Indie Comics Spotlight: Divinity, The Empty, Fathom Kiani


By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

The Empty #1


“The rest is rot. Poison infects everything.”

Humans fear the unknown. They grab onto things they know and hold onto them as anchors, relying on them as a solid foundation to which they can tether themselves and have a constant. Venturing into the unknown is a bold step for those on the fringes of civilization, but it must be done in the interest of human survival. In The Empty #1 from Image Comics, the world’s inhabitants are forced to contend with such an unknown. The issue is written and illustrated by Jimmie Robinson.

Tanoor lives in an empty apocalyptic world of poison and decay. Her village is all that remains of humanity as they struggle against mutant beasts and rotting bones. But Tanoor finds a chance to save her people when a stranger drifts into town. A stranger armed with the power to grow life from death. A stranger who could change the world-if Tanoor can keep them alive in the deadly world of The Empty.

The Empty #1 is a story about a village living in fear. They’re living in fear of the unknown, cowering behind the veneer of the last bit of familiarity they can grasp onto. Robinson’s portrayal of such a climate is powerful and offering Tanoor as a bold opposition to the mindset is a great way to inject conflict from the start. She’s insistent on finding a way to reverse their predicament, even if the elders seem to think otherwise and instead are content to assume the worst is out there in “the empty.” Their plight is a classic man versus nature one as well, with nature essentially fighting back against humanity through a deadly poison. That scenario makes the arrival of the stranger quite poignant, as she represents both a possible salvation and a great unknown that the villagers must accept.

Besides the environmental story threads, what stands out most in The Empty #1 is the vivid and vibrant artwork. Characters take centerstage, sporting a rather elongated look that makes the setting feel even more foreign to the reader, adding to the mystique. Tanoor’s look is one of desperation and violence–two things she manages on a daily basis–as she sports a smattering of tattered bandages and bloodstains from hunts. The facial expressions on the characters are intensely emotive, underscoring the somewhat turbulent nature of the book itself. And Robinson doesn’t shy away from bold colors, despite the somewhat dystopian elements pervasive throughout the work.

The Empty #1 is a very strong first issue that succeeds at transporting the reader to a faraway place. And the reader is fortunate too, because it’s got strong JRPG sensibilities to it that indicate to the reader that there are broad aspirations and ambitions contained within. Robinson’s story is clean and straightforward, presenting characters that are intriguing and interact in ways that encourage the conflict of the plot. His artwork is unique and refined, presenting the Empty as a vast unknown that’s truly effective at instilling fear in those on its fringes. The Empty #1 is a really solid first issue that does everything right and is aiming to go down a very turbulent path before it’s all said and done.

The Empty #1 is in stores now.

Fathom Kiani Volume 4 #1


“My dealings with them have been few, but I know enough to understand that they are dangerous. And reckless.”

Americans have a reputation for being what some would call bullies. There’s a sentiment around the world that our military might makes right and we can essentially take on any and all opponent with relative ease. Sometimes those opponents put up a fight, yet no matter how prepared we are we’re still not ready to deal with forces beyond our control. In Fathom Kiani Volume 4 #1 from Aspen Comics, the might of the American military is tested by a hero from under the ocean. The issue is written by Vince Hernandez, illustrated by Giuseppe Cafaro, colored by Wes Hartman and lettered by Josh Reed.

Kiani has finally reunited with her sister, Anika. Following the catastrophic destruction of the Volna, the Russian government’s secret Blue research facility, the United States has decided to take action against the rising threat of the Blue. However, in Africa, Kiani and Anika discover that their family bond is stronger than any one army-as their fight to survive above the surface will lead to a revolution amongst the people that will change the landscape of the human race forever.

Being an individual with powers that makes you stand out doesn’t make your daily routine any easier and it’s something Aspen Comics has really hit home with its Fathom series. Aspen Matthews manages to successfully mingle with humans–despite her immense powers–yet Kiani has never been as fortunate. In Fathom Kiani Volume 4 #1, Hernandez gives Kiani a chance to use her abilities for the betterment of mankind, but it turns out that even then she still can’t catch a break. And while she’s spent much of her life fighting against her own kind, it only makes sense that Hernandez would throw humankind her way and give her yet another opponent to deal with. A rote life for Kiani doesn’t make for very fascinating reading and Hernandez does a good job presenting her as someone is trying to be good, but keeps getting prodded to fight back.

