Indie Comics Spotlight: John Wick #1, Monstro Mechanica #1, and The Mighty Crusaders #1


By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

John Wick #1

“I always like it quiet.”

The Boogeyman is a myth that strikes fear in kids all over the world. Baba Yaga is a myth that strikes fears in adults and assassins all over the world. While the former is good for a spooky story or two, the latter is good for John Wick #1 from Dynamite Entertainment. The issue is written by Greg Pak, illustrated by Giovanni Valleta, colored by David Curiel and Inlight Studios, and lettered by Tom Napolitano.

When a young John Wick emerges from prison and embarks upon his first epic vendetta, he comes up against a strange, powerful community of assassins and must learn how to master the Book of Rules that guides their lethal business. What are the Three Bills? Who is Calamity? And who was John Wick before he became the Baba Yaga?

The two John Wick films have prided themselves on their ability to depict the titular hero as a man feared by most and Pak infuses John Wick #1 with that same sensibility. Pak doesn’t really do much in the way of introducing the reader to John Wick as he currently exists, primarily because this is something of an origin story. Despite the notion of an origin, there’s not an abundance of dialogue in the issue as Pak instead focuses on the characters’ violent interactions with one another. In that sense, the book does an excellent job of tapping into John Wick’s sheer talents as a killer while also showcasing events from his past to explain how he got where he is now. A character like John Wick is created by an event (or series of events) and Pak does well to tie the present events into the past, all while keeping John Wick at the center of it all and bringing him into the world of assassins.

Credit to Valleta – he’s really nailed the look of Keanu Reeves as John Wick. That rendering of John Wick further draws the reader into the action and gives them something of a point in reality to grasp onto. Valleta’s style relies on thin yet defined pencils that allow the characters to cut into the settings quite efficiently. The action sequences are thoroughly enjoyable as Valleta infuses the book with all manner of martial arts, gunfire, breaking windows, and a variety of other action-packed events that give the book a frenetic pace. The colors by Curiel/Inlight Studios are darker and somewhat ominous, echoing the darker blues and blacks of the films.

John Wick #1 is a very solid origin story for an equally solid character. John Wick has always been one to shy away from conflict, but there are those he crosses paths with who don’t know that about him and instead push him to violence. Pak’s take on the character is strong, emphasizing his quiet solitude as a facade for a quiet ferocity. Valleta’s artwork is brash and reckless, much like the characters involved in the action. John Wick #1 will appeal to fans of the films and characters like James Bond who have a propensity for much, much more violence.

John Wick #1 is available now.

Monstro Mechanica #1

“…I do also paint.”

Leonardo da Vinci’s reputation needs no introduction. He was a man of all talents, never shying away from trying something new. Monstro Mechanica #1 from After Shock Comix shows da Vinci trying something new and its consequences. The issue is written and lettered by Paul Allor, illustrated by Chris Evenhuis, and colored by Sjan Weijers.

At the height of the Renaissance, warring factions vie for control of Leonardo da Vinci’s destructive arsenal. The only thing standing in their way is Leonardo’s young apprentice and her nine-foot tall mechanical bodyguard. Together, they navigate a world of wicked men and war machines, determined to save Leonardo from the world – and the world from Leonardo.

Allor realizes that da Vinci was an interesting man living at an interesting time and Monstro Mechanica #1 is a great representation of that. His characterization of Leonardo da Vinci is one that parlays his raw intelligence into something that borders on arrogance. That arrogance may materialize into something that not even da Vinci is equipped to handle, as Allor’s inclusion of a robot invention of his seemingly growing sentient taps into more modern worries about AI. What’s interesting is how Allor uses da Vinci’s personality to bolster Isabel as a character; she’s something of an apprentice, but she also realizes that da Vinci might be getting in over his head and is afforded some quality character development as a result. And while the book seems to center around da Vinci, Allor doesn’t necessarily make him the focal point as he really plays out more as a player in a much larger game.

