Indie Comics Spotlight: Butterfly, Roche Limit, Torsobear Volume One

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By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Butterfly #1

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“But in the project, we don’t have names. Though sometimes…they’ll call me Butterfly.”

The thing about spies is that you always have to watch your back. For as good as they are at hiding their identity and traversing the globe without raising alarm, they also manage to build up quite a list of enemies. That level of danger is something that appeals to the thrill-seeking personality trait shared by most spies; a trait that is typically passed down from parent to child. In Butterfly #1 from Archaia, being a spy is definitely rife with all the requisite dangers. The issue is written by Marguerite Bennett (story by Arash Amel), illustrated by Antonio Fuso, colored by Adam Guzowski and lettered by Steve Wands.

Butterfly is one of Project Delta’s deep cover agents, no birth certificate, no social security number, a complete ghost. When her cover is blown and she is set up for a murder she did not commit, she is unknowingly led to her father’s doorstep, a man she thought died 20 years ago. Codenamed Nightingale, her father was once a member of the very same Project Delta, a spy in the violent aftermath of the Cold War and believes they are behind her setup. Trained to trust nothing and no one, Butterfly must decide whether to seek answers with the Project or believe the man who betrayed her years ago.

One of the biggest components of an espionage tale that has to be done well is the unknown part. That is, following along with the main character and wondering when (or if) they’ll get caught despite all their elaborate ruses and tricks. Bennett does a marvelous job ratcheting up that tension for Becky throughout the book as the reader is introduced to what is more or less the more “tedious” details of a spy’s daily life. There’s genuine concern on the part of Butterfly and the reader as to whether or not she’s going to get pinched by any number of various authority figures and Bennett capitalizes on that for framing the entire series. The latter third of the book is a pretty interesting swerve as well, giving the reader another perspective of Butterfly that makes the entire story come together more tightly.

Boasting a slew of zooms and cut shots, Fuso’s artwork in Butterfly #1 is extremely effective at conveying the hide and seek nature of espionage. The panels are laid out in a way that’s very familiar and organized, feeding into the calculated nature of what it takes to be a spy. Fuso’s looks move the story along at a very brisk pace and feeds into the frenetic nature of spies, moving from city to city and hoping to stay undetected. The rapid-fire nature of Fuso’s art perfectly complements Bennett’s terse narration that accompanies much of the story. Comics in general are really nothing more than just static images, but Fuso’s work adds a certain level of dynamism to the panels that make them all feel like true snapshots of time, rather than just illustrations.

Butterfly #1 is a very strong first issue that takes its time in unfolding to the reader, not really proving to be in a hurry to accomplish anything in particular. The set-up in the first issue is very intriguing and while it does provide a lot of narration and backstory to the reader, it also leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Bennett’s script is relatively simple and straightforward for the most part, while also managing to offer relative complex subtexts that explore the nuanced world of espionage. Fuso’s art feels very mysterious and his use of unique panel layouts keeps the book moving along in very interesting ways. Butterfly #1 is a very enjoyable first issue that is the start of something that will likely be even more enjoyable.

Butterfly #1 is in stores now.

Roche Limit #1

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“I am Langford Skaargard. Adventurer, eccentric and billionaire. I am responsible for the Roche Limit colony and the horrors the place has engendered.”

The Roche Limit requires a little scientific understanding. It’s the distance within a celestial body held together by its own gravity that will disintegrate due to a second celestial body’s tidal forces exceeding the first body’s gravitational self-attraction (Wikipedia for the win!). It doesn’t really seem like the best place to set up a new colony, but Roche Limit #1 from Image Comics seems to disagree. The issue is written by Michael Moreci, illustrated by Vic Malhotra, colored by Jordan Boyd and lettered by Ryan Ferrier.

Twenty years after this promise, billionaire Langford Skaargard’s dream of cosmic exploration is no more. Roche Limit, a colony situated on the cusp of a mysterious energy anomaly, is a melting pot of crime and terrible secrets. When Bekkah Torin goes missing, the search to find her will plunge her sister Sonya and a cadre of the colony’s underworld figures into an odyssey that reveals a grim future for mankind. Leave it to the rich to create a new world where things fall apart very quickly.

It’s pretty easy to compare the Roche Limit colony itself with Rapture (or Columbia) in the Bioshock series, as all three locales thrive on the notion of a populous seizing control. In Roche Limit #1, Moreci hands that control to the criminals of Roche Limit who run the town and generally have their way in the sun. That’s a testament to Moreci’s approach to relaying the tale to readers. He gives Roche Limit the colony room to breathe and unfold before your eyes without forcing any information on you. You’re pretty much just as lost as Sonya is as she seeks out her lost sister. There’s a lot of opportunity in the story for Moreci to put Sonya in a variety of tricky situations and that’s pretty refreshing for a first issue.

Creating a seedy colony is no small task and Malhorta does an excellent job in doing so. Many of the city shots boast plenty in the way of detail and background action, really giving the reader a sense of how bustling Roche Limit really is. The city itself displays an appropriate level of decay as well, which works exceedingly well along the crime narrative crafted by Moreci. Even the characters range in terms of their “criminal” appearance, with Malhotra providing each level of crime with varied looks that reminds you that just because they’re criminals they’re not all necessarily on the same team per se. Mixing in Boyd’s vibrant coloring and you really feel as if you’re touring Roche Limit, taking in all of its ills and evils along the way.

