Indie Comics Spotlight: HaloGen, Vampirella, Citizen of the Galaxy

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By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

HaloGen #1

HaloGen


“The upper city is the flower. A bar in the root.”

Archaia always puts out top-notch works and ever since their acquisition by BOOM! Studios, it feels as if they’ve upped their publishing frequency. More and more great books are coming out of the Archaia shop, with HaloGen #1 being the latest. The issue is written by Josh Tierney, illustrated and lettered by Afu Chan and colored by Shelly Chen.

There’s a rumor on Cityship Q that the gigantic body of a dead god was found floating in space. Rell, an agent working for the HaloGen organization, is tasked with finding the location of the god and retrieving it by any means necessary. Using her ability to form hyper-realistic holograms, Rell is about to take on the first mission she might not be able to finish.

Many science-fiction stores hinge on the notion that the inhabitants of that universe are divided by something and many times that something is wealth. In HaloGen #1 that divide is also on display, but Tierney does a rather elegant job of establishing those stakes and setting the main character Rell on a path to work with less than savory types. Rell has secrets of her own and it’s a testament to Tierney’s approach that he gives her an intricate personality that shines through primarily as a reflection of her actions and choices. Rell is a rebellious operative seeking to learn more than she’s probably entitled to know and Tierney leverages that to make the story feel adventurous. Tierney volleys back and forth between shady meetings in bars and high-stakes extractions without missing a beat, giving characters plenty to work with.

Rendering the “Root” of Cityship Q, Chan infuses the look with art that is rather simple yet grimy. The characters who inhabit the city range from human in appearance to animal-like, effectively showcasing what is a diverse setting where none of the inhabitants bat an eyelash at someone different. Fortunately for the reader, that diversity feels cohesive, as Chan relies on a fairly simplistic panel layout that keeps things easy to follow. There are a few instances where the lettering feels a little unconventional, as Chan is fond of stacking dialogue bubbles atop one another to better mimic the cadence of a conversation. Chan seems to draw on 80s anime as something of an influence on the book’s look, with facial expressions embellished by large, surprised eyes and exaggerated mouths at times. Chan’s art is bolstered by Chen’s choice of colors, ranging from bold reds to yellow and not straying too far from the neon spectrum. 

HaloGen #1 is a lot of fun. It offers up a science-fiction world that doesn’t hold back and knows what it wants to be and do. It’s only the first issue, but Tierney has really crafted a world that feels fully realized and teeming with complex relationships and interactions. Chan’s artwork is straightforward and simple, yet the story loses nothing in terms of depth because of the simpler illustrations. HaloGen #1 is a book that anyone who enjoys a good sci-fi read will want to pick up, but there’s also a larger appeal found in the pages that will speak to anyone who really just likes a good story. 

HaloGen #1 is available now.


Altered States Vampirella #1

Vampirella


“Without warning, the very fabric of time and space has ripped itself asunder, pulling the Arthur Clark off course and into a yawning celestial void.”

Vampirella is a formidable foe, capable of handling any and everything that comes her way. If there’s one thing she may not be as ready to deal with though, it’s traveling to different dimensions. In Altered States Vampirella #1 from Dynamite Entertainment, her fortitude in that regard is put to the test. The issue is written by Nancy A. Collins, illustrated by Francesco Manna, colored by Viviane Souza and lettered by Marshall Dillon.

Ella Normandy is one of three space explorers sent on an expedition to Venus. On the way to their destination, the interplanetary ship is sucked into a mysterious space-time portal and ends up crash-landing on the alien planet Drakulon, where the rivers run with blood. There she climbs from the wreckage to find herself the only human on a planet filled with vampires—and no way to get back home.

Dynamite trusted Collins with Altered States Vampirella #1 and her familiarity with the character is appreciated and adds an intimate knowledge to the story. Ella is the obvious parallel to Vampirella, even if her thirst is satisfied in a slightly different manner. That’s whereAltered States Vampirella #1 feels very original, in that not only is it a space-travel book, but it’s also one that subverts the expectation that comes along with Vampirella and vampires. Collins writes the story with a grace that gives it a very smooth flow, not skipping a beat and paced perfectly. The setting is very intriguing for a character such as Ella/Vampirella as well; any instance where a character with a history behind them is thrown into the mix somewhere else always makes for a fascinating read.

