Indie Comics Spotlight: Kingsway West #1, Blood and Dust #1, and The Berzerk Death Dealer #1


By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Kingsway West #1


“The age of Red Gold turned men into soldiers…and soldiers into monsters.”

The gold rushes of the 1800s turned the country on its head as many people sought out the possibility of quick fortunes. With those possibilities also came the probability that things wouldn’t always turn out for the better for some prospectors. One such man caught in the middle of the rush is Kingsway West in Kingsway West #1 from Dark Horse Comics. The issue is written by Greg Pak, illustrated by Mirko Colak, colored by Wil Quintana, and lettered by Simon Bowland.

After thirteen years in prison, a Chinese gunslinger named Kingsway Law just wants to find his wife. But in a fantastical American Old West crackling with magic, monsters, and racist vigilantes, trouble just won’t leave him be. And in this case, trouble is a woman with a magic sword who needs his help.

The first few pages of Kingsway West #1 do a lot of time-traveling as Pak gets the reader up to speed on the history of the world within the pages. Pak does a pretty solid job of cramming a lot of backstory and character building into the early parts of the book, characterizing Kingsway West as a more than capable gunslinger holding his own. Pak also allows his interactions with the environment to be relatively peaceful and survival focused, whereas his interactions with others is a little more violent. The setting of the story feels greatly oversimplified though because of the hurried universe building. Still, there’s enough intimated by Pak that the reader has a pretty good idea of what’s going on by the end of the issue.

Colak frames the panels in a way that allows the characters to stand at the forefront of the action. Because of this approach, Colak can emphasize the actions taken by the characters moreso than the settings themselves – most of which are rendered somewhat vaguely. Each character sports very similar facial expressions and details that makes it a little difficult to distinguish one from another. Colak relies on a lot of cross-hatching to fill out some of the detail in the faces and clothing of the characters. The colors used by Quintana feel pretty vibrant and don’t really give the book the feel of a story taking place in the western US at the turn of the 19th century.

Kingsway West #1 is a little uneven at times as it’s trying to give the reader a ton of information to soak in. Kingsway West the character is a pretty rugged gunslinger who’s on a personal quest to protect his wife, but he gets wrapped up in something bigger than himself. Pak has shown an ability to craft tales that are solid and it’s expected that things will even out as the series progresses. Colak’s illustrations are good and present the alternate reality of the United States well. Kingsway West #1 delves back into America’s troubled past when it comes to immigration and does so with a pinch of altered history.

Kingsway West #1 is in stores August 24.

Blood and Dust #1


“I told ’em to settle down.”

Vampires have a lot of pretty obvious tells. There’s the aversion to sunlight, the sharpened fangs, and the general affection for blood. What’s not really one of their more obvious tells is the desire to raise a family. Doing just that and more is Judd Glenny in Blood and Dust #1 from Action Lab Danger. The issue is written by Michael R. Martin and Adam J. Orndorf, illustrated by Roy Allen Martinez, colored by Raymund Lee, and lettered by Kel Nuttall.

Judd Glenny is the first American vampire – once he terrorized the West as its most fearsome predator – but for more than 40 years now, he’s spent his days in peace, reduced to little more than babysitter for his own vampire offspring. But when the evil that lives in the swamp surrounding the small backwater town he calls home gets a hold of one of Judd’s great grandkids, everything changes.

What Martin and Orndorf do so well in Blood and Dust #1 is build tension, all of which leads up to a pretty strong conclusion. The two start the issue off with seemingly innocuous horseplay between siblings before introducing Judd as something more than just an ornery grandfather. From there, Martin and Orndorf rely on relatively straightforward dialogue that both explains some of Judd’s backstory and the story going forward. There’s a larger plot dynamic in play which is revealed at the end, but the duo’s approach to giving the reader history prior to that doesn’t feel forced. And each of the characters involved feel sufficiently unique in their own regard as well, offering interactions that feel natural.

The pervasive sense of dread hanging over the issue comes courtesy of Martinez whose illustrations are ragged. Judd in particular is portrayed as a weathered and worn old man, living a life that eschews fancier trappings for something more simplistic. The rest of the setting around him feels polluted by time in a reflection of Judd’s own age, but the inclusion of a more current visitor gives Martinez the chance to showcase some strong contrast. Martinez does a great job with facial expressions as well, which underscore the terror that comes with living in a somewhat decrepit environment haunted by a menacing swamp. Lee’s colors are very dark and dire, further embellishing and already terrifying environment for the characters and the reader.

Blood and Dust #1 is a vampire book, but it’s one that takes a more familial approach to the concept. Judd is a crotchety old man with some vampire mixed in for good measure and he’s determined to keep his family safe and do what is considered to generally be the right thing. Martin and Orndorf craft a tale that’s full of tension and suspense that promises to keep the narrative dour. The artwork by Martinez is grimy and furthers the atmosphere as a less than ideal mix for anyone. Blood and Dust #1 is a great first issue that offers a hook for the reader and doesn’t let go.

Blood and Dust #1 is in stores now.

The Berzerk Death Dealer #1


“Fear thy reaper, for he fears no one!”

Death gets everyone in the end (except possibly for those with higher levels of income and advancements in medical technology). Some people fear the reaper while others enjoy working for him. Diablo is one such individual in The Berzerk Death Dealer #1. The issue is written by Vishal Rajput and illustrated by Ashlee Galloway.

Death gets everyone in the end (except possibly for those with higher levels of income and advancements in medical technology). Some people fear the reaper while others enjoy working for him. Diablo is one such individual in The Berzerk Death Dealer #1. The issue is written by Vishal Rajput and illustrated by Ashlee Galloway.

Gothic Town is a place where anarchy is the name of the game and those willing to do what it takes to survive are winning. Maz Latex and Da’Fetish Queenz are poised to take over the town, prompting Diablo to step in and put to use his assassin skills on behalf of his Demon Clan. Rockabella is his trusted dog/ride and joins him in ridding Queenz on behalf of Big Boss.

The book’s opening more or less sets the tone for what the remainder of issue will contain as Rajput focuses on the rebellious attitude that accompanies punk. Diablo’s take on life is to live it up and enjoy every minute of it, whether it’s getting stoned with his dog or killing rival gang-members at the behalf of his boss. The entire issue focuses on establishing Diablo as the best he is at what he does, but it’s clear that Rajput is drawing from other characters such as Ghost Rider for inspiration. The dialogue is presented pretty hurriedly as Rajput crashes his way through the plot, doing whatever it takes to get Diablo from point A to point B. Because of the script style, the pacing feels a little erratic – rushed in some spots and a little slow in others.

Setting the mood visually is Galloway’s art which relies on manga/anime for inspiration. Diablo is illustrated as something of a cross between a Musketeer and a Psycho from Borderlands. Other characters are rendered with softer edges as Galloway eschews hard lines throughout. The book does have plenty of sex and gore to go around, as well as Rajput working in some BDSM references to give the book more of the anything goes attitude symbolic of punk and metal. The first few pages are extremely difficult to read though because of the stylized font used for the lettering.

The Berzerk Death Dealer #1 wears its influences on its sleeve. Diablo is every bit the punker assassin that he claims to be, relishing the chance to do what he does. Rajput’s script characterizes him pretty well in this regard at the expense of fleshing out some of the other characters in his world. Galloway’s artwork is as brash as the lead character and steeps the book in a noir grittiness. The Berzerk Death Dealer #1 will appeal to those readers looking for something a lot darker and full of characters who thrive on being anti-heroes.

The Berzerk Death Dealer #1 is available now.

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