Indie Comics Spotlight: Hexed, Transformers: Primacy, Outre Xenophobia

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by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)



Hexed #1

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“Why are you guys dressed like space ninjas?”

For most people, playing with magic doesn’t stretch far beyond grabbing a Ouija board and getting freaked out by the subsequent events. For others though, there’s a real connection that manifests itself as abilities in an individual. Some use these abilities to communicate with the unknown, while others just use them to steal stuff. Hexed #1 from BOOM! Studios is a story that falls in the latter category. The issue is written by Michael Alan Nelson, illustrated by Dan Mora, colored by Gabriel Cassata, and lettered by Ed Dukeshire.

Luci Jennifer Inacio Das Neves (most people just call her “Lucifer”) is a supernatural thief-for-hire, stealing wondrous objects from the dark denizens of the netherworld for her mentor/mother figure, Val Brisendine. She’s very good at her career as well, until she gets into something of a tight spot during a heist. What follows is she accidentally unleashes a terrible evil from one of the paintings hanging in Val’s art gallery. Stopping it will require nothing short of most of her bag of tricks, including a trip into the darker side of the arts.

Thief/heist stories are always more successful when there’s a fast pace to them. Nelson doesn’t disappoint in this regard, as Hexed #1 picks up in the middle of a heist and doesn’t really slow down from there. The action works in a way that also introduces the reader to all the major players; primarily, it provides a great outlet for Lucifer to really shine. She’s a character who clearly isn’t afraid of magic and the dark arts, which is evidenced through her decision-making and somewhat reckless abandon. The premise of the first issue blends together a healthy amount of intrigue as well, mixing together an art theft with elements of the aforementioned magic. Other characters play their roles in a way that really helps propel Lucifer to the forefront of the story, ensuring that the reader knows who to root for.

Illustratively, Hexed #1 feels very hip. Mora illustrates his characters with very sharp angles, giving them figures that cut well against the backgrounds. There’s a certain nostalgic look to the character renderings that makes the book feel like it’s from a different era, which works to the book’s advantage. Cassata’s coloring relies on extremely bold color choices that emphatically reinforces the action on that specific page, with many of the magic panels colored in a way that prompts them to feel as if they’re leaping off of the page. There’s a fevered kineticism to the action that helps the illustrations keep up with the rather fast pace of the story itself.

Hexed #1 is a first issue that opens up fast and doesn’t really slow down. This allows it to cover a lot of ground in one issue and get the reader fully up-to-speed on many aspects of its universe, including the stakes of the world Lucifer inhabits. Nelson makes the first issue feel pretty ho-hum until the end, where he mixes in a few twisting storylines that offer to take the book to some fun places. Mora’s art is very concise and effective at conveying to the reader the action on page. Hexed #1 is quite interesting for a beginning and delves into some pretty mystical subjects to carry the plots and drive character choices.

Hexed #1 is in stores now.

Outre #3: Xenophobia

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“They are disgusting beyond belief and if they do not leave our world they should be eradicated.”

Everyone wants to feel like they belong. Some people cling to their belonged group so tightly that they’re not welcoming of newcomers. There’s a happy balance in between there that must be struck, but doing so often proves more difficult than expected. Outré #3: Xenophobia is an excellent example of such hardships. It’s comprised of a series of stories that hammer home points of isolation and acceptance. “Out! Out! Out!” is by Steve Ince, Giles Crawford, and Mick Schubert; “The Day the Foreigner Came” is by Landon Wright, Sebastian Chow, Kote Carvajal, and Sean Rinehart; “Grave Travels” is by Kyle Kazcmarzcyk, Ashley Ribblett, and Mick Schubert; and “The Suburbs” is by Emmet O’Cuana, Rinehart, and Tim Switalski. Additionally, there are two illustrations as well: “Peas in the Pod” by Jonas Larsen and “X-Factor” by K. Michael Russell.

True to the anthology’s title, there’s an undercurrent of xenophobia pervasive throughout the collection. “Out! Out! Out!” subverts the expected rights lobbying by making it men who vocalize the feeling that their rights are being trampled by faeries. “The Day the Foreigner Came” is about a group of Georgian friends coming to grips with the fact that they feel their people are being “stolen” from them by other nationalities. “Grave Travels” is about a Frankenstein-like monster coming to the realization that maybe the world isn’t ready for his presence. “The Suburbs” is about one man’s supposed delusions about tentacled aliens abducting and killing a town’s inhabitants. Even the two illustrations emphasize a sense of being ostracized due to what are perceived as physical imperfections.

