Indie Comics Spotlight: Hactivist, Bad Ass, and Of Stone


by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Hactivist #1

“Steam-powered defense flytrap. It’s stubborn. Reroute it to the spaghetti, keep it in the loop.”

In an information sharing world, information is king. It can cripple governments and inspire uprisings. It’s a new world and a new way to revolt, leveling the playing field and giving everyone a chance to be king. How that power is used is a subject of debate, one that’s broached in Hactivist #1 from Archaia Black Label. The series is created by Alyssa Milano, with the first issue written by Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly, illustrated by Marcus To, colored by Ian Herring and lettered by Deron Bennett.

The main players in the series are Ed Hiccox and Nate Graft, both of whom are very capable when it comes to computers and bending them to their wills. Their co-founders of YourLife, billed as “the world’s premiere decentralized social network.” In their spare time, the duo masquerade as SVE_URS3LF, black-hat hackers who are inspired to fight the power and throw their talents where necessary. Their paths cross with Sirine, an activist on the ground in Tunis who could use some of their intelligence to better her cause.

Milano’s creation is very relevant with the times, as it captures the zeitgeist at the moment of NSA, social networks and social media inspired uprisings. The Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street movements are the most pertinent inspirations, as they capitalized on the ability of social media to galvanize likeminded individuals to help in any way they can. Lanzing and Kelly craft a pretty tightly-woven script that spends most of the time with Hiccox and Graft, somewhat at the expense of Sirine. It’s likely that as the series progresses that both Sirine and Hiccox/Graft will share top-billing, but the first issue really wants to reader to know the world the characters are going to be playing in. The ending is a little surprising and walks the line between fair and foul so to speak when it comes to hacking, but it will likely be twisted again down the line.

To’s art is very well done. Characters demonstrate an appropriate kinetic energy when necessary, defined by clean lines that boast an attention to physical detail. The characters also stand out, almost jumping off the page in front of the backgrounds and settings. Panel layouts are staggered and keep the pages looking fresh, with To eschewing the standard rectangles. Herring’s colors accent the illustrations well, mostly relying on a darker color palette for the bulk of the YourLife parts and a redder, fiery palette for conveying the bombastic atmosphere that is Tunis.

The dichotomy between Ed and Nate is interesting and makes the issue read with more tension and excitement. There are shades ofStrange Attractors in Ed’s approach to finding patterns in life, while Nate is definitely more of the whatever happens, F-bomb variety. Their interactions are buoyed by their similar views of information and its ability to help the world when necessary. They’re clearly the two big players of the series, but there will also be others like Sirine who need their help and carry out their objectives on the ground. In an age where “cyber” is a new buzzword, Hactivist #1 promises to touch on some rather volatile issues currently threatening to burn the information world down.

Hactivist #1 is in stores now.

Bad Ass #1

“That’s why I’m going to kill your entire gang.”

Deadpool has ridden his rough around the edges personality to success after success, garnering tons of readers and fans. Characters like him have that tendency, as readers want to root for the underdog, anti-hero every so often. Dynamite Entertainment has their own anti-hero they’d like to introduce you to in Bad Ass #1. The issue is written by Herik Hanna, illustrated by Bruno Bessadi, colored by Gaetan Georges and lettered by Marshall Dillon.

Dead End is someone who’s not really keen on happiness and joy. In fact, he can’t even enjoy a lunch on a crowded street without imagining some catastrophic event that decimates half the patrons. He’s also really good at this job, which is doing the difficult work for Green Dragon, a criminal mastermind (?) whose disciples are eating from the palm of his hand. Eventually though, he decides that enough is enough and it’s time to strike out on his own, prompting a rather creative way to resign from his post.