Inviting readers into a new universe is never easy, but Roche Limit #1 handles the introduction slyly, giving readers glimpses of a greater collective evil. The colony feels as tangible as the guilty and innocent citizens who inhabit it. Moreci has demonstrated great ambition in making the series just realized, presenting a world teeming with life and interesting aspects. Malhorta’s art moves throughout the city, stopping just long enough to give the reader a look at yet another shortcoming of the society that inhabits it. Roche Limit #1 is promising to be a sprawling story across a city that feels equally as vast, primarily because of the wide range of emotions and character types who inhabit it.

Roche Limit #1 is in stores now.

Torsobear Volume One: Yarns from Toyburg


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“Teddies…” Hazbrow says. “Huh, you soft sacks ain’t cut out for this kind o’ work.”

Life among toys should be sunshine and rainbows. It should be joyful on a daily basis, with toys excited to play with kids and vice versa. There shouldn’t be criminal issues amongst the toys, but like any other civilization, crime has a way of rearing its head. Recounting those stories and giving voice to the aggrieved is what Torsobear Volume One: Yarns from Toyburg aims to do.

Torsobear Volume One: Yarns from Toyburg is broken into a slew of short stories. These include “Clean Heart, Dirty Paws,” written and illustrated by Brett Uren, “Dress to Impress,” written by Frank Martin, illustrated by Giles Crawford and colored/lettered by Jon Scrivens, “Rich Toy, Poor Toy,” written by Grainne McEntee, illustrated by Matt Rooke and lettered by Uren, “Some Assembly Required,” written by Cy Dethan, illustrated by Peter Mason and lettered by Nic Wilkinson, “She Sang for Buttons, She Unstitched My Heart,” written and illustrated by Uren, colored by Harold Saxon and lettered by Mick Schubert, “The Collector,” written by Glenn Moane, illustrated by Carlos Nick Zumuido, colored by Brian Traynor and lettered by Scrivens, “A New Hopeleness,” written and illustrated by Kieran Squires and colored by Faye Harmon, “The Big Wind Up,” written by Janos Honkonen, illustrated by Saoirse Louise Towler and lettered by Schubert, “Home Invasion,” written by Brockton McKinney and Uren, illustrated by Uren and colored by Harold Saxon, “Sour in the Sweet,” written by Jack Young, illustrated by Randy Haldeman, colored by Uren and lettered by Shawn Aldridge, “Blockheads,” written and illustrated by Scrivens and “We All Fall Down, Playing It the Hard Way,” written and illustrated by Uren.

To say that toys have lives of their own is probably a big understatement. In fact, it’s wholly possible that they have an entire civilization kept under wraps when under the prying eyes (and hands) of jubilant children, running to and fro. If we were able to see a bit deeper into their society though, chances are they would have to contend many of the same fears and social issues that we as humans have to deal with. Peeling back the layers of those tales would definitely make for interesting ready, which is exactly what Torsobear Volume One: Yarns from Toyburg attempts to do.

Torsobear Volume One: Yarns from Toyburg is an anthology for sure, but all the varying creators manage to make their tales feel as if they inhabit the same universe. That’s a very difficult feat for an anthology, but it’s a testament to the talent of all involved that Torsobear Volume One: Yarns from Toyburg doesn’t feel extraordinarily disjointed. Instead, it feels as if you’re taking the tour of a city that has its ups and downs, its highs and lows; much like just about any other major metropolitan area. And these stores tackle many serious issues, most of which surround either criminals and their motivations or the police and their devotion to the job. It’s a very heady confluence of good and evil told through the guise of toys, which allows the writers to capitalize on certain stereotypes to get across a broader social message. Those stereotypes manifest themselves in the way of familiarity with the toys included in the tales.

Artistically, there’s a solid variety of art. Again though–like the writing–the difference between art in one story and the next isn’t so disparate that the book feels like an anthology. It really does help the reader get into the mindset that they’re be given a tour of a very dysfunctional city. The artists match up very well with their respective stories, bringing the right style to convey the appropriate tone of the individual story. If there’s one minor gripe about the artwork overall, it has to do with the lettering. All dialogue and narration are offered in boxes, with no dialogue bubbles. In this regard, Torsobear Volume One: Yarns from Toyburg feels more like you’re being shown the tales of Toyburg from high above, rather than really being brought into the action to “experience” it firsthand.

Torsobear Volume One: Yarns from Toyburg is a very intriguing anthology of stories that takes rather familiar tales of crime and justice and spins them by involving toys. It’s a concept that doesn’t feel like it should work, but all the creators do a great job of making the stories feel natural. All the stories have a few layers to them that have the characters tackling rather mature issues, even though the toys themselves are often perceived as a lot more jovial due to public perception. The artwork is varied enough to make each story feel unique, but not varied enough to make the book feel like a haphazard collection of tales. Torsobear Volume One: Yarns from Toyburg is a fascinating investigation into the rather seedy underbelly of street crime through the eyes of what are seemingly the most innocent eyes possible in toys.

Torsobear Volume One: Yarns from Toyburg is available now.


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