The collection of stories is quite varied, but the theme of xenophobia brings them together extremely tightly. Anthologies always tend to have some shared theme that brings them together and it’s a testament to the creators of Outré #3: Xenophobia that it works very well here. Each story engenders a sense of familiarity in the reader, as it’s likely we’ve all been viewed as an outcast as one point or another. The fear of being replaced in “Out! Out! Out!” is very tangible; in fact, the story revolves around one pregnant woman who shows fear herself about the faeries appearing. “The Day the Foreigner Came” showcases a very real fear of culture dilution that some nationalities cling to extremely tightly. “Grave Travels” is probably the most elegant story when it comes to be an outsider, with the protagonist feeling it’s better to be detained anonymously instead of scaring those around him. And “The Suburbs” speaks to our collective fear that things aren’t always so quaint in the neighborhood with well-manicured lawns and family routines.

While the anthology shares many common themes, the art is a little more diverse. Each story offers a style that’s vastly different from the others, but fits the narrative of that story. “Grave Travels” relies on a black and white cartoonish look that helps lighten the otherwise somber tone. “Out! Out! Out!” feels the most polished in terms of the total artistic presentation. “The Suburbs” feels indie, while “The Day the Foreigner Came” feels like a newspaper comic strip. The two single-page illustrations are also sufficient at delivering the overall theme of the anthology without words, each in their own unique way.

Outré #3: Xenophobia is a collection of stories that everyone can relate to on one level or another. The sense of belonging that we feel as humans is extremely powerful, but it’s a sense that’s not necessarily owned exclusively by us. Every being wants to be part of something larger, so it’s unfortunate when there are others who don’t feel as all-inclusive. The collection of stories and illustrations in Outré #3: Xenophobia takes this theme and really runs with it, offering rather thoughtful explorations of the fear of acceptance. It’s a pretty solid anthology that showcases a wide array of talent and is worth picking up if you want something a little different.

Outré #3: Xenophobia is available now.

Transformers Primacy #1

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“There was a moment where the most dangerous Cybertronian alive…saved the world. Now all is quiet. But the peace…cannot last.”

It’d be nice if one day humanity comes face-to-face with an alien race. Hopefully, that alien race is receptive to us and doesn’t want to enslave us. If they do want to enslave us, there’s another hope that we’ll have a rival alien race to challenge that authority and fight on our side, as the Autobots tend to do quite often. When they’re not fighting to save humans though, they’re seemingly in constant battle with their own enemies in Decepticons, a battle starting anew in Transformers Primacy #1 from IDW Publishing. The issue is written by Chris Metzen and Flint Dille, illustrated by Livid Ramondelli, and lettered by Chris Mowry.

The war for Cybertron is ramping up, pitting familiar sides and opponents against one another. And after the events of “Monstrosity,” Cybertron is now left in the dark. Optimus is taking some personal time, traveling to the harsh, polar regions of Cybertron, which prompts a rather alarming discovery on his part. Meanwhile, the Decepticons are regrouping after Scorponok’s haphazard leadership, giving Megatron the opportunity he needs to regain control of the group he’s so familiar with.

Transformers as a story always seems to work best when it’s Optimus Prime against Megatron, as the two of them are stalwarts of the war. Transformers Primacy #1 does an excellent job building this up, giving both key players ample opportunity to coalesce their armies and prepare for the next go round in the seemingly never ending battle. Metzen and Dille do a great job infusing both characters with the traits that make them leaders in their own ways. Those traits are also familiar to most readers and give them something to grab hold onto if they’re not versed in the Transformers lore. And Transformers Primacy #1 is definitely very involved, requiring a lot of knowledge on the part of the reader when it comes to knowing the intricacies of what makes the Transformers universe tick.

There’s little that an artist could do with Transformers that’s unfamiliar and Ramondelli does well sticking with the familiar characters. His style is very interesting in that it’s largely dark and rife with shadows, yet he still manages to offer an abundance of detail in the Transformers. Granted, there are some panels where the action is a little difficult to make out because of the shading choices, but it doesn’t take away from the book’s overall look. Ramondelli’s style is very unique and a very good fit for the property, really capturing the beauty of giant robots who can transform into other vehicles, weapons, dinosaurs, etc.

Transformers Primacy #1 is kind of a return to the core of Transformers. It’s gearing up to be Optimus Prime versus Megatron again, which for some reason never really feels as if it gets old. Metzen and Dille do a great job with the build-up in the issue, doing their best to bring the reader into the fold despite the heavy reliance on reading other Transformer stories. Ramondelli’s style is unique and effective at conveying the action to the reader, adding something of a nouveau look to the characters and settings. Transformers Primacy #1 is a very strong book that lays the groundwork for what could be an even stronger series.

Transformers Primacy #1 is in stores now.


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