Indie Comics Spotlight (Black Hood Season Two #1, Flash Gordon #1, Transformers: Revolution #1)

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by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)
 

The Black Hood Season Two #1

 
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“Of course, I never sleep.”
 
Fighting crime is typically left to the crimefighters such as the police and military. Very rarely do citizens take it upon themselves to do the enforcing. Greg Hettinger is one such man in The Black Hood Season Two #1 from Dark Circle Comics. The issue is written by Duane Swierczynski, illustrated by Greg Scott, colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick and lettered by Rachel Deering.
 
The Black Hood is no more. Sure, there are rumors that the former cop known as Greg Hettinger is still out there, blending in with the homeless population—and emerging only to stop a violent attack before vanishing again. But the ruthless assassin known as The Nobody considers the Black Hood a loose end, and he’s willing to slaughter dozens to flush him out. How high must the body count rise before Greg steps forward to face an opponent he can’t possibly beat?
 
Swierczynski’s approach in the issue is pretty basic yet surprisingly effective. The first half of the issue is spent reacquainting the reader with Greg Hettinger and his vigilante take on justice while the second half is focused on what’s expected to be his upcoming opponent. Swierczynski uses each character as the narrative focus for their respective halves in a way that offers a dichotomy of conscience. In fact, most of the issue is narrated as stream of thought on the part of both characters and Swierczynski uses that technique in a way that doesn’t slow down the pace of the issue. There’s also a broader message that people can disappear into a crowd if they really want to and Swierczynski leans on that as a metaphor for wearing a mask.
 
The artwork is very rough. Scott’s rather harsh approach to characters and scenery infuses the book with an appropriate amount of grit that’s a good match for Greg and his approach. The extremely rigid panel layouts with slightly wider empty gutters in between give the art a cinematic quality to it. Scott frames panels to achieve this as well, in that many of the shots are establishing shots. Fitzpatrick emphasizes the seediness of the world Greg seeks to inhabit by washing the book out with darker tones of blues and blacks.
 
The Black Hood Season Two #1 is a strong opening salvo in Greg’s continued war on the unjust. He’s moved across the country and is seeking some anonymity–even more so than what just wearing a mask would get him. The script by Swierczynski is very straightforward and moves along at a brisk pace, getting character development out of the way for the good stuff down the road. Scott’s artwork is presented in a way that looks and feels dirty, reminding the reader that there are both good and bad people in the world. The Black Hood Season Two #1capitalizes on everything that worked in the first series and then some.
 
The Black Hood Season Two #1 is in stores now.
 


Flash Gordon: King’s Curse #1

 
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“Death to Ming!”
 
Routine is always threatened by chaos. Sometimes that chaos is pretty harmless like a late bus or train, but other times it’s a lot more dangerous like an alien warlord seeking to take over your home planet. Flash Gordon: King’s Cross #1 from Dynamite Comics seems to think the former is tamer than the latter and they’re going big. The issue is written by Jeff Parker, illustrated by Jesse Hamm, colored by Grace Allison and lettered by Simon Bowland.
 
Flash, Mandrake The Magician & The Phantoms struggle to bring peace to a broken Earth…but a FAR-too-familiar foe from beyond threatens to destroy everything they hold dear!
 
It’s readily apparent that Parker knows a thing or two about the characters in Flash Gordon: King’s Cross #1 as he writes with a nod to their legacy. In fact, much of the issue is so steeped in the history of characters like Flash Gordon, The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician that reading the issue is a little daunting if you’re not as familiar with their exploits. Parker still manages to make the book accessible to new readers by giving each character a solid introduction that defines who they are and why they fight evil. Parker gives the book a steady pacing that builds up to a pretty climatic ending that also sets the stage for the series at large. And the dialogue has some campiness to it as Parker doesn’t let the book or its characters take things too seriously.
 
Hamm’s artwork is a perfect fit for the throwback sensibility engendered by the story. The heroes are illustrated in a way that’s larger than life and reinforces their commitment to protecting innocents from the perils of evil. The panels are cleanly arranged and there’s a couple of pages for Flash Gordon’s introduction where Hamm clearly had a blast illustrating as each panel on the page shows Flash dealing with one baddie while a friend looks on and drinks. Character and background design mimic that cleanliness as well in that each are presented by Hamm with concise linework. The colors used by Allison are somewhat washed out, but they’re effective because of the history of the characters and the fact that the book seeks to invoke their past reverence.
 
Flash Gordon: King’s Cross #1 is rife with kitsch. Flash Gordon, The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician are faced with a bold enemy seeking to destroy the world and the trio will need all the help they can get to stop it. Parker’s script is lighthearted and a breeze to read, filled with moments of levity that keep things from getting too dramatic. Hamm’s illustrations are simple yet effective in presenting the reader with a look befitting of the characters involved. Flash Gordon: King’s Cross #1 is a lot of fun and is definitely worth checking out.
 
Flash Gordon: King’s Cross #1 is in stores now.
 


Transformers: Revolution #1

 
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“You picked the wrong day to mess with me buddy. I’m going to throw you into the sun.”
 
The Autobots are largely misunderstood by inhabitants of Earth. Many times they’re trying to help the planet out, but people on Earth have a tendency to be scared of giant robots that can turn into everyday objects. If all of them were as delightful as Thundercracker is in Transformers: Revolution #1 from IDW Publishing then perhaps it might be a different story. The issue is written by John Barber, illustrated by Andrew Griffith, colored by Thomas Deer and lettered by Gilberto Lazland.
 
Thundercracker and Buster save the world! A Decepticon who wants to be a screenwriter. A dog who wants to, I don’t know, eat stuff and chase squirrels or whatever dogs want to do. A White House under siege by Dire Wraiths. And the phone call that brings them all together. Just because Optimus Prime and Soundwave are leading the Revolution doesn’t mean the rest of the Transformers aren’t keeping busy!
 
Of all the Transfomers, Barber ensures that Thundercracker is probably the most unique. Barber writes the character as if he’s a struggling screenwriter seeking to reconcile his innate desires to be a successful writer with the stark reality that there are other things he could be doing that are probably more pressing. It’s very meta in its approach and reminds the reader that even Decepticons-turned-Autobots have more than just one, mega-robot dimension. The somewhat self-effacing attitude of Thundercracker allows Barber to pepper the book with humor despite the seemingly dire circumstances the President of the United States finds herself in. The issue is a one-shot, but that still gives Barber plenty of time to pace the issue in a way where the set-up is met with a very satisfying conclusion.
 
Griffith does his best to make the issue feel like a Transformers cartoon. Thundercracker is given plenty of emotion that matches his pensive mindset and that makes him more relatable to the human characters cast around him. The majority of the issue features heavy destruction and chaos all around, both of which Griffin handles very well and with seemingly little effort. The panels are largely a standard grid, but there are a few occasions where Griffin strays to an inset or overlay to stand out a bit more from the empty gutters. Deer does a great job with the colors as the organic characters are clearly distinguishable from Thundercracker and his rich blues and grays.
 
Transformers: Revolution #1 is a very lighthearted yet enjoyable issue. Thundercracker is one of the more entertaining Transformers there are and his ability to juggle saving the world with writing a screenplay is admirable. Barber clearly had a lot of fun in writing the issue, infusing it with a happy balance of drama and comedy. The artwork by Griffith is entertaining does a good job of showcasing plenty of combat and action-sequences. Transformers: Revolution #1 is a great one-shot tying into the broader IDW Revolution series that gives one of the less noticed Transformer his time to shine.
 
Transformers: Revolution #1 is in stores now.


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