Indie Comics Spotlight: Bankshot #1, Crosswind #1, and SwordQuest #1


By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Bankshot #1

“Now, I’m going to tell you a story.”

The saying goes that war is hell. War is also profitable for many which is why so many countries seem ready to jump right in. It’s only profitable for certain people, however, and Marcus King in Bankshot #1 from Dark Horse Comics is one of those people. The issue is written by Alex de Campi, illustrated by ChrisCross, colored by Snakebite Cortez, and lettered by de Campi.

Marcus King: modern-day Robin Hood or terrorist? Maybe both? When Marcus comes face to face with an adversary who knows all of his carefully buried truths, he’s forced to become the man he has always pretended to be. And punch a small army of dudes. And blow up stuff. Lots of stuff.

De Campi isn’t shy about positioning Bankshot #1 as a book about war and the chaos that accompanies it. Most of the first issue is predicated on this chaos as de Campi uses it to drive the narrative and the development of Marcus King as a character. This bombastic approach keeps the pace frenetic. The dialogue is very brisk and fast-paced in a way that keeps up with the action perfectly. And de Campi knows that war transcends nationality, mixing in a good variety of different intelligence agencies and players to keep things fresh.

The artwork by ChrisChross is – quite frankly – bananas. ChrisChross infuses the book with sheer chaos in terms of combat and battle, filling a good chunk of the middle of the book with panels that depict nothing but war. Each of the panels is extremely effective at enlightening the reader on the perils of war and ChrisCross doesn’t shy away from bullets, explosions and fire. The black gutters further this effect by drawing more attention to the action in panels. The colors by Cortez provide the right shade of olive green for most of the book to complete the desert setting.

Bankshot #1 is bombastic. Marcus King is a man with a very profound ability to find himself in the company of some of the world’s worst people without thinking twice. De Campi infuses the book with all manner of violent enthusiasm as the characters seem to think that war is the only answer. ChrisCross’ artwork is fantastic and follows along with the action flawlessly. Bankshot #1 is non-stop from the jump and just gets even more wild as it unfolds.

Bankshot #1 is available now.

Crosswind #1

“So, you know, good job, I guess.”

A crosswind is any wind that cuts across a direction of travel. The effect is usually that it blows a traveler off course as it pushes them sideways. It’s an extremely applicable as a title as well, as best evidenced by Crosswind #1 from Image Comics. The issue is written by Gail Simone, illustrated by Cat Staggs, and lettered by Simon Bowland.

A slick and ruthless Chicago hitman. A smart but downtrodden Seattle housewife. When an inexplicable event strikes these two random strangers, their bodies, souls, and lives are switched to potentially deadly effect. It’s Freaky Friday meets Goodfellas!

Crosswind #1 thrives on the notion that there are gender stereotypes that directly feed into how society responds to them. Simone writes Cason as a ruthless, Chicago hitman and Juniper as a bullied, suburban housewife and sets them each as such very effectively. Juniper is constantly harassed because of the fact that she’s a woman; it’s something that Simone writes as more than just unfair treatment as a one-off, but rather a way of life for her (and most women). In fact, the entire issue is a set-up as Simone lays the groundwork for the two characters daily lives and how they interact/react to those around them. And that’s what makes the premise behind the series fascinating, in that Simone is going to reverse the roles in a way that allows the characters to learn more about themselves and how being perceived differently is a big deal.

Staggs’ artwork is the right kind of gritty. She sets the tone of the book with an illustrative style that feels like painted photographs, infusing the tale with a sense of realism. Because of her approach, the characters show off very real emotion throughout the issue – most notably, there’s one panel where Juniper clearly looks distressed with her mouth slightly downturned that the reader better understands what she has to contend with. The panels are laid out in a somewhat haphazard way that works well to present the reader with the full extent of both of the main characters’ worlds. When it comes to the actual event that is the catalyst for the remainder of the series, Staggs doubles-down on the juxtaposition between gender roles by offering a somewhat jarring switch with chaotic panels and a blacked-out page.

Crosswind #1 is a new take on an old concept that seeks to upend some preconceived notions about things. Juniper and Cason are both in for very rude awakenings after the switch as they reconcile their personalities with their appearances. Simone has written a strong first issue that sets the tone well by clearly defining the parameters of society each character is used to contending with. Staggs’ artwork is a great match for the script and conveys a bevy of emotions. Crosswind #1 is off to a fascinating start and things will likely get even more unpredictable as the series unfolds.

Crosswind #1 is available now.

SwordQuest #1

“So what’s a SwordQuest?”

Video games didn’t always used to be the massive spectacle that they’ve become now. In the past – before 4K was a thing – they relied more on a sense of friendship and huddling around one screen with a rental from Blockbuster. SwordQuest #1 from Dynamite Comics seeks to revisit that unified sense of friendship. The issue is written by Chad Bowers and Chris Sims, illustrated by Ghostwriter X, color flats by Karl Fan, and lettered by Josh Krach.

In 1984, Peter Case was on his way to being crowned champion of SwordQuest, set to win the last of four contests and lay claim to a golden sword worth over $50,000. But when the game was discontinued, Peter found himself without a game to finish. Now, over thirty years later, Peter’s stuck in a different kind of game entirely – the game of life, and he’s losing fast. But when he learns that all the prizes meant for the SwordQuest contest of his youth are on display in the World Arcade Museum, he finds an unknown determination that sees him put together a team of like-minded losers for the ultimate heist job – a real-life sword quest!

Bowers and Sims want to take the fictional quests of our youths and turn them into something a bit more tangible. In that regard, SwordQuest #1 succeeds brilliantly by presenting a pretty credible set-up to the series. Bowers and Sims fill the issue with a decent amount of backstory that lets the reader know about the relationship among the main characters and how they’ve cut their teeth together on the classic SwordQuest game. The dialogue is pretty straightforward in this regard and doesn’t get too wordy in its presentation. And by the end of the issue the writing duo have clearly established the stakes for the players and what they’ll need to contend with.

The artwork by Ghostwriter X has an appropriate level of nostalgia baked into it. The characters are illustrated with a loose style that feels appropriate for a time when Atari was one of (if not) the big players in the game console market. Ghostwriter X doesn’t focus on detail at all, eschewing intricately drawn panels for something simpler and more relaxed. The panels are arranged very cleanly in a way that offers a scrapbook presentation of sorts and makes it easy to follow along. And the muted colors provide a further sense of nostalgia and reminiscence as the characters think back to their video game heyday of sorts.

SwordQuest #1 is a book that’s pretty unapologetic about the straightforwardness of its aim. Peter is a man with a twinge of nostalgia tugging at him and is insistent on seeing that nostalgia through, even if it means pulling off a seemingly unbelievable crime caper. The writing duo of Bowers and Sims do a great job of presenting the reader with the stakes and everything they need to know about the seemingly zany quest about to unfold. And the illustrations by Ghostwriter X are simple and clean, further evoking that sense of childhood nostalgia. SwordQuest #1 will definitely appeal to fans of old-school video games and the camaraderie often associated with Friday night gatherings around the games.

SwordQuest #1 is available now.

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