wide array of staggered rectangles and insets with more attention paid to the characters than the settings.

Bad Dreams #1 has all-ages appeal and is setting up to be a rather lighthearted adventure. It’s shaping up to feel like you’re reading Maniac Mansion, albeit about 30 years later and with less Purple Tentacle. The plot is simple enough to follow and the art is somewhat cartoonish in appearance. Winnick is clearly having fun with the book and wants the reader to enjoy reading it, both feats accomplished in the first issue. The best way to ensure your copy of Bad Dreams this spring is to pre-order it before February 28 from your comic shop using order code FEB141419. Bad Dreams #1 is set for release on April 23, 2014, as the first in a five-issue series.

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #1


“Little man. You gotta learn who your friends are.”

Hunting dinosaurs isn’t really a profession that’s in strong demand these days. Unless, that is, you’re hunting dinosaur fossils, which really isn’t in that much more demand. If those dinosaurs are part of a large plan to run you and your people off your land though, it might be prudent to have a dinosaur hunter or two on hand to assist in repelling the invaders. In Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #1 from Dynamite Entertainment, Turok might just be the most marquis dinosaur hunter around. The issue is written by Greg Pak, illustrated by Mirko Colak, colored by Lauren Affe and lettered by Marshall Dillon.

Turok is really good at being alone, which works out well considering he’s been shunned from his tribe. He’s harassed over paying off his family’s debts, forcing him to hone his survival skills and find peace in solitude. That solitude isn’t enough to stop dinosaurs from attacking his people for reasons yet unknown. Beyond the really important question as to why there are dinosaurs is another one: will Turok set aside his solitude to save the tribe from extinction?

Fortunately for new readers, Pak doesn’t draw too much on the Turok games, which means you can jump right in. Turok himself is characterized as quiet, deadly and resourceful, all characteristics that will surely come in handy down the road. What’s more is that the way those characteristics are brought to life is very subtly and through simple actions on the part of Turok. In this respect, Pak does a masterful job of introducing Turok without forcing anything onto the character. As part of the bigger plot, Turok’s shunning will prove to be an interesting juxtaposition to whether or not he shuns his tribe when faced with interlopers seeking land…who just so happen to have dinosaurs at their disposal.

Colak’s art is well done, illustrating a lush landscape where Turok and his people inhabit. The layouts are very seamless; giving the reader a full look into what Turok’s world looks like, rife with flora, fauna and–again–dinosaurs. Turok carries a serene expression throughout most of the issue, something that Colak utilizes to show Turok’s calm demeanor and possible apathy at times. The dinosaurs are illustrated with some of the more recent findings regarding their appearance, considering they showcase some of the bird-like qualities science has been pushing more as of late. Colak doesn’t shy away from mixing up the panel layouts, offering a wide range of looks that make the book flow much better.

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #1 presents a character with the necessary skills to save his people. Whether or not he uses them though to that end is what will make the book interesting. Pak’s first issue is a little slow to develop, but it affords the reader time to fully embrace the type of person Turok is and the situation he’s faced with (both internally and externally). Dinosaurs being thrown in always make for a good time and Colak emphasizes their ferocity amidst the peaceful forest backgrounds. Fans of the games will definitely want to check Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #1 out, but new readers will also find some pretty strong stuff here as well.

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #1 is in stores now.

Mariachi-Dachi #1


“Yeah, they’re pretty good – but their old stuff is still way better.”

The sounds of a Mariachi band are very uplifting. The thing is, those in feudal Japan might not have heard them before. What happens when they do? A lot of rocking out and being happy while doing it. Thrusting a Mariachi band back in time has the potential to be amazing in Mariachi-Dachi #1 from The Grey Ninja. The first issue is written by Kevin & Kyle Merriman and illustrated by Kevin Merriman.

An unsuspecting Mariachi band is hurled back in time and find themselves in Ancient Japan. By complete mistake, or utter genius in this bizarre mash-up of culture, time and space – the band ignites what will become ground zero of their ultimate and strange destiny. The aforementioned band just so happens to start playing at a shrine that inadvertently offends a musician who’s part of the Monzaemon Clan, a clan rife with traveling street musicians.

You have to hand it to the Merrimans: Mariachi-Dachi #1 is very unique and refreshing. The concept of a Mariachi band thrust into the past is interesting in its own right, but putting them into a battle of the bands is even more fascinating. The book feels like a cross between Scott Pilgrim and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, but it’s a lot more comedic in nature than those two. The writing is lighthearted and very enjoyable, not taking itself too seriously. Digging deeper though and you realize that there’s a lot more to the story, mainly the premise that music is a language that transcends culture. That’s part of the genius of the book: there’s a lost in translation aspect between the Spanish Mariachi band and the Japanese citizens, but all of them can find common ground in music.

Merriman’s illustrations are about as bubbly as the story itself. The characters personify the intensity of the music battles, filling the pages with explosions, color changes symbolizing music peaks and valleys and characters who are caricatures themselves. These colors change with the characters and their music; for example, when the Mariachi band performs, the color changes to an orange that feels warm. It’s a very powerful art style that perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the book itself. The panels afford a very seamless art style that really flows from panel to panel, stocking the book with a ton of instances of music filling life with, well, life.

Mariachi-Dachi #1 is a book that’s a lot of fun. It’s definitely all ages and offers a theme of music as a universal language. It’s a very uplifting book that enjoys itself along the way, giving readers something lighthearted to read. What’s more is that along with the book, there’s also 22 pages featuring gorgeous fan art, sketches and some of the early development work done to bring this story to life. You’d be hard-pressed to read Mariachi-Dachi #1 and not come away with a smile at the end of it. There’s even some intrigue as to what comes next (and before), as how the Mariachi band got back in time and get back is something worth reading.

Mariachi-Dachi #1 is available via Comixology now.

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