Indie Comics Spotlight: Loose Ends #1, Ladycastle #1, and Dante #1
By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)
Loose Ends #1
“Jes’ be patient, aight. I gotta handle somethin’ first.”
Tying up loose ends is a fool’s errand of sorts, namely because there are typically more loose ends than can be dealt with. For some, those loose ends are relatively harmless, but for others they’re a lot more complex. In Loose Ends #1 from Image Comics, Sonny Gibson’s loose ends are a little violent too. The issue is written by Jason Latour, illustrated by Chris Brunner, and colored by Rico Renzi.
No one seemed to notice Sonny Gibson as he stepped back into “The Hideaway,” a dusty little honky-tonk nestled off the Carolina highway. But before the night was over, Sonny would be on the run – from the law, from the criminals, even from himself. It’s a gritty, slow-cooked, Southern crime romance that follows a winding trail down Tobacco Road, through the war-torn streets of Baghdad, and into the bright lights and bloody gutters of south Florida.
There’s a certain charm about the American south, although the way Latour tells it that charm is more of a hex of sorts. Latour introduces the plot through the eyes of Sonny Gibson, a seemingly knowledgeable reprobate with a past he’s trying to escape. As things usually do in sleepy towns in the south, things quickly get worse for Sonny and Latour isn’t shy about capitalizing on that to move the story forward. Latour’s rendition of an area near Charlotte is one that’s probably more realistic than most would like to admit, but it’s that gritty realism that lends itself to making the tale more believable. There’s also a slow burn as the plot unfolds with Latour creeping steadily along until hitting the gas and having everything escalate almost instantly.
Brunner does a brilliant job on the artwork, relying on thick line work to emphasize the characters against the backdrop. Sonny is depicted as being something of a scrawny fellow whose appearance belies his true capabilities and Brunner gives each of the characters around him distinct looks as well. The attention to detail in the scenery really draws the reader into Sonny’s world as Brunner infuses each panel with a distinct level of realistic detail. The panels are framed as camera shots that Brunner capitalizes on to lend a cinematic quality to the work. Renzi’s colors are vibrant and pop, adding some contrast to the otherwise depressing setting.
Loose Ends #1 is an ambitious first issue that is probably the definition of slow burn. Sonny Gibson is a very interesting character with an even more interesting past, both of which will lead to an intriguing tale. Latour’s homage to southern culture is on full display in the issue and reflects a deep-seeded knowledge that comes with growing up with the culture. The artwork by Brunner is sufficiently grimy and captures the atmosphere well. Loose Ends #1 is a great start to a story that’s roiled in mystery and violence.
Loose Ends #1 is available now.
“Once upon a time, a princess slept in a tower…”
The damsel in distress is a notion that’s been prevalent in media going as far as back as fairy tales themselves. That stereotype typically brings with it a lot of preconceived notions that could probably stand to be thrown out the window at this point. Going out the window with them is the princess in Ladycastle #1 from BOOM! Studios. The issue is written by Delilah S. Dawson, illustrated by Ashley A. Woods, and lettered by Jim Campbell.
When King Mancastle and his mighty vassals ride off on crusade, the women left behind are not at all put out – that’s a lot less armor polishing for them to do. Of course, when the men get themselves eaten by a dragon and leave a curse that attracts monsters to the castle…well, the women take umbrage with that. Now the blacksmith’s wife Merinor is King, Princess Aeve is the Captain, and the only remaining (and least capable) knight Sir Riddick is tasked with teaching the ladies of the castle how to fight, defend, build, and do all manner of noisy things the men had been doing while the women assumed they were just drunk.
Dawson’s take on the world in Ladycastle #1 is one that eschews the historic, male-dominated world for one that features empowered women running things. All of the characters in the issue each have a role that corresponds to a job more or less and Dawson even manages to subvert some stereotypes in her characters. Princess Aeve for instance wants to be more than just a princess trapped in a tower and Dawson gives her plenty of opportunity to do so by the end of the issue. The entire concept isn’t exactly anything new – Action Lab’s Princeless series has tackled the notion of a princess being anything but for a while now – and Dawson does well to give the book enough individuality in its characters so that it feels fresh. A good chunk of the dialogue is offered in song, adding a musical flair to the proceedings that gives it more of an upbeat mentality.
Lending a visible buoyancy to the work is Woods’ artwork which is bubbly. In fact, Woods should be commended on creating just a stunning and vibrant atmosphere for the story to unfold in. Her style taps into a medieval setting in a way that’s slightly off-kilter and fuses a fairy tale illustrative approach with more mature characters throughout. Woods gives each of the characters are given a specific look that effectively captures their personalities, as well as making them memorable in their own ways. The bright colors lighten up the mood tremendously and emphasize a sense of optimism on the part of the characters that may not have always been present under the old regime.
Ladycastle #1 is one of a few titles uniquely positioned in its message and approach. Each of the main characters seek to prove themselves in ways that stress the importance of giving everyone an equal chance. Dawson’s script is lighthearted in tone, but the subtext is pretty deep. Woods’ artwork gives the book a tremendous feeling of accessibility to anyone and everyone. Ladycastle #1 is a fun first issue that delves into serious topics without getting too serious itself.
Ladycastle #1 is available now.
“I have something to confess…sometimes I like to kill people.”
The life of a hitman probably isn’t as nearly as glamorous as movies would have you believe. Sure, you can probably get yourself out of any situation, but the fact that you’re in those situations to begin with probably isn’t ideal. Dante #1 from Top Cow Comics is about a hitman in a whole new situation entirely. The issue is written by Matt Hawkins and Jason Ning, illustrated by Darick Robertson, colored by Diego Rodriguez, and lettered by Simon Bowland.
Dante was a family man with a wife and a young daughter – and also a top assassin working for an international crime syndicate. For two decades, he worked hard to keep those two lives separate. Manipulated into thinking he could retire with the syndicate’s blessing, Dante is betrayed. While fighting to save himself, he accidentally kills a young Asian boy – an act which changes him forever. Cursed, and covered with otherworldly tattoos, Dante embarks on a journey to uncover the source of this supernatural affliction, and to save his family.
Hawkins and Ning write Dante as extremely qualified to the do his job – almost to the point of being superhuman. In fact, much of Dante #1 is introducing the character in a way that both highlights his capabilities while also emphasizing his flaws. The script reads in a pretty straightforward manner that doesn’t really leave much room for interpretation on the part of the reader. Hawkins and Ning are content to focus primarily on Dante’s unique situation and how he plans to redeem himself. The pacing does seem to be a little erratic at times, as it seems the writers were trying to cram everything into the first issue they could so that future issues wouldn’t feel as hurried.
Robertson’s artwork is pretty sound, effectively showcasing Dante’s talents. The linework is very meticulous, emphasizing an attention to detail in both the backgrounds and foreground characters. Robertson breathes action into the panels by filling them out and the appearance of the tattoos on Dante feel especially alive. And speaking of action, Robertson handles the action sequences well, giving Dante’s combat prowess a chance to – ahem – flex its muscle. Rodriguez’s colors are pretty basic yet effective in letting Robertson’s details shine through a bit more.
For all intents and purposes, Dante #1 is a superhero origin story of sorts. Dante is a man with capabilities that others could only dream of and now he’s being forced to use them for a version of good that aligns more with the universal sense of good. Hawkins and Ning have crafted a story that’s straightforward yet intriguing. Robertson’s artwork is a good fit and follows the action well. Dante #1 is an interesting first issue that will no doubt get crazier as the series progresses.
Dante #1 is available now.