The artwork by Evenhuis is pretty slick. His linework feels somewhat weightier compared to Weijer’s colors, giving each character a stronger presence against the gorgeously rendered backdrops. Evenhuis illustrated da Vinci’s golem in a way that’s appropriate for the time, emphasizing the relatively simplicity of an entity cobbled together with wood. The rest of Italy is illustrated with an attention to its livelihood as Evenuis focuses on the look and feel of the era. Da Vinci in particular feels sufficiently badass, in that Evenhuis seems to have captured the essence of his appearance while at the same time giving him a swagger. Weijers’ colors are rich throughout the issue a well, further embellishing the depiction of the era.

Monstro Mechanica #1 is a fun, anachronistic book that takes a well-known individual in Leonardo da Vinci and gives him a more modern flair. Da Vinci and Isabel are working feverishly to achieve da Vinci’s machinations, all the while the Pope is seeking to extend his reign. Allor’s script is pretty fast-moving and entertaining, emphasizing the knowledge on the part of da Vinci that he’s one of a kind. The illustrations by Evenhuis are sharp and crisp, portraying da Vinci and his cohorts in a way that feels accurate. Monstro Mechanica #1 is a fast-paced romp through history that gives readers a new take on an historic figure.

Monstro Mechanica #1 is available December 13.

The Mighty Crusaders #1

“That was the scene in the nation’s capital today as the Crusaders stopped a homicidal dinosaur.”

Every good superhero needs a team. One superhero is only capable of so much, so teaming up only makes sense to help them cover any shortcomings they may have. In The Mighty Crusaders #1 from Dark Circle Comics, that team is tasked with fighting evil and the press. The issue is written by Ian Flynn, illustrated by Kelsey Shannon, colored by Matt Herms, and lettered by Jack Morelli.

There’s something happening over at Archie Comics. It’s a new title they call The Mighty Crusaders, and they’re giving us a four-page sneak peek at the book before it hits the comic shops this December! Get ready to see a no-holds-barred throw-down with a prehistoric terror in the heart of Washington D.C., which sets the stage for the dramatic return of a wayward hero!

There’s certainly no shortage of superhero team-up stories out there, but Flynn does some things slightly different in The Mighty Crusaders #1 that give it a little bit of uniqueness. The first part of the issue is spent with various members of the team fighting a dinosaur and Flynn does well in introducing each character to the reader. There’s a team dynamic there for sure, but Flynn also brings along conflict by dropping certain characters on both the reader and the rest of the Mighty Crusaders. In a way, Flynn is setting up the stakes for the series by tapping into a marketability mentality when it comes to the Mighty Crusaders, offering dialogue that supports the notion that perception is reality. By embracing the notion that a team of superheroes have to save the day and actually look good doing it, Flynn adds a hook into the 24/7 news cycle the world currently exists in.

Shannon’s artwork is pretty gorgeous to look at. The no-muss linework is straightforward and gives Shannon plenty of room to play around with the character designs, ensuring that each character has a look that matches their personality. The variety of insets and overlays keeps up with the action nicely, which works well for Shannon considering that most of the issue is a knockdown, drag-out brawl. Herms relies on a color palette that’s extremely bright and vivid, allowing the characters’ costumes to have a sufficient amount of pop. And Morelli’s lettering is a nice nod to comics of old, emphasizing the intensity of the battle through various sound effects and differing font types.

The Mighty Crusaders #1 is a nice throwback to a different era in comics that still feels modernized. Victoria Adams (aka The Shield) is tasked with leading the titular group against enemies that challenge them both physically and mentally. Flynn’s script is easy and straightforward, effectively giving the reader all the information they need to know what’s going on. Shannon’s illustrations are clean and simple, evoking a different era in comics. The Mighty Crusaders #1 is a lot of fun as far as first issues go, if for nothing else because the team is squaring off against a vindictive dinosaur.

The Mighty Crusaders #1 is available now.

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