The linework in Fathom Kiani Volume 4 #1 is actually very strong, courtesy of Cafaro’s very clean approach. Every panel that features Kiani and her sister Anika has them standing out, ensuring they have the reader’s full attention. Their appearance is further bolstered by the bold, thick black gutters that gives each panel a sense that it’s a single piece of art. The characters feels alive as well, with Cafaro giving each of them very expressive faces that effectively reinforce the sentiment of the dialogue. Hartman’s colors are very fitting as well, reflecting a scene reminiscent of a sunset on the beach, which work well as a foil to the darker colors later on when the proverbial storm hits.

Fathom Kiani Volume 4 #1 is a return to a familiar world that manages to feel somewhat fresh in its perspective. Kiani just wants to live, but it seems that she can’t really catch a break and is constantly keeping her guard up. Hernandez knows the world of Fathom and Kiani extraordinarily well and his creation of that mythos is on full display in the book. Cafaro’s illustrations are well-detailed and impress upon the reader a world where individuals such as Kiani are viewed as gods. Fathom Kiani Volume 4 #1 is another entry in a recognizable series, but the direction of the issue feels a little bit different and new.

Fathom Kiani Volume 4 #1 is in stores now.

Divinity #1


“We have a rocket and a plan that will take you farther than anyone has ever gone.”

The political brinksmanship that comes with being a global superpower is certainly expected; in fact, it’s often embraced by those superpowers. For every treaty or trade agreement signed, there’s backroom deals and conversations where one country still demands dominance over the other. The lengths a country will go to achieve such dominance always makes for good entertainment, much of which culminated between the US and Russia during the Cold War. In Divinity #1 from Valiant Entertainment, that competition is on full display with potentially divine consequences. The issue is written by Matt Kindt, penciled by Trevor Hairsine, inked by Ryan Winn, colored by David Baron and lettered by Dave Lanphear.

At the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union – determined to win the Space Race at any cost – green lit a dangerously advanced mission. They sent a man farther into the cosmos than anyone has gone before or since. Lost in the stars, he encountered something unknown. Something that…changed him. Long thought lost and erased from the history books, he has suddenly returned, crash-landing in the Australian Outback. The few that have been able to reach him believe him to be a deity – one who turned the scorched desert into a lush oasis. They say he can bend matter, space and even time to his will. Earth is about to meet a new god. And he’s a communist.

Setting Divinity #1 largely against the backdrop of Russia during the Cold War space race is brilliant. It’s not the only setting for the book, but it affords Kindt with the opportunity to make a very compelling case for sending Abram Adams to the reaches of space. It’s partially in the interest of science, but it draws heavily upon the patriotic hubris that was pervasive throughout much of the latter half of the 20th century. Kindt juxtaposes Abram against David Camp, who is something more of a free radical in many ways, content to thrive on the cliffs of the Australian outback. The use of a book as a metaphor for the two meeting is extremely effective indeed, as Kindt draws upon the notion of closing a book to make pages meet in an effort to bring the two together.

Emptying the gutters allows the reader to focus on Hairsine’s cold illustrations. The book’s atmosphere is one that feels detached and Hairsine uses an approach that’s equally as distant. That sense of isolation is exacerbated by the stern expressions sported by many of the characters; expressions that sort of cast a pall over the entirety of the book. There’s one page that illustrates Abram’s ascent into space that exploits deep-seeded fears of the unknown, made even more frightening by the now antiquated look of the spaceship and Abram’s spacesuit. Winn’s inks are rich, accenting certain aspects of Hairsine’s work, while Baron’s colors are rich and feel somewhat stodgy, which fits within the tone of how serious the space race was to the Russians (and Americans).

Divinity #1 presents a lot of background in the first issue, most of which is focused on the two main characters. The themes that the series can explore in the remaining three issues looks to be extraordinarily deep and political in many ways, making a lot of that set-up essential. Kindt’s presentation of Abram and David on a collision course dictated by fate is masterfully presented and speaks to a much grander ambition of the series as a whole. Hairsine’s illustrations capitalize on the Cold War tensions by showcasing a sentiment of fear, uncertainty and isolation amongst the characters. Divinity #1 is aiming very high when it comes to tone and the first issue offers a very methodically paced issue that will likely ramp up sooner than later.

Divinity #1 is in stores now.

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