Indie Comics Spotlight-Jack Kraken One-Shot, Chaos #1, Dead Ronin #1
By Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)
Jack Kraken One-Shot
“If I had my way, I wouldn’t be flipping out in a dark, abandoned prison. I’d be at home, in my boxers, sippin’ tea. The ‘sleepytime’ kind. Yeah.”
If the day ever comes when agencies like the FBI, CIA, and NSA can’t handle an enemy thrown their way, hopefully another agency will step up and fill the void. The thing is, that new opponent might be of the supernatural/monster/undead variety, which may require a different type of group – and a different type of hero, like Jack Kraken in Jack Kraken One-Shot from Dark Horse Comics. The issue is written by Tim Seeley, illustrated by Seeley, Ross Campbell and Jim Terry, colored by Carlos Badilla and lettered by Crank!.
Jack Kraken is a man with a penchant for two things: clandestine infiltration missions and having a good time while on them. In Jack Kraken One-Shot, he’s placed in three different missions courtesy of three different stories — “Race Relations,” “The Ballad of Liadain Orlaith” and “Who is Jack Kraken?” — that provide varied situations for him to show off his talents. The first puts him in a haunted hospital looking for someone, the second trying to prevent a centuries old baby-snatcher, and the third against a relic of a different era fighting for survival. All three provide more detail on who Jack Kraken is: a rather fun-loving, trigger-happy agent for the Humanoid Interaction Management (H.I.M.) agency.
Two of the three stories have been previously published, while the third was created specifically for Jack Kraken One-Shot. All three taken together provide a pretty solid understanding of what makes Jack Kraken tick and Seeley has infused him with a lot of cool. There will inevitably be Deadpool comparisons (even their looks are similar), but Jack Kraken seems to be something of a hybrid between the aforementioned Merc with a Mouth and Hellboy. Both characters handle themselves exceedingly well, face all manner of opponents, and bring a rather unique perspective to their daily routines. Seeley’s dialogue is especially sharp, providing some great insights into what makes Jack Kraken tick; this shines especially well in his conversations with Agent Welles.
Considering Jack Kraken One-Shot has three different artists, there really isn’t much of a difference across the three stories. Each artist handles their story very well and provides a very consistent look throughout the entirety of the book. Jack Kraken is illustrated as muscular and lithe, visually more than competent enough to handle any mission he’s sent on. He sports rather unique arms that stay hidden until he needs them and the art team does a fantastic job making him look regular when he needs to. Additionally, there are some pretty good action shots throughout the book that underscore the line of work Jack Kraken is in, pitting him against some pretty interesting looking opponents.
Jack Kraken One-Shot is a really fun book to read. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and recognizes that it doesn’t have to rely on its title character to carry the load all the time. Sure, Jack Kraken gets most of the attention, but the world around him created by Seeley goes a long way to inviting the reader in and demonstrates clever world-building. The use of three stories gives the reader three perspectives on the character and manages to offer a rather complete picture of what to expect from him. Varied art styles feel uniform enough that there are no really jarring transitions from one story to the next, with a myriad of different monsters thrown in for good measure. Jack Kraken One-Shot is a book that is pretty enjoyable and doesn’t expect the reader to invest too much thought in reading it, but the opportunity is there with a character like Jack Kraken to get really pensive if you want to.
Jack Kraken One-Shot is in stores now.
“The blood…the blood…the blood!”
There’s always been an unspoken battle of good versus evil. There’s an impending invasion of some form of enemy that is damnation incarnate and typically one hero (or a few) has to stand up to them to save the world. Rarely are those scenarios much fun for anyone involved, but a book like Chaos #1 from Dynamite Entertainment proves that some people can enjoy their work. The issue is written by Tim Seeley, illustrated by Mirk Andolfo, colored by Walter Baiamonte, and lettered by Marshall Dillon.
