Indie Comics Spotlight: Life With Kevin #1, Jade Street Protection Services #1, and Black Hammer #1

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By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Life With Kevin #1


1

“I know! I know! It needs some work.”

Making a move to the big city is never easy, but it’s a rite of passage for many. Kevin from Riverdale is one such individual and his jump is chronicled in Life With Kevin #1 from Archie Comics. The issue is written, penciled, and colored by Dan Parent; inked by J. Bone; and lettered by Jack Morelli.

Kevin’s made his big move to the Big Apple! He’s got his own place, he’s starting his internship on the production team at a high-profile news channel—Kevin’s really got it all together…or does he? Will his first day in NYC be a dream come true or will the big city eat him alive? Kevin will learn one thing for sure: when it comes to city living, expect the unexpected!

Characters in the Archie universe all carry a certain joie de vivre to them that makes their lives seem as if they’re delightful coincidences and Parent continues that with Kevin in Life With Kevin #1. From the outset, Parent gives the reader a version of Kevin that everyone can relate to in terms of a series of unfortunate events to kick off a new life in the big city. Kevin takes everything in stride and Parent uses that to lighten the mood and give the book a great flow. The dialogue is very rapid-fire and the reader can really put themselves in Kevin’s shoes as he scrambles from one disaster to the next. And Parent is very clearly setting up multiple storylines for Kevin to pursue as the series continues.

Parent also handles the pencils in Life With Kevin #1 and the book definitely feels like Riverdale. Kevin sports the Riverdale look shared by other Archie comics as Parent defines him with clean, bold angles. The backgrounds are detailed enough where the reader knows the setting, but Parent focuses more on the characters as they interact with one another. Bones inks are clean and emboldened by the blue coloring that shows the book through something of a filter. The panels are presented in a very simple, grid-like formula that allows the reader to keep up with Kevin’s race through the day.

Life With Kevin #1 is a pretty frenetic first day for Kevin. As he completes his first day on his own in the big city, it’s clear that things are going to be difficult – but he’s up to the challenge. Parent writes Kevin as very easygoing and doesn’t shy away from throwing all manner of obstacle in his way to make his life interesting. The artwork is clean and fits the book well, maintaining the look and feel of a book about a character from Riverdale. Life With Kevin #1 is a pretty easy read that’s made more enjoyable by the effervescent optimism of the lead character.

Life With Kevin #1 is in stores now.

Jade Street Protection Services #1


2

“So what did I miss?”

High school is not looked on fondly by many former students. There are likely good times had by many, but the sheer pressure that comes along socially makes things that much worse. Throwing magic into the mix similar to that of Jade Street Protection Services #1 from Black Mask Studio makes things even tougher. The issue is written by Katy Rex, illustrated by Fabian Lelay, colored by Mara Jayne Carpenter, and lettered by Taylor Esposito.

Kai, Saba, Noemi, Divya, and Emma are (bad) students at Matsdotter Academy, an elite private school for magical girls. When they all meet for the first time in a totally unfair detention, these punk rock witch delinquents cut class and discover the fates Matsdotter has in store for them are even more sinister than they suspected.

Rex brings the main characters together in a way that’s not entirely original, but it works because of how she presents it. The script is structured in a way that the reader can learn about each of the main characters, the Matsdotter Academy and the conflicts they find themselves in. And each of the characters have a very distinct personality that offers a good amount of conflict amongst one another. The dialogue by Rex facilitates their interactions in a very entertaining way that also moves the story forward. And Rex paces things very evenly in an effort to ensure no part of the story feels forced.

There’s a very light approach in terms of the artwork that Lelay relies on for demonstrating the workflow at Matsdotter Academy. The linework is very clean and effective in differentiating each student by relying on distinct styles and personalities. Lelay works in some manga references in some of the panels as well that show off unique facial expressions that bolster the story. Backgrounds are pretty simplistic in a way that doesn’t really make the academy a character itself. Carpenter’s colors are muted yet effective in giving the book the appropriate pop where necessary.

Jade Street Protection Services #1 wears its influences on its sleeve. The five main characters may have stumbled upon something much larger than themselves that will force them to mature more quickly than planned. The plot by Rex is simple enough but she gives the characters plenty of personality to carry that tale. Lelay’s illustrations are cartoonish in some ways that bring a lightheartedness to the proceedings. Jade Street Protection Services #1 takes the concept of a super school and throws in some magic for good measure.

Jade Street Protection Services #1 is in stores now.

Black Hammer #1


3

“Ten years today since we arrived. Ten years!”

What does a superhero do when they’re all done saving the day? Sometimes they’ll have a replacement waiting in the wings. Other times they go out in a blaze of glory. Rarely, though, are they banished to another world and forced to live out their days as “normal” as they do in Black Hammer #1 from Dark Horse Comics. The issue is written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Dean Ormston, colored by Dave Stewart, and lettered by Todd Klein.

Once they were heroes, but the age of heroes has long since passed. Banished from existence by a multiversal crisis, the old champions of Spiral City—Abraham Slam, Golden Gail, Colonel Weird, Madame Dragonfly, and Barbalien—now lead simple lives in a timeless farming town. Even as they try to find their way home, trouble has a unique way of finding heroes wherever they are!

Instead of showing superheroes choosing a normal life, Lemire decides to force them into one. The former superheroes in Black Hammer #1 are all struggling to reconcile their new lives on the farm and Lemire does an excellent job of presenting the tensions that come with such an arrangement. In fact, Lemire sets this scenario up quite elegantly by slowly building it up before offering a relatively surprising ending that sets the tone for the direction of the series. The script is paced in a way that lends itself to the small town vibe the heroes find themselves in as Lemire has the former heroes laboring through the tedium of life. And the dialogue is very effective in characterizing each hero in a way that allows Lemire to demonstrate their frustration with their current plight.

Part of their arrival on Earth included a slight change of appearance and Ormston does a great job of rendering them in this manner. Many of the characters are literally shells of their former selves as Ormston illustrates them in a seeming contrast to their personalities. There’s a roughness to his illustrations that reflects their tired appearance as a result of ten years away from their former lives. Ormston renders the settings in a very simplified way that doesn’t stress detail, but the approach mirrors the theme of the first issue. Stewart’s colors are a great fit as they add the right amount of pop for the more emotionally important scenes.

The concept of retirement for superheroes is practically unheard of as they’ll always feel the need to continue their duties. The superheroes in Black Hammer #1 were forced into retirement and want to get back to their old way of life. Lemire’s plot is very interesting and affords the reader a new take on superheroes. Ormston’s artwork is very subdued and rugged in a way that effectively captures the mental state of many of the former superheroes. Black Hammer #1 is a somber take on superheroes.

Black Hammer #1 is in stores July 20.


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