Indie Comics Spotlight: Memetic, Retropunk, Archeologists of Shadows

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By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Memetic #1

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“I don’t get it, what’s making you guys so happy?”

The apocalypse seems to be inevitable. The question is what’s going to cause it. Robots, zombies, vampires, werewolves…you name it, chances are it could be the downfall of civilization. A meme, though? That’s a slightly harder sell, but one that BOOM! Studios is publishing in Memetic #1, written by James Tynion IV, illustrated by Eryk Donovan, colored by Adam Guzowski, and lettered by Steve Wands.

A meme is an idea that starts with an individual, and then spreads throughout multiple persons and potentially entire societies. Richard Dawkins suggests a meme’s success comes from its effectiveness to the host. But history shows that destructive memes can spread just as rapidly through society. Memetic shows the progression of a weaponized meme that leads to the utter annihilation of the human race within 72 hours. The root of this apocalypse is a single image on the Internet, a “meme” in the popular sense. A meme that changes everything.

You’d