As mentioned earlier, Ella is essentially Vampirella and Manna does a great job making her recognizable, even if she’s not sporting her traditional red outfit. Much of the action is depicted with characters sporting plenty of kinetics, as Manna does an excellent job conveying the actions through character poses. The Drakkar come across as soulless opponents who are depicted as more than capable enough of wreaking havoc on the citizens of the Gobi-Bram. Souza manages to add a bright look to the work, despite the choice of darker colors throughout the book. The arrangement of panels keeps the reader on their toes, with insets largely dominating the pages for the entirety of the book.

Altered States Vampirella #1 takes a familiar character and setting to a different situation entirely. It’s done in a way that works very well, as Vampirella has a certain pulp sensibility to her that fits in well with the John Carter From Mars dynamic. Collins is one of the best writers around and has spent enough time with Vampirella to craft a story that works on multiple levels. Manna’s art is clean and effectively draws the reader into the new world alongside Ella, showcasing a new world with new inhabitants. Altered States Vampirella #1 is a one-shot, but it could easily be at least a mini-series as it gives a fresh look at a familiar character.

Altered States Vampirella #1 is available now


Citizen of the Galaxy #1

citizen


“The boy did not even know what planet he was on.”

Slavery is a human institution that reflects the darker side of humanity. It’s always been a scourge of civilization, requiring a certain level of ill-will to be content with being an owner of slaves and treating a human life as a commodity. The concept is timeless though, with countless writers and artists putting their own spin on the concept. IDW Entertainment’s latest foray in adapting a work tackling that issue is Citizen of the Galaxy #1. The issue is adapted by Rob Lazaro and Eric Gignac, illustrated by Steve Erwin, inked and colored by Gignac and lettered by Gignac and Richard Sheinaus.

Just outside our galaxy the atrocities of slavery thrive and young Thorby is just another orphaned boy sold at auction on Jabbul. But when he crosses paths with a mysterious crippled beggar named Baslim, his destiny is forever changed. Thorby wants to make a name for himself, which means that listening to Baslim might be his best chance for survival and a life where he’s not returned to slavery.

Citizen of the Galaxy was originally serialized in Astounding Science Fiction in 1957 by Robert A. Heinlein. Lazaro and Gignac seemed to have adapted the story fairly faithfully, albeit a little clumsily. Much of the first issue is peppered with very direct narration that reiterates the panel displayed, which makes you wonder if the book would’ve been more powerful without the narration. Because of this, Lazaro and Gignac feel as if they’re determined to make sure the reader doesn’t get lost in the story, even if it comes at the expense of the reader making those mental leaps on their own. Despite the heavy-handed narrative approach, Lazaro and Gignac do an admirable job adapting the story and making it feel like their own. The pace is largely consistent throughout, save for a few spots where the story feels as if it jumps around a little bit with some event gaps in between.

Accompanying the story is Erwin’s art, which evokes a fantasy sensibility to it. It works considering the imaginative nature of the book itself and characters are all fully realized amidst fairly intricate cityscapes. Erwin’s style blends old world sensibilities with an otherwordly, futuristic sci-fi setting. Each panel feels as if it’s placed on the pages randomly, eschewing a typical format for more of a scrapbook feel that propels the action further. Gignac handles the colors, thriving primarily on a range of blues and blacks for night scenes, alongside oranges and greens for day scenes. The combination of colors and line art really help the reader experience Jabbul in a way similar to that of Thorby.

Citizen of the Galaxy #1 is an adaptation of a previous work and it’s delivered in a way that wants to stay true to the original work without getting too far away from the core concept. Thorby’s tale isn’t exactly new by any means, but his presence in a world that seems to be caught between past and future is interesting. Lazaro and Gignac provide what seems to be a faithful adaptation of the source material, despite some instances where it feels as it the reader is being given more information than is necessary in an effort to make sure they hit all the right comparison points to the original. Erwin’s art is a great blend of realism and imagination, offering a world that resembles a civilization like Persia that is reminisced on through historic accounts. Citizen of the Galaxy #1 is very ambitious and wants to get into a lot and the first issue offers plenty for the reader to sink their teeth into.

Citizen of the Galaxy #1 is in stores now.


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