Indie Comics Spotlight: Blue Hour #1, Labyrinth 30th Anniversary Special #1, and Fwendly Fwuit: Winter Wonders


By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Blue Hour #1


“Sixty years from now. Seventeen years after the Great Resource War.”

Finding a home for a large group of people is no easy task. One of the biggest things to contend with is the possibility of other people already calling a new home their home. In Blue Hour #1 from Action Lab Entertainment, that contention becomes even more dangerous for the visitors. The issue is written by Dino Caruso, illustrated by Chad Cicconi, colored by Francesca Zambon, and lettered by Adam Wollet.

Following a great resource war on Earth, a group of disillusioned human colonists seek refuge on a desolate planet in a remote binary star system. They plan to build a utopia, but when the yellow sun sets, leaving only a blue sun above, a deep indigo shadow covers the colony. Local alien legend says the “Blue Hour” will spell evil and ruin for all who venture out of shelter. Can the colonists overcome this harsh environment and their own human nature to survive the “Blue Hour”?

Caruso taps into the prevailing theme of resource availability in Blue Hour #1, jumping into the fear inherent in the paucity of resources. To get to this message though, Caruso fast-forwards through some of the history to set the stage for the present. His approach works, although the first part of the issue feels a little rushed, yet the second-half of the issue slows down a bit and is where the meat of the story is. It’s an interesting way to set up the current state of things and his dialogue effectively fills the reader in on the events to that point. One minor gripe is that Caruso doesn’t really spend as much time with the characters themselves which somewhat lowers the stakes for the entire series as a whole.

There’s a very rudimentary style to the artwork that Cicconi uses. His characters are pretty generic in appearance and many of them seem to float against sparsely illustrated backgrounds. These characters are emphasized by bold, black outlines that make them stand out from one another and the backgrounds. The panels are laid out pretty simply, with Cicconi again relying on black outlines for the panel borders. Zambon’s colors are focused more on the characters than anything else, giving each major player a very distinct look.

Blue Hour #1 is a cautionary tale about survival. The human colonists are desperate to find a better place to live, but even living on another planet under the guise of peace will likely breed anger amongst that planet’s indigenous beings. Caruso really dives into that sense of conquest in Blue Hour #1 as the catalyst for the series’ events. Cicconi’s illustrations are straightforward and simple, providing the book with enough of a sense of otherworldliness. Blue Hour #1 is a space book with broader, political machinations at play.

Blue Hour #1 is in stores now.

Labyrinth 30th Anniversary Special #1


“Rocks, friends?”

Labyrinth is a classic. A marvelous – yet terrifying – classic tale rife with wizards, goblins, and magic locales. Filling out those locales is a wide assortment of interesting characters, some of which get some love in Labyrinth 30th Anniversary Special #1 from Archaia. “Gone Fishing” is written and illustrated by Gustavo Duarte; “Wisdom & Idioms” and “Stone Cold” are written and illustrated by Cory Godbey; “Rock Solid Friendship” is written by Dam Smith and illustrated by Kyla Vanderklugt; “Hoggle and the Worm” is written by Ted Naifeh and Adrianne Ambrose, illustrated by Godbey, and lettered by Deron Bennett; “Humongous Two” is written by Jonathan Case, illustrated by Daniel Bayliss, colored by Jen Hickman, and lettered by Warren Montgomery; and “Sir Didymus’s Grand Day” is written and illustrated by Godbey.

Celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the beloved Jim Henson fantasy film with stories from inside the magical walls of the labyrinth. The issue features fan-favorite characters like Ludo, Hoggle, Sir Didymus, and even a few surprises, this special celebration collects all of the Labyrinth Free Comic Book Day stories along with new tales for the first time. And the covers are high-quality cardstock and feature spot-gloss and holofoil enhancements.

