Indie Comics Spotlight: Halcyon & Tenderfoot, Pirate Eye, Non-Humans


by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Halcyon & Tenderfoot #3

The death of a burgeoning superhero’s father is a trying time. It’s even more chaotic when the son is a child, struggling to come to terms with what happens next. Tenderfoot’s plight in Halcyon & Tenderfoot #3 isn’t made any easier, but he is starting to figure things out. The issue is written by Daniel Clifford, with art by Lee Robinson and cover colors by Nadine Ashworth.

Tenderfoot still mourns Halcyon, but Jenny Wren is having none of that. She wants Tenderfoot to get back into action. As Halcyon’s first sidekick, she knows a thing or two about jumping back into the fray. Tenderfoot is getting a little worried, though, with Jenny and her being somewhat adverse when it comes to Halogen Man.

Meanwhile, Brink City has got a new mayor. Spurred on by the allegiance of Telescopic Woman and Doctor Birdbrain, Halogen Man is inspired to get back into crime, deciding to stay with the Brink City Bank. It’s an inspiration that lasts all of five minutes, before the action gets real and Halogen Man gets a chance to fully process what’s happening.

The third issue finds a slightly more confident Tenderfoot, buoyed by a gung-ho Jenny Wren. Jenny wants Halogen Man to not only pay for the death of Halcyon, but also for the death of someone else close to her. Clifford has infused both characters with their own motivations for decisions and they’re not all about revenge.

Things are really escalating for all the characters involved. Halogen Man was content to lie low until he was encouraged by some other baddies, while Tenderfoot was content to simply mourn his father’s death until encouraged by a former sidekick. Both Tenderfoot and Halogen Man are more alike than they probably realize which will likely make for some interesting decision-making in the next issue.

Robinson’s art continues to impress, maintaining a proper superhero vibe without being overly superpowered. That is, the characters aren’t rife with excessive physiques or beauty. The characters that inhabit Brink City are flawed and varied, all of their appearances reflecting their personalities. It just works.

Halcyon & Tenderfoot #3 slows things down a bit from a storytelling perspective, but they’re slated to ramp right back up in the fourth issue. The issue does have quite a few fight scenes where the powers can be showcased, but the biggest fireworks are likely being saved for the next issue.

Halcyon & Tenderfoot #3 is available now.

Pirate Eye: Mark of the Black Widow

The private investigator is an unsung hero. The man (usually) who takes the case when no one else will and solves it through some combination of wit, know-how and persuasiveness. Rarely is the private eye also a pirate, but pirate PIs have to eat too. Pirate PIs like Smitty in Pirate Eye: Mark of the Black Widow from Action Lab Comics. The one-shot is written by Joe Grahn with art by Carl Yonder.

Smitty is a pirate and a detective, probably in that order. He’s hired by the Governor to find a missing lady, obviously nervous about her not being in his control. This takes Smitty on a trip through town, making friends, chatting up contacts and doing general investigating. Smitty’s investigation takes him to Madame Collette’s, a house of ill repute among many and a source of pleasures for few. It’s here that he finds the object of his investigation in a young woman, but Smitty quickly learns that she’s part of something much, much deeper.

Grahn’s story is solid and simple enough. Making Smitty a pirate and a private investigator is pretty fresh, as it offers up the mythos of two character types in one. And their interplay works quite nicely together actually, with Smitty using pirate ways to better advance aspects of the private investigator in him.

The other characters are also full of life and interesting, making the entire atmosphere in the book one that’s easy to get immersed in. There are no epic ship battles or anything, but there’s enough here that you get he’s a pirate. The greater mystery that could be explored in future issues is how he became a private investigator.

Yonder’s art is very rough and dark, which works exceptionally well for Pirate Eye: Mark of the Black Widow. There are a lot of low light environs Smitty visits, including a bar, street at night and docks, all of which are depicted flawlessly as such. In fact, Yonder’s use of shading really helps with the pirate tone of the book, making it feel like you’re in a port town alongside Smitty.

It’s a shame it’s only a one-shot, as there’s a lot more Pirate Eye: Mark of the Black Widow could explore. The issue’s epilogue definitely could set up a future storyline and, again, finding out more about Smitty would be great material. In the meantime, enjoy following him along on his one case, watching him do what a pirate and a private investigator does best.

Pirate Eye: Mark of the Black Widow is available for pre-order (Diamond Code OCT120722) with a December release in comic book shops and various digital distribution outlets.

Non-Humans #1

History tells us that there has always been discrimination for whatever reason. Race, sex, age…if it’s a defining characteristic, it can be discriminated against. It’s not likely that will change much in the future; what may change though is what’s being discriminated against. Like inanimate objects in the four-issue miniseries Non-Humans #1 from Image Comics. The first issue is written by Glen Brunswick, with art by Whilce Portacio, colors by Brian Valeza and letters by Rus Wooten.

In 2015, a strange virus arrived with a NASA probe that gives inanimate objects the ability to come to life. Fast forward twenty-six years later to 2041, where many of those inanimate objects want equal rights. That’s the setting for the book, a future LA where Toy Story is real and angry about being discriminated against. Detective Oliver Aimes is the series protagonist. He works for the LAPD and is contending with the death of his partner, a new partner in a non-human, an ex-wife who no longer loves him and a son who’s in love with a non-human. Aimes is working the streets to uncover the ventriloquist doll who killed his partner.

Brunswick has taken an approach that simply drops the reader in the middle of all this and forces them to put it together. This is a very, very dense story, but it’s nice that Brunswick doesn’t hold your hand throughout. The first few pages easily could have been a nice recap of the world to this point, but it’s more intriguing when the reader has to figure it out. If Aimes doesn’t know everything about everything, why should the reader?

The premise itself is interesting as well. The virus apparently can affect humans as well, unless they take a special capsule of brain freeze during their teenage years to stave off the infection. There’s one scene where a toy is brought to life and struggles with being blind. It’s not until one of the other non-humans intervenes that he fully understands what the world he’s part of is like. That’s where the story in Non-Humans #1 excels the most. There’s this sense of belonging and fear that groups with a history of discrimination against feel. Even with laws in place to ease the discrimination, there’s still this feeling of being an outsider. Brunswick makes the entire issue about the non-humans and humans co-existing, however reluctantly they may do so.

Portacio’s art is terrifying at some points. And that’s a good thing. Considering Brunswick has crafted a tale that Philip K. Dick would be proud of, Portacio really does a nice job making the non-humans good at making you feel uneasy. It’s not until you continue reading that you feel guilty about being uneasy and realize why they would be angry about being discriminated against. The setting in Non-Humans #1 is a grim and dystopian Los Angeles in the future, something Portacio captures very well. There’s a lot of dark alleys and shady meeting points that litter the issue, really showing you what the world is like since the non-humans arrived. That’s not to say they’re to blame, but when you’ve got a teddy bear who’s an informant running a drug trade, you’ll have a tendency to be a little worried.

This is only a four-issue miniseries, so chances are the world inhabited by the characters won’t be as fully fleshed out as it could be. The first issue does leave some things about the story a little fuzzy, forcing the reader to piece together the history for themselves. The issue is densely-packed with Non-Humans mythos and should be an interesting and thought-provoking miniseries.

Non-Humans #1 is in stores now.

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