Indie Comics Spotlight-Doctor Spektor: Master of the Occult #1,C.O.W.L. #1, and The Last Broadcast #1

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by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Doctor Spektor: Master of the Occult #1

 

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“I’m at the ruins of Norway’s 13th century Hamar Cathedral. My global pursuit of an ancient evil ends here, with its death…or mine.”

Society today is rather obsessed with the idea that anyone can be a star. And more often than not, people will go to great lengths to achieve that goal, even if it means putting their entire life on display for the world to see. Some of us, though, are more interesting and capable than others in that regard and Dynamite Entertainment ventures down this path in Doctor Spektor: Master of the Occult #1. The issue is written by Mark Waid, illustrated by Neil Edwards, colored by Jordan Boyd, and lettered by Marshall Dillon.

Doctor Adam Spektor’s resume reads something along the lines of TV legend, Wall Street wolf, internet mogul, tabloid bad boy, master metaphysicist, spiritualist, and monster hunter. He puts those talents to use in getting rid of werewolves, vampires, ghosts, and all other manner of things that go bump in the night. The big thing is that he does it in front of a TV audience, makes lots of money doing so, and is quite the hit with viewers. Despite all the success, there’s something within he’s grappling with and when a show filming goes awry, it’s very possible he’ll find out more about what it is he’s missing.

Doctor Spektor: Master of the Occult #1 starts off at an impressive pace and doesn’t really slow down at all. Doctor Spektor is brash and cocky, knowing full well he can handle just about any supernatural situation that comes his way (and handle it well). Waid’s infused him with plenty of confidence and presents him as someone who enjoys his work about as much as it brings him money. It’s clear that Spektor is searching for something else and that’s where Waid’s script gets really interesting, as it takes a pretty tragic accident to get him on the right path to that something else. Despite his ego, Spektor is somewhat endearing to the reader and is definitely moving from one weird situation to the next. Waid will likely delve further into his past and abilities as the comic progresses, which will only further get the reader more engaged.

Spektor’s boastful nature shines in Edwards’ illustration of him. His facial expressions and mannerisms are very domineering, showing little respect for those around him and knowledge that — most likely — Spektor will emerge triumphant. Some of the more supernatural elements are illustrated in a way that reminds the reader this book isn’t necessarily grounded in reality. The appearance of spirits feel just human enough that you feel they’re tangible, but are colored with pale blues by Boyd that reinforce their ethereal nature. Spektor wants his audience fearing for his safety as they watch and Edwards offers some rather gorgeous looking foes for him to contend with.

Dealing with the supernatural certainly isn’t a new premise or storyline, but doing so as part of a reality TV show is quite an intriguing twist. There’s an aspect inherent in human nature that even though many things scare of us, we have this strange fascination with encountering them nonetheless. Waid offers a character in Spektor who’s not only capable of handling those creatures, but does so in a way that brings him fame and money and gives the viewer what they want in the encounter. Their eeriness is further amplified by Edwards’ illustrations, presenting things going bump in the night in rather epic fashion that really encourages the reader to feel there’s something to fearing them. Doctor Spektor: Master of the Occult #1 is pretty engaging and Spektor exhibits some fascinating characteristics that draw in a reader’s attention.

Doctor Spektor: Master of the Occult #1 is in stores now.

C.O.W.L. #1

 

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“Are you worried you haven’t heard from the Mayor yet?”

Unions typically elicit one of two responses. Either you think they’re great for workers, reinforcing their rights that are often sacrificed at the expense of profits for larger companies or you think they’re inefficient, slowing down work and increasing associated costs. Regardless of where you fall in terms of opinion, there are unions for all manner of employment. If the world had superheroes, it’s likely some of them would face similar opinions about unions, opinions on full display in C.O.W.L. #1 from Image Comics. The issue is written by Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel, with art by Rod Reis and letters by Troy Peteri.

Geoffrey Warner goes by the name The Grey Raven, a man who essentially unionized superheroes in Chicago to create the Chicago Organized Workers League. The group spent time fighting villains and saving the day, all the while acting as hope against the negative. Like all good things, though, the C.O.W.L. is very efficient at its job, which means that they’re fighting a public relations battle as to their relevance in society. Warner’s task becomes even more difficult in convincing a public that’s been protected for so long that it still needs that protection.