Each of the stories in Labyrinth 30th Anniversary Special #1 is sufficiently light-hearted and friendly. In fact, just about all of them of focus on the concepts of friendship and camaraderie as ways to succeed in life and make the most of even the seemingly direst situations. Ludo features prominently in a lot of the stories and his simple approach to life definitely helps in oversimplifying the concept of simply being nice to one another when they need it. For all the songs and perilous situations, at its core Labyrinth is all about getting help through a difficult situation and Labyrinth 30th Anniversary Special #1 taps into that message well. Each story also maintains the humor and zaniness the film fostered, largely owing to the somewhat whimsical nature of the characters involved.

While the artwork in Labyrinth 30th Anniversary Special #1 is quite varied, all of it maintains a very innocent approach. Duarte’s work in “Gone Fishing” is the most stylistic of the bunch and feels the most like a comic book. Godbey’s work, on the other hand, is the most ethereal, relying on a hand-painted aesthetic that fits well within the Labyrinth universe. Vanderklugt’s art in “Rock Solid Friendship” has a throwback quality to it that is reminiscent of artwork from the late 70s/early 80s. And Bayliss’ approach in “Humongous Two” is predicated on offering a world full of characters that really underscores how vastly populated the world of Labyrinth really is.

Labyrinth 30th Anniversary Special #1 is a fitting homage to one of the cult-classic films of the Jim Henson era. Each story strays away from focusing on the main characters of the film; instead, it relies on the rich supporting cast to further flesh out the world. All of the writers clearly understand and admire the work, imbuing Labyrinth 30th Anniversary Special #1 with their own take on the characters of the classic. The artwork is varied throughout and presents a satisfying take on the world. Labyrinth 30th Anniversary Special #1 is a very welcome return to a fantastical world that emphasizes the importance of friendship in getting through tough situations.

Labyrinth 30th Anniversary Special #1 is in stores now.

Fwendly Fwuit: Winter Wonders


“We’re baa-aack!!”

Comics in general have been striving to be more inclusive of all readers, prompting even the big two to make seemingly drastic storyline decisions in the name of diversity. This has led to more and more all-ages books and series that aren’t predicated on capes and tights. Fwendly Fwuit: Winter Wonders is one of those books, attempting to show people that little kids can enjoy comics too. The issue is written and illustrated by Mickey Lam.

Bawana and Stawberry help their new friend after a game of hide-and-seek in the desert goes pear-shaped!

Lam’s approach in Fwendly Fwuit: Winter Wonders capitalizes on embracing children as readers, too, and attempts to connect to their sense of wonderment via fruit. In that regard, Lam’s characters are exceedingly – ahem – fwendly and easygoing. There’s a larger problem with the script itself in that it feels somewhat disjointed and rushed. Bawana and Stawberry are having a sleepover on Wonder Eve (akin to Christmas Eve) and Lam doesn’t really address why Stawberry is spending Wonder Day with Bawana’s family as opposed to Stawberry’s own. What’s more is that the entire plot is predicated on the duo going to an extremely dangerous locale to save someone else who managed to get themselves in trouble. It’s easy to say that since it’s just a kid’s book that looking at the book this critically is a little unfair, but there are countless variations of children’s media where there’s still a message or moral issued alongside the plot.

Where the book probably becomes more appealing (no bawana pun intended) is the artwork. Lam’s characters explode off the page as he pays attention to filling every page with plenty of color and bombast. The two main characters are successfully anthropomorphized fruit and bring with them all the relevant motions and mannerisms. Lam even includes a couple of pretty stellar two-page spreads filled to the brim with color and action, making the book very attractive to look at for children readers. When the story takes the turn towards the hostile area, Lam really does well in rendering the location as such, filling the locale with plenty of angry inhabitants and desolate landscapes.

Fwendly Fwuit: Winter Wonders aims to be for children and it essentially nails that goal. Bawana and Stawberry are really just looking to enjoy life and one another’s company, saving the day along the way. Lam’s dialogue is rife with purposeful phonetic misspellings which are a little distracting and seem to target very young children more than anyone else. The artwork is vibrant though, as Lam clearly enjoyed illustrating talking fruit interacting with one another. Fwendly Fwuit: Winter Wonders is a good way to show kids that comics can be as crazy as anything they can imagine.

Fwendly Fwuit: Winter Wonders is available now.

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