Indie Comics Spotlight: Justice Inc., The Fade Out, and Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland



by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Justice Inc. #1


“No one’s ever attempted this before! Exactly why he built this other fortress so far away!”

What do you get when you mix The Shadow, Doc Savage and The Avenger? A trio of three of the most heroic and daring heroes in comic book history. You also get the potential for a top-notch story, as is the case with Justice Inc. #1 from Dynamite Entertainment. The issue is written by Michael Uslan, illustrated by Giovanni Timpano, colored by Marco Lesko and lettered by Simon Bowland.

An airliner vanishes en route without a trace. It’s the crisis that brings together, in a historic team-up for the first time ever, The Shadow, Doc Savage and The Avenger. The story begins here, spawned by a horrific tragedy of death and destruction secretly orchestrated by some of the most powerful and unexpected villains in the history of the pulps. And things really seem to get a little crazy for the heroes involved, fighting to reconcile a future and a past with little knowledge of how the two are connected.

Characters such as The Shadow, Doc Savage and The Avenger are historic and well-known, but the three of them have never teamed up before now. Thankfully, Uslan does a fantastic job bringing them together in a way that feels perfectly in character for the three heroes. Most of the story hinges on Doc Savage’s intelligence and engineering know-how, somehow hurtling him back in time. Uslan’s dialogue handily presents the characters in a way that makes them feel familiar and offers them up in an introductory way to new fans as well. The enemy reveal at the end is pretty ominous as well in that it sets up a pretty interesting potential conflict down the road.

Considering the era of the characters involved, it’s expected that a book like Justice Inc. #1 would fall into something of a pulpy trap. Timpano prevents this from happening, offering a style that’s pretty concise and clean. He does an interesting thing with the panels as well, where he orients them in a way that fits with the action on the page. For instance, there’s one page where a plane is banking and the panels bank along with them, helping the reader get more fully immersed in the action. Each page is chock full of characters as well, but Timpano doesn’t let things get lost in the chaos, ensuring that every character gets equal attention.

Justice Inc. #1 is a pretty fun first issue that sets the table for a lot of solid stories down the road. Bringing together Doc Savage, The Shadow and The Avenger is something that feels like it should’ve done long before now, so it’s pretty welcome to see them all come together. Uslan does a great job blending them together in a way that doesn’t feel forced or unnatural considering the characters. Timpano’s illustrations are very strong and offer up a lot in the way of action and scenery. Justice Inc. #1 is a great issue that does right by the characters involved, presenting a story that trades in adventure and pulp suspense.

Justice Inc. #1 is in stores now.

The Fade Out #1


“I threw my back out trying to deck Bob Hope.”

Actors live in a world much different than that of the everyday folk. Sure, having gobs of money helps, but there’s a certain atmosphere that accompanies the profession. That atmosphere is best exemplified by living in LA, a place where people make pilgrimages to in hopes of hitting it big. Imagine such an atmosphere though in 1948 and you’ve got the makings an intriguing mystery book from Image Comics called The Fade Out #1. The issue is written by Ed Brubaker, illustrated by Sean Phillips and colored by Elizabeth Breitweiser.

Hollywood – 1948. A noir film stuck in endless reshoots. A writer plagued with nightmares from the war and a dangerous secret. An up-and-coming starlet’s suspicious death. And a maniacal studio mogul and his Security Chief who will do anything to keep the cameras rolling before the Post-War boom days come crashing down.

The 1940s as a decade was quite fascinating, largely because of the recurring attention devoted to World War II. It was an era when the safety of the world was largely uncertain for half the decade, while the other half was largely uneasy acceptance of a new future. Still, Brubaker manages to capture both in The Fade Out #1, providing a setting that is a keen on excess in Hollywood with a few reservations. The first issue unfolds in a whodunnit fashion, with the reader privileged enough to have more insights than most of the characters. The mystery of the events at the party are intertwined so deeply with one another and Brubaker is offering up quite a few threads for readers to tug on. Tackling the air of invulnerability that actors at the time felt is pretty exciting, giving Brubaker a chance to really shine.

