Indie Comics Spotlight: Grass Kings #1, Vampirella 2017 #1, and All New Soulfire #1
By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)
Grass Kings #1
“So let me tell you, this ain’t a place you take to lightly.”
History has a way of leaving people behind as those who fail to adapt are potentially doomed to become irrelevant. There are still pockets of peoples around the world content to live the way those before them lived, despite the fact that the world seems to move on without them. The citizens in Grass Kings #1 from BOOM! Studios are a prime example. The issue is written by Matt Kindt, illustrated by Tyler Jenkins, and lettered by Jim Campbell.
Eldest brother Robert leads a grief-stricken life, having lost his daughter to a tragic accident, followed by his wife disappearing one morning never to return. When an enigmatic young woman named Maria flees to their community in search of safe haven, Robert takes her in. Will his decision lead to ruin and retribution, dooming the Kingdom?
Kindt’s talents are unquestionable at this point and the ease with which he informs the reader is pretty amazing. He starts things off by introducing the reader to Grass Kingdom through both a history of land-grabbing and a tour of the current Grass Kingdom in a way that is definitely expository but doesn’t feel like it. Many of the Grass Kingdom’s main players are given a quick introduction that Kindt handles deftly. Each of these characters play a role in maintaining Grass Kingdom and Kindt walks the reader through them all like a perp being escorted out of town in the back of a police car. The dialogue never feels too forced as if Kindt is spoon-feeding the reader; instead, it feels completely natural and lends itself well to the overarching dynamic.
The narrative is fantastic in its own right, but it’s Jenkins’ ethereal art style that elevates Grass Kings #1 even further. His style is a gorgeous display of watercolors that feel disjointed in a positive way. His surreal approach is phenomenal in that it lends an antiquated look to the Grass Kingdom, emphasizing the fact that their general way of life is an isolation of a different time. The frenetic nature of watercolors in general (and Jenkins’ harsher brush strokes at points) work well for the story as it allows him to add an air of slightly off to Grass Kingdom and its inhabitants. There’s just an abundance of personality in all the characters that Jenkins allows to shine through on each panel.
Grass Kings #1 is a brilliant first issue that does everything a first issue should do with the touch of a later issue. The residents of Grass Kingdom are fiercely protective of their way of life and will go to great lengths to maintain that. Kindt’s pacing is relaxed yet undercut by an impending sense of trepidation on the part of the reader. Jenkins’ illustrations are a perfect fit for the story as they emphasize that beautiful chaos well. Grass Kings #1 is a fine example of quality storytelling and art coming together flawlessly.
Grass Kings #1 is available now.
Vampirella 2017 #1
“But…there’s something…underneath it all.”
Vampirella is a pretty fascinating character who’s gone up against all manner of big bads in her history. There’s still plenty of room, though, for her to explore new sides of herself and the world in general. Dynamite Comics is offering a new take in Vampirella 2017 #1. The issue is written by Paul Cornell, illustrated by Jimmy Broxton, and lettered by Travis Lanham.
After a sleep of over a thousand years, Vampirella finds herself back among the land of the living, but in a world far different than the one she remembers, where hope is laced with fear and blood has a far different taste. And speaking of taste, finding an appropriate outfit for the era leads our fanged fatale to a chance encounter that will garner her not one but two potential allies.
The world Cornell lays out in Vampirella 2017 #1 is actually quite terrifying in its hedonistic presentation. Cornell’s script is written in such a way that offers a somewhat detached sense of reality for the reader and it’s extremely effective in setting the tone. Vampirella is a character with plenty of history behind her and Cornell manages to work a lot of that history into the book very cleanly. Still, Vampirella 2017 #1 is just as much a reboot for the character as it is an exploration of her and Cornell doesn’t let new scenery change Vampirella too much. In fact, it’s safe to say that this Vampirella is a lot more vicious and brutal than more recent iterations of the character have been.
Visually, Vampirella 2017 #1 is very abstract. Broxton’s approach capitalizes on clean lines that are accented by even cleaner panel layouts, eschewing anything too chaotic. Despite the issue’s setting of the future, Broxton emphasizes a retro feel in terms of costumes and design – a nice throwback to Vampirella’s history. The style is also a nod to newspaper strips of the past in that Broxton finishes the artwork with that same matte style. His colors are pretty effective at capturing the general calm that pervades the world Vampirella stumbles upon.
Vampirella 2017 #1 is as much a new start as it is a throwback to Vampirella’s campy beginnings. Vampirella is a more than capable character who can hold her own and won’t let anything stand in her way if it attempts to. Cornell’s script is haunting in a way that’s befitting of the character and paces the issue well. Broxton’s illustrations feel nostalgic and appropriate for the tone of the issue. Vampirella 2017 #1 is a great new take on a classic character that gets things going in the right direction.
Vampirella 2017 #1 is available now.
All New Soulfire #1
“Feels good to get away, don’t it?”
To live in a world filled with magic is a dream for some and a nightmare for others. A lot of that depends on how those with the powers react to those without. In All New Soulfire #1 from Aspen Comics, there’s a good mix of responses. The issue is written by J.T. Krul, illustrated by Giuseppe Cafaro, colored by Wes Hartman, and lettered by Zen.
Following the events of Aspen Universe: Revelations, the world of Soulfire has a new status quo, as magic and technology have intertwined as never before! Meanwhile, Soulfire’s Grace, Malikai, and friends now must also discover that things are not as they seem in the year 2211 — including new — and old — dangers that seek to eliminate them!
Krul’s premise in All New Soulfire #1 is interesting and a slight departure from other books in the Soulfire series in that it offers up a world where magic is more of a publicly accepted way of life. Malikai is still front and center for all the action, but Krul manages to present a few new takes on the character in terms of the reactions of those around him. The overarching plot is a little vague by the end of the issue, though, as it seems Krul is more content to get the reader up to speed on the aforementioned characters first and foremost. Because of this approach, there are plenty of questions by the end of the issue and there’s a lot about the actual direction of the story that’s missing. There are times when Krul’s dialogue feels somewhat basic – for instance, two different characters use the phrase “plucked from the orphanage” and it feels like an odd choice for dialogue.
Cafaro is very familiar with the Soulfire characters and his work in All New Soulfire #1 demonstrates this familiarity. His linework emphasizes the facial features of the characters well as it draws upon the fantasy influences of fairies and pixies.
All New Soulfire #1 is a new take for the franchise that seeks to mix things up a bit. Malikai is still at the center of the universe, but the universe around him is changing in ways that will force him to adapt. Krul’s script is straightforward in its approach, moving players into position for events to unfold further in the series. Cafaro’s art is familiar to readers of the series and renders the characters effectively. All New Soulfire #1 is definitely worth checking out for fans of the series.
All New Soulfire #1 is available now.