Indie Comics Spotlight: Betty and Veronica Vixens #1, Stain the Seas Scarlet #1, and Port of Earth #1


By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Betty and Veronica Vixens #1

“…it means we’re about to kick some ass.”

Betty and Veronica are an example of one of the most enduring love/hate relationships in all of media. The two of have moved from best friends to worst enemies at the proverbial drop of a dime. In Betty and Veronica Vixens #1 from Archie Comics, the two take their relationship to a new place as members of an outlaw biker gang. The issue is written by Jamie Lee Rotante, illustrated by Eva Cabrera, colored by Elaina Unger, and lettered by Rachel Deering.

The toughest gang in Riverdale is one you’d least expect: the Vixens, led by Riverdale High’s own Betty and Veronica!

Betty and Veronica have the frenemy angle locked down pretty tight and that’s what Rotante leverages to great effect in Betty and Veronica Vixens #1. Rotante reimagines the two female leads as something more than just bookworm and the most popular girl in school; instead, they’re both intent on becoming a biker gang. It’s a pretty radical departure for the two characters for sure, but Rotante works in enough of their primary characteristics that it doesn’t feel that far-fetched. Rotante’s dialogue is a little sassy for a comic in the Archie universe, but considering Betty and Veronica are going up against the Serpents it’s to be expected. And there’s a focus on making Betty out to be more than meets the eye; in fact, Rotante ensures that the reader knows there’s a lot more to Betty than just her intelligence.

Cabrera’s art style in Betty and Veronica Vixens #1 is a modern take on the old school Archie comics. The characters are illustrated in a way that hearkens back to the comic strips boasting the same characters while at the same time looking as if a fresh coat of paint has been applied. Cabrera focuses on the details with thin, wispy lines that sport heft and allow the characters to stand out. The panel layout is very formal and grid-like, leaving the reader to wonder if maybe a few insets and overlays would’ve better matched the burgeoning rebel personas of Betty and Veronica. Unger’s colors are rich, striking the right balance between being bold and not going overboard.

Betty and Veronica Vixens #1 is a departure for the main characters that a lot of readers probably weren’t expecting. Betty and Veronica are reinvented in a way that upends what people typically think of the two leading women. Rotante’s script is evenly paced and effective in giving readers a glimpse at new versions of the iconic characters. Cabrera’s illustrations are a great mix of classic looks and a more modern, slick approach. Betty and Veronica Vixens #1 is a fun reimagining of the new characters that gives them a lot to contend with, but they’re surely up to the task.

Betty and Veronica Vixens #1 is available now.

Stain the Seas Scarlet #1

“We will stomp your face in until the noises are onomatopoeic of rainfall into a filth clogged gutter. You realize this, yes?”

History is rife with civilizations and societies that have been subverted by a more powerful and aggressive group of individuals. In some instances those oppressed simply roll over, but in some cases they actually fight back and make a stand. One such instance occurs in Stain the Seas Scarlet #1. The issue is written by Ryan K. Lindsay, illustrated by Alex Cormack, and lettered by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou.

When Yelena’s planet has just about been successfully driven beneath the boot heel of the scumbag robot terraforming army, she throws a Hail Mary play. She takes the fight to them, via her diplomatic sell-out sister, and she fails. Or does she? What comes next is a wild ride of spacesuit noir that’s a take on a 70s revenge flick with our wandering hero loose in space.

On the very first page of Lindsay’s script, the reader gets a sense of two things: tone and attitude. Lindsay infuses all the characters with an abundance of brashness that seems a little jarring at first, but after getting settled in, the reader starts to appreciate the coarseness of the dialogue. The overarching plot isn’t exactly new per se, but Lindsay puts his stamp on it through characters who hold nothing sacred. It’s appreciated that Lindsay took the relatively boring, space domination theme and really made it his own with strong characters and a violent timeline. There are some back-and-forth jumps in time that allows Lindsay to let the reader know why things are the way they are in the present – the flashbacks are just as vitriolic as the present.

There’s a ferocity to Cormack’s illustrations in Stain the Seas Scarlet #1 that accurately reflects the fiery personalities of the all the characters involved. Cormack’s style is very frenetic and his linework is equally as emotionally charged. There are numerous pages where Cormack bathes the artwork in debris; for instance, a page with the characters in a downpour covers the page in rain drops. That approach feels a little overwhelming at first, but Cormack doesn’t let it take over the book’s look and uses it to great effect. His colors are sharp throughout as well, and tap into the same visceral approach that the linework takes.

Stain the Seas Scarlet #1 is one of those books that more or less lives up to its namesake. Yelena is clearly throwing caution to the wind in her newfound approach and it’s that recklessness that makes the book work. Lindsay doesn’t pull any punches in Stain the Seas Scarlet #1, throwing characters at the reader who are unapologetic about their decisions and actions. Cormack’s artwork is the right kind of dangerous in its approach as it’s the perfect representation of the script. Stain the Seas Scarlet #1 is a thoroughly enjoyable issue that refuses to play it safe.

Stain the Seas Scarlet #1 will be available soon.

Port of Earth #1

“We always knew we weren’t alone.”

Earth’s place in the galaxy is one that seems pretty inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. That could – and will – definitely change as we make more advancements in rocket technology, but for now, we’re left to dream. In Port of Earth #1 from Image Comics, that dream becomes a reality of sorts. The issue is written by Zack Kaplan, illustrated by Andrea Mutti, colored by Vladimir Popov, and lettered by Troy Peteri.

Imagine if aliens came to Earth not in war or peace, but with a business deal: open up a spaceport here on Earth in exchange for advanced technology. But when our alien visitors break port restrictions and wreak havoc in our cities, it falls to the newly formed Earth Security Agents to hunt down and safely deport the dangerous rogue aliens back to the Port of Earth.

Kaplan taps into a lot of pent-up frustration surrounding immigration and uses that as the crux of Port of Earth #1. To get to that point, though, Kaplan crams a lot of expository in the first half of the issue to get the reader up to speed with what’s going on. It’s a little jarring because it’s essentially an information dump, but Kaplan does it pretty well and it provides plenty of context for the remainder of the issue. Because of all that information front-loading, Kaplan doesn’t really do much in the way of dialogue until the second-half of the issue – that dialogue is pretty straightforward yet effective. The concept as a whole is pretty sound, though, and Kaplan does great to make it seem like a not-to-distant future for Earth.

The artistic approach in the issue affords the work something of a future, dystopian feel. Mutti captures an otherworldliness in Earth through a seemingly scratchy approach, illustrating the Port of Earth and its surroundings with an emphasis on rough textures. Mutti’s linework is clean for the most part, but the understated approach dulls the impact of the overarching message somewhat. Because Mutti uses perspectives that are seemingly removed from the action there’s a sense that the reader is observing all the events unfold as opposed to being part of them. Popov’s colors are muted and washed out which, again, belies the ambitious narrative beneath.

Port of Earth #1 sets its sights pretty high and is slowly building its way up to that. The Earth Security Agents are tasked with preserving the safety of Earth in the path of interstellar vessels seeking to refuel and things continue to escalate. Kaplan’s script is front-loaded with information and doesn’t really give the characters much room to develop, but that should change in future issues. Mutti’s artwork is loose in its approach and captures the essence of the Earth’s future as the aforementioned refueling station. Port of Earth #1 starts off very slowly even if it appears to just start scratching the surface.

Port of Earth #1 is available now.

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