C.O.W.L. #1 features a story that’s a little true to life in some ways, primarily all related to the somewhat tumultuous history of unions in Chicago. It’s likely not a coincidence that the story takes place in 1962, which is the same year the Chicago Federation of Labor joined the AFL-CIO. This adds a certain reality to the proceedings that helps to supplant the suspension of reality in the fact that superheroes are unionized. Among those heroes, their powers range from natural to technologically-assisted, but regardless, there’s enough firepower to get the job done. The public relations battle seems to be the larger one for C.O.W.L. — with seemingly higher stakes — and Higgins and Siegel do a great job framing that battle.

Helping the book feel more era-appropriate are strong illustrations by Reis. Reis relies on a painted style that doesn’t get bogged down by detail, which is perfectly fine in C.O.W.L. #1. Characters are illustrated with little focus on detail, but what detail is there affords the reader plenty of opportunity to understand what they’re going through. There’s also an interesting range of colors throughout the book that reflect the tone of the story at the time; it’s almost operatic in a sense that certain characters carry certain color tones with them. Peteri also does a wonderful job on the lettering, offering a range of styles that further help individualize each character.

C.O.W.L. #1 has some pretty strong parallels to the Civil War storyline in Marvel and The Incredibles. Both tackled the issue of when do heroes stop being “useful” to society and are they bound by the same laws and order the seek to regulate in society. Higgins and Siegel present the tale from that perspective and they deftly weigh their relevance against the demands of society. Reis’ art is simple, yet effective at promoting the underlying theme of the book, which is the relevance of unions when the job is done. C.O.W.L. #1 is a very interesting book that could investigate some intriguing concepts down the line.

C.O.W.L. #1 is in stores now.

The Last Broadcast #1

 

 

 thelastbroadcast

 

 

“Well…you don’t look like a magician.”

Magicians face a level of scrutiny that few other performers do. If it’s not struggling to convince skeptics that the magic is “real,” it’s convincing the audience that the trick is exciting. The Last Broadcast #1 from Archaia Entertainment offers a mix of both, not to mention the involvement of a previously great magician as well. The issue is written by André Sirangelo, illustrated by Gabriel Iumazark, and lettered by Deron Bennett.

Blackhall the Incredible was just that: incredible. He was one of the best magicians in the world in the 1930s, right up until his mysterious death at the hands of one of his own tricks (illusions?). In the present, an urban spelunking group comprised of Harumi and Niko discover a secret bunker in San Francisco that might have belonged to him. This is pretty fortuitous, as Ivan is a young, out-of-work magician who idolizes Blackhall and receives news that his death may be part of a greater conspiracy. Both groups dive into the mystery, not yet realizing that it’s about the change their lives forever.

Ivan comes across as something of struggling talent. He’s clearly been good enough in the past to garner audience appeal, but his routine has gone stale as of late, prompting him to try anything possible to turn his fortunes around. In this regard, Sirangelo does a great job characterizing Ivan as a down-on-his-luck performer. And using the legend of Blackhall as the point of convergence for both Ivan and the explorers is pretty interesting, as it assures they’ll cross paths in a somewhat organic nature. One of the downsides of this is that there’s something of an imbalance in character development, with Ivan getting more attention than Harumi and Niko. The latter are explorers whose explorations feel a little hurried, whereas Ivan gets more time to be fleshed out.

The Last Broadcast #1 offers an illustrative style that appears to becoming more and more the norm for comics like this. Iumazark eschews the somewhat traditional character designs for something a bit more eerie, which is extremely effective considering the context of the book. The look adds a level of mystery to a book about magic and urban spelunking, which works well to engage the reader and bring them along for the ride. The exploration part of things is further emboldened by dark colors and the appearance of tight spaces, which proves that even exploring the depths of cities can be claustrophobic.

The Last Broadcast #1 is a fairly complex and intriguing story that merges past with present and magicians with explorers. Ivan is definitely flawed as a lead character, but it’s through that lens that the reader will inevitably get invested more deeply into the storyline. Sirangelo crafts a clever tale that doesn’t feel forced and should move along at a great pace, uncovering mysteries as more are resolved. Iumazark’s scratchy, vague style goes to great lengths to further embolden the ambiguous narrative, promising to envelop the reader in darkness and suspense. The Last Broadcast #1 is a slight departure from many books currently out there, but it’s a worthwhile trip to make for readers looking for something new and exciting.

The Last Broadcast #1 is available in stores now.


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