Indie Comics Spotlight – Gears of War: The Rise of RAAM #1, Eternals, and The Servant

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By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Gears of War: The Rise of RAAM #1



“They deserve some recognition for their good.”

Gears of War was a tour de force when it first released for the Xbox 360 in November 2006. The game pushed the limits of violence and relied on a fresh take on the cover system to offer fast combat and gameplay. The prime nemesis in the original game was RAAM, a Locust leader with an axe to grind against the COGs. In Gears of War: The Rise of RAAM #1 from IDW Publishing, readers gain a little more insight into RAAM’s thought process. The issue is written by Kurtis Wiebe, illustrated by Max Dunbar, colored by Jose Luis Rio, and lettered by Gilberto Lazcano.

Years before he became the bane of humanity on Emergence Day, RAAM rose through the ranks to take leadership of the Locust Horde armies thanks to his intelligence, strength, and ruthlessness. Now, witness that swift and brutal ascent.

The Gears of War series has never shied away from violence and gore, both of which Wiebe ensures are on full display in Gears of War: The Rise of RAAM #1. The issue does a pretty solid job of introducing the reader to RAAM when he’s pontificating on his lot in life and his aspirations to move higher, which is a stark contrast from the gun-toting and bloodthirsty RAAM in the games. Wiebe uses the issue to place emphasis on the “bad” side of the war the COGs are fighting in a way that’s actually pretty refreshing and gives fans of the series a lot more insight into the bigger picture prior to Emergence Day. Wiebe humanizes RAAM in many ways that the Gears of War games don’t as they always focused on the COG side of things, effectively oversimplifying the Locust into beasts with a singular focus on killing all of humanity. In order to get to that point, Wiebe has to spend a lot of time focusing on the Locust way of life, telling the reader a lot about that side of the universe and offering a lot of exposition to get things set up and in place.

The Gears of War series thrives on blood and gore, neither of which seem to be lost on Dunbar. His linework does a great job of capturing the ferocity of the Locust (and RAAM in particular) as they tear their way through the Lambent. The Gears of War universe is predicated on death and destruction and Dunbar’s artwork isn’t shy about showing off the rampant bloodletting that often accompanies the Locusts’ days in war time. And considering the games are ultra-violent, Dunbar fills the panels with an abundance of violent confrontations that feel like battles pulled straight from the games. Rio’s colors are mostly yellows and reds with some greys thrown in for good measure, all of which help establish the Locust as underground dwellers.

The final fight in the original Gears of War pits the gamer against RAAM head-on and it’s a fight for sure. Reading Gears of War: The Rise of RAAM #1 gives the reader all the background they’ll need to understand why that fight is so difficult and why RAAM is so fierce. Wiebe understands that a soldier’s motivations are varied and does his best to give RAAM more reason to want to fight than just wanting to kill and maim. Dunbar’s artwork is abundantly violent in its presentation, underscoring the conflicts that the Locust are faced with in order to survive. Gears of War: The Rise of RAAM #1 is a great primer for an underserved character in the series who is just doing what he can to help his people survive.

Gears of War: The Rise of RAAM #1 is available now.

Eternals



“Let us be the heroes who freed the land…”

Warriors wage wars. During peace though, warriors must be people first, tending to their families and contributing to society. When the former threatens the latter as in Eternals from Black Mask Studio, one warrior will go to great lengths to ensure that her people are safe. The issue is written by Ryan K. Lindsay, illustrated by Eric Zawadzki, and colored by Dee Cunniffe.

A group of isolated shieldmaidens protect their village against a tide of men who think they can take their land land from them. Vif takes her band of women off viking to quell the advances of a loitering mystical scumbag, Bjarte. But some battles rage on inside us long after the field is empty, and some opponents won’t ever stay down. Eternal is a haunting story of how vulnerable you make yourself when trying to protect everything around you.

Much of Lindsay’s approach in Eternal is buoyed by silence; that is, there’s a lot more to be said about the characters and action because Lindsay doesn’t say it. There’s dialogue throughout the book – most of which is Vif shouting angrily in combat – that carries the story, but Lindsay doesn’t rely on it to completely keep things moving. There’s also a very clear antagonist who haunts Vif throughout the issue (figuratively and literally), causing her to act in a way that hurts those around her. At the core of the story is a character in Vif struggling to protect those around her and Lindsay’s take on it is that sometimes those actions can blind one to the reality of what they’re doing. Eternals is very much driven by the struggle between Vif and Bjarte as Lindsay channels that struggle into the plot of the book itself.

To say that Zawadzki’s art is gorgeous would be an understatement; it’s brilliant. His linework is emphatic in a way that breathes life into the battles, giving the characters physical heft that’s befitting of their statures as warriors. What’s probably the most impressive about the artwork is Zawadzki’s use of perspective throughout the issue, in that he draws the reader further and further into the combat by focusing in more tightly on the hand-to-hand combat. There are some pages where the panels progress the story just like flipping through a flipbook with Zawadzki offering subtle changes in detail in each panel to let the reader know that movement is happening. Cunniffe’s colors are varied but largely washed out, mostly emphasizing browns, grays and plenty of reds for the blood of the battle.

Eternals is a relatively simple premise that’s executed pretty flawlessly. Vif is determined to protect her people at all costs, but sometimes that cost proves to be even more than what’s previously expected. Lindsay’s story is both moving and engaging, pitting Vif against enemies both internal and external. Zawadzki’s artwork is a perfect fit for the tone of the story, delicately balancing the brutality of battle with the somber atmosphere afterwards. Eternals is a fantastic book that does so much by doing so little, conveying to the reader a flood of sentiment.

Eternals is available January 31.

The Servant



“Promises or lies I wonder…?”

Life in a high-fantasy setting has its ups and downs. On good days, you’re not eaten by a dragon or being accosted by robbers. On bad days, you’ve got to deal with a whole lot of danger every day. In The Servant #1 from King Bone Press, there are both good days and bad days. The issue is written by Jason Ford, illustrated by Felipe Anguiano, and lettered by Rob Jones.

Six brothers continue on their quest.

Setting the context for a universe is a tall order and Ford works a lot into the first issue to that goal. The issue is sort of broken into two parts – the first is one setting the larger stage while the second one introduces the reader to the six characters. Ford infuses each character with very unique personalities that interact with one another in various ways, providing plenty of entertainment and helping move the story forward. The high fantasy setting isn’t entirely leaned on that much in the first issue, with Ford instead focusing on establishing the characters more so than anything else. Ford paces the issue somewhat erratically at points because of those introductions, mainly because so much time is spent with them reuniting that the rest of the issue does feel a little tacked on at points.

The art style by Anguiano is very loose. He relies on fairly concise linework throughout the issue, rendering the characters with an emphasis on their garb and physiques – all of which are in contrast with one another. There are some interesting perspectives of the characters throughout the issue, some of which look more fantasy than realistic. In fact, a lot of Anguiano’s facial expressions feel contorted in very uncomfortable ways and sort of take the reader out of the setting a little bit. The book is awash in grays, browns and yellows that help bolster the scenery of cobblestone houses and individuals in suits of armor.

The Servant #1 seems like a very ambitious book. All six brothers bring their own personalities to the table and watching how those personalities interact with one another will definitely carry the series. Ford’s script is full of character building and does well in introducing the characters to the reader. Anguiano’s art is undefined in many ways, but still effective in terms of conveying to the reader the setting. The Servant #1 is aiming for big things and watching how they unfold will be interesting.

The Servant #1 is available now.


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