Indie Comics Spotlight: King’s Watch, Hit List, Dirty Justice


by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

King’s Watch #1
“On final approach to…my backyard.”

Flash Gordon, The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician walk into a bar. Wait, that’s not it. Flash Gordon, The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician join up in a new book from Dynamite Entertainment called King’s Watch #1 and it’s got all the craziness you would expect from the three of them teaming up. The first issue is written by Jeff Parker, illustrated by Marc Laming, colored by Jordan Boyd and lettered by Simon Bowland.

Flash Gordon has partnered with Dr. Zarkov to create a jet that can travel in space, giving him a firsthand look at a series of lights making their way toward the planet. The Phantom is dealing with a new species of predator in the jungle and Mandrake the Magician seems to think that something majorly evil is on its way towards humanity. Meanwhile, Arden is one of many who is having a shared nightmare portending death and destruction. Naturally, the three “kings” are going to be called upon to save the world.

Parker’s been tasked with a pretty hefty order in writing King’s Watch and he does a great job with the first issue. The three main characters are given plenty of introduction to help new readers catch on, as Parker places them in their natural settings to handle the woes of the world. The overarching story isn’t exactly new with the end of the world on the horizon, but it does provide a sufficient adversary for the heroes of the day. The first issue also moves along at a great pace and doesn’t feel too disjointed, despite having to juggle “origins” of three major characters.

Laming’s art is very formal. Characters are depicted with effective facial expressions and well-defined lines, coming together for a clean presentation. He does a great job with the main characters, offering readers the familiar looks of each one that helps put the book in context. The Phantom’s scenes are probably the best done and most action-packed, primarily because of what he’s dealing with. That’s not to say the other panels and pages are bad; just a lot less slow on the action front.

King’s Watch #1 is a great first issue that revisits some historically major characters. It’ll be very exciting to watch them find their ways to one another and team up against the impending evil. Dynamite trusts Parker with the duties and he handles them very deftly, offering readers an adventurous story packed with intrigue. Fans of the characters will definitely want to check it out, but it also gives other readers something else that’s worth checking out if they’re looking for something new to read.

King’s Watch #1 is available now.

Hit List #1
“Now all you need to do is stay far away from Brown House and we’ll get along just fine.”

Organized crime has a way of working its way around the legal system. Bribes, kickbacks and murders are all tools employed in order to keep the law out of their daily routines. Unfortunately for them, they can’t really do much for secret organizations hellbent on killing them, as is the case in Hit List #1 from Zenescope Entertainment. The issue is written by Ralph Tedesco, with art by Sami Kivela, colors by Bryan Valenza and letters by Jim Campbell.

As a member of the Brown House Bishops, one is entitled to many perks as the criminal organization maintains a stranglehold on a leadership position in the criminal underworld. One of those perks certainly isn’t dying, but it seems members of the group have a bad habit of doing just that. A group of assassins is working their way through the organization, taking them out one by one for reasons yet unknown. What is known is that they’re brutally efficient at their jobs.

Tedesco’s work on the writing side of things is methodically paced and deliberate. While the overarching motivation as to why the Bishops are being killed remains to be seen (other than just that they’re bad people), it’s expected that Tedesco will explore this before the mini-series ends. Characters are presented as believable and part of a cogent organization that prides itself on their efficiency. There’s some money behind the organization as well, which means that the group has what’s necessary to be well-trained killing machines. And boy, do they have no qualms about killing.

Kivela’s art is rather simple, but very effective. He doesn’t bog the pages down with an overabundance of detail, in either the characters or the settings. As mentioned earlier there’s a lot of killing and some of the scenes are quite graphic. Kivela doesn’t let the blood completely overtake the pages where they’re present though. Yes, it’s visible and stands out, but it doesn’t overwhelm the reader with gore. All of the members of the group are really, really, really good looking, which does sort of detract from the believability of such a clandestine organization.

Hit List #1 is something not entirely in Zenescope’s wheelhouse. Having said that, the issue is kicking off what is clearly an ambitious endeavor by the publisher. It’s a strong first issue, giving proper introductions to the characters and the world they live in. What it doesn’t do is tell the reader where the animosity towards the Bishops comes from, but that just means you’ll have to keep reading to find out. You won’t find Sela or any of the other Grimm Fairy Tales here and that just reasserts the book’s grounding in reality and grittiness.

Hit List #1 is available in stores now.

Dirty Justice #1
“If you have the monies then this is what you people want.”

In space, no one can hear you scream…if you happen to be trying to pull off a complex deal with a crime lord and run into some issues. Fortunately, a bounty hunter in that situation likely won’t scream and Justice Kreel will do what needs doing to make it out with her prize. Dirty Justice #1 from Gee Whiz Entertainment depicts that scenario. Dirty Justice #1 is written and illustrated by Steve Stamatiadis.

Justice Kreel has a knack for getting in (and out of) sticky situations. Her latest adventure takes her to a rather rambunctious bar where her expected trade partner Einer. Einer is a rather sticky and slimy fellow, taking pride in his position as a crime lord and purveyor of fine goods. As do most trades in space bars go, this one doesn’t quite follow the expected script, giving Justice plenty of cause to rely on her skills to escape. Add on to that a message from a previously forgotten group and the day is just getting started for young Justice.

When first reading Dirty Justice #1, the reader expects the story to be about space travel, galactic wars and general craziness. After a few pages though, Stamatiadis changes course and brings it down to a much more personal level by focusing on Justice. It’s not exactly a bad thing, although it is a little unexpected. Justice as a character is everything a bounty hunter should be: feisty, strong and resourceful. What her reason for making the deal with Einer is remains to be seen and it’s expected that it will be revealed in fuller detail in future issues.

There’s obviously a heavy anime influence on the art in the book. Characters are illustrated with vibrant colors and outlines, all paying homage to what’s clearly the Japanese influence. He uses some rather unique blur effects for certain scenes, such as kicks landing and enemies transforming. It’s a cleanly illustrated book that boasts a very curvy main character in Justice, but it’s not really used excessively. There’s even a great Phoenix Wright finger point that defines her as a character, indicating her relentlessness.

Dirty Justice #1 starts off and then changes course a few pages in; whether this is good or bad remains to be seen. As future issues are released, it’s expected that the story will come together and become more tightly woven. Justice has the characteristics to be a great lead character and the world that Stamatiadis has created feels very rich and lively. If you’re into space tales that pay homage to a wide variety of source material (Firefly, Star Trek, Star Wars), then this is definitely worth checking out.

Dirty Justice #1 is available now via comixology.

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