A lot of people are going to compare Dead End to Deadpool and it’s an apt comparison. Hanna also seems to infuse Dead End with some Spider-man as well, creating a character who’s somewhere between the two in terms of snark and cynicism, coupled with an exceptional fighting ability. That ability has made him extremely rich and capable of handling himself in any situation; even ones he creates himself. The character of Dead End is presented to the reader through a series of flashbacks to high school and his stream of consciousness in daily events. It’s paced very well and brings the reader along without losing them in the details and there are a ton of great action sequences interspersed throughout.

Bessadi’s art is effective and conveys the superhero tones. Dead Man has a look to him that screams machismo and confidence, something that Bessadi really hits with precision. Other characters are equally as illustrative of their roles and Dead End’s main foil appropriately matches her personality. There’s a Tick feel to some of the character illustrations that helps keep the tone of the book light and sarcastic. Panel layouts aren’t very imaginative and rely on the tried and true rectangular layout, but the action is easy enough to follow along with.

Bad Ass #1 will appeal to fans of Deadpool and Spider-man who like a little Kick-Ass for good measure. There’s plenty of wit and sarcasm, in addition to plenty of violence and fighting. The ending presents a clear direction and new opponent for Dead Man to square off against and, honestly, he’s a character some people wouldn’t mind seeing getting his comeuppance. The story is written very smoothly and features art equally as smooth, presenting a story that’s not quite been played out yet. After all, there’s not many books where the main character trips a kid and finds serenity in the kid’s pain.

Bad Ass #1 is in stores now.

Of Stone

“They must prove their worth to be among us. They must show that they are of the people that they belong. That they are of stone.”

Ogres often get a bad rap. It may be the wonton violence or propensity to want to eat anything (or anyone) smaller than they are, but some of them have feelings too. Who knows? They may even feel some sense of community while among other ogres. That inevitably means that one of them must work to protect the others and Of Stone is a book that looks at that angle. The issue is written and illustrated by D. A. Bishop.

Gan is an ogre who’s of stone, making the title appropriate. He belongs to a tribe known as the People of Stone, all of whom are strong, made of rock and extremely powerful. They channel that power into the hunt, prompting a rite of passage of sorts where they venture into the wilderness annually in search of a Vraithunde. The hunt gives Gan plenty of time for self-reflection and an evaluation of his people’s current state of being. And considering how fond of both hunting and his people Gan is, there’s plenty of time to think about those types of things.

Gan is largely introspective, yet fierce at the same time. He’s a quiet warrior, reminiscent of Leonidas in 300, except without all the super slow-motion jumping through the air. Gan knows what must be done to protect his family and his people, venturing out into the wilderness with a methodical combat prowess, despite his life being put on the line more often than most around him would like. Bishop allows the reader to follow along with Gan’s inner monologue as he narrates the hunt, effectively presenting Gan and the world he lives in. It’s pretty impressive how much is revealed about the People of Stone through just the one hunt, with Bishop establishing a very strong character amongst equally as strong other beings.

Bishop also handles the art duties and the sketch-like quality fits very well with the story itself. Gan’s people live in the bitter, biting winds of what is presumably the north somewhere and the scratchy illustrations hit home the inclement, snowy cold. Gan is a mammoth being who looks like a cross between Abomination and the Hulk and the reader never questions his ability to outlast his foe. Equally as harsh looking are the environs around Gan, as Bishop litters the landscape with jagged rocks and high snow drifts. The Vraithunde are illustrated with an air of mystery to them, thanks in part to Bishop’s refusal to completely bring them into the light; something that achieves a fantastic effect of mystery.

Of Stone does one thing exceptionally well: it makes you care about the main character, despite the fact that he looks like someone who’s head would also be filled with rocks. Bishop characterized Gan through his quiet ferocity, something that also manages to aptly describe the entirety of his people as well. The book is a very nuanced look at the responsibilities that come with being a leader, putting your own life in danger for the sake of your people. Of Stone is a very strong character book that could definitely be expanded into something further if Bishop chose to do so. Right now though, just sit back and enjoy a tale about an ogre actually being a good guy for once.

Of Stone is available via Comixology now.

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