Chaos #1 picks up with the Chosen (kids from the Omen) as they continue to find ways to stop Purgatori. She’s not keen to rest on her laurels, as they happen to come across Vex while raiding one of Purgatori’s shipments. Meanwhile, Evil Ernie is on his own mission, making his way towards Megadeath on behalf of Mistress Hel. All the main players are presented and all have their own agendas, none of which are likely to be very peaceful when it comes to one another.
The characters in Chaos #1 may be familiar to some, but for the most part they’re largely unfamiliar. Thankfully, Seeley does a great job introducing all the players and getting the reader up to speed. Part of the problem in that is that there are a ton of characters, which can be a little overwhelming to the reader. Seeley does an admirable job handling all the moving parts of the story, ensuring that no one gets the shaft when it comes to exposition. There are some pretty devilish themes in the book as well; something that makes sense for the characters involved and makes the setting feel sufficiently evil.
Andolfo’s illustrations are efficient and capture the essence of the characters and universe. Many of the female characters in the Chaos universe are illustrated quite voluptuously, but it makes some sense in a way considering the content of the book. Other than that, the characters are cleanly defined and exhibit an adept style that blends hell and Earth. However, there is a heavy reliance on shadows and cross-hatching that detracts from the book’s look. All things considered, the book feels a little tame in some regards when it comes to the chaos of evil and death.
Chaos #1 is an interesting trip down memory lane in a way. It reintroduces the reader to characters familiar years ago, while simultaneously offering them to new readers as well. Seeley is definitely the man for the job here, as his rather unique ability to lighten seemingly hellish concepts is always welcome. Andolfo’s illustrations are sufficient for the characters and setting involved, despite some facets that don’t quite fit the tone of the book at times. Chaos #1 is worth checking out if you’re a fan of the original characters or just want something new to check out, especially if you’re a fan of stories that trade in evil taking over the world.
Chaos #1 is in stores now.
Dead Ronin #1
“Beyond this gate is my vengeance.”
Ronin have historically been one of the most feared warriors throughout history. They demonstrate a cool sensibility amidst the chaos of combat, making them brutally efficient killing machines. If you add in the fact that they’re already dead when they’re fighting, then chances are you’ve made a worthy opponent even more ridiculously strong. Lab5 Studios offers a character in Dead Ronin #1, written and illustrated by Luke A. Brown.
It’s the beginning of the end as one man fights before the gates of his vengeance. Continually pushing to the limits, he’s forced to contend with two outcomes: will he retain his humanity or become a monster? What follows is a lot of vicious combat and one man’s struggles against demons — both internal and external.
Dead Ronin #1 is something that will feel very familiar to fans of anime and manga. In fact, the entire first issue is pretty much a stereotypical beastly character easily handling any and all comers, until he’s faced with something that gives him some pause. Brown adds some dialogue throughout the book that primarily serves as the main character’s stream of conscious. This is good because it does give more insight into what he’s dealing with internally, despite being so combat-capable externally. The thing is, the character is neither never named in the book, nor is he referred to in any capacity other than shrieks of fear. It doesn’t take away from the book’s overall plot, but it’s tough to figure out who exactly everyone is fearful of and why.
Pulling double creative duties in Dead Ronin #1 is Brown, as he also illustrates the book. Again, there are very clear anime/manga inspirations throughout the entire book, right down to the characters who showcase Jekyll and Hyde personas. Characters are illustrated in a way that presents them as if they’re posing for a hero shot, a trademark of the aforementioned influences. Some of the more monstrous appearances invoke comparisons to demons and Brown does a good job differentiating between human and monster to the point that the reader has a really good idea of who the bad guys are based on appearances.
Dead Ronin #1 reads like the fight episode in an anime after the viewer has sat through ten dialogue episodes. It’s not necessarily a bad thing (and of course those dialogue episodes do get tedious after a while), but there’s little context for the first issue here. The reader doesn’t really know who’s fighting, what the fighting is about or why it’s so important. Ideally, future issues will address this, perhaps in the form of flashbacks or something. On its own though, Dead Ronin #1 really acts as a set piece for what is likely a bigger story. Hopefully, Brown lets everyone else in on it at some point down the road.
Dead Ronin #1 is available now via Comixology.