Brubaker’s success as a writer notwithstanding, it’s Phillips’ familiarity with him that pushes the book to the next level. The duo has been putting out quality title after quality title for years and it shows in The Fade Out #1. Character depictions effectively convey the era they inhabit, with Phillips imbuing the book with his familiar noir style. Charlie Parish, for instance, feels like he stepped right out of a 1948 picture and carries the emotion of his realizations on his face extremely well. Breitweiser’s use of contrasting dark and light colors brilliantly emphasize the shift between settings, such as when characters enter a vibrant party or exit into the darker LA night.

The Fade Out #1 is not going to surprise anyone in terms of the talent involved, but it will offer a rather welcome look at a turbulent time in LA. By the end of the issue, all the cards are on the table in terms of where the mystery will venture next. Brubaker is in top form, writing a book that paces very well and offers up just the right amount of bread crumbs to keep the reader nibbling the hook. Phillips’ illustrations are edgy and bold in a style befitting of the personalities of the players involved, further accented by some stellar coloring choices by Breitweiser. The Fade Out #1 is another solid outing from some familiar friends that everyone should check out.

The Fade Out #1 is in stores now.

Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland #1


“Father have they decided yet who my new playmate is to be?”

Windsor McCay isn’t exactly a household name, but it should be. For nearly twenty years at the turn of the 20th century, Windsor relayed the tales of Little Nemo in a serialized, full-page weekly strip. It emphasized his adventures in Slumberland, a place Nemo visited upon falling asleep. The stories were nothing short of magical and IDW is returning to Slumberland in Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland #1. The issue is written by Eric Shanower, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez, colored by Nelson Daniel and lettered by Robbie Robbins.

King Morpheus’ daughter seeks a new playmate and–in the Royal Palace of Slumberland–many names are bandied about. The name settled on is James “Jimmy” Nemo Summerton, a youth hesitant to accompany Popcorn or Bon-Bon to Slumberland because he doesn’t want to play with girls. It takes a few tries, with Nemo getting closer and closer to Slumberland each night, until finally he sees what all the fuss is about.

Slumberland is place that feels truly imaginative, thanks to the mythos established by Windsor but further bolstered by Shanower’s brilliant script. Each night that Nemo ventures to Slumberland he gets a little bit closer, as Shanower ends each night’s voyage rather climatically. Nemo slowly comes around to the idea that Slumberland is a magical place, but Shanower brings the reader along in that realization as well through the near-misses. There’s a sense of wonderment about the kingdom that Shanower deftly taps into that makes it feel like a worthy goal for both Nemo and the reader. The majesty of Slumberland is also revealed in all the near-misses, as each one demonstrates a different component of the kingdom that work together to paint a fuller picture of the world.

It’s easy to rely on one’s imagination to flesh out what Slumberland really looks like; thankfully though, Rodriguez does a phenomenal job bringing the kingdom to life. Members of Slumberland look cheerful and bold, portraying a kingdom rife with general happiness and mirth. Even the creatures who crave candy look surprisingly merry, despite their otherwise imposing size. Bon-Bon and Popcorn evoke a sense of childish amusement in the reader that’s perfectly befitting of Nemo’s attempts to reach Slumberland. There’s a youthful sensibility to the art that keeps the reader engaged in their imagination, really helping them feel as if they’re traveling alongside Nemo to the realm of Slumberland.

Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland #1 is a very endearing first issue that hits all the right notes when it comes to the character and the adventures in Slumberland. Nemo is reluctant at first when presented with the opportunity, but he gradually comes around in a way that feels genuinely curious. Shanower does a marvelous job capturing that curiosity and slowly peeling back the curtain on it for both Nemo and the reader, revealing more and more wonder with each page. Rodriguez’s illustrations are very imaginative and do a great job capturing the essence of Slumberland and curiosity. Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland #1 is a very charming book that’s enthusiastic about the subject material and looks to be the start of something exciting.

Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland #1 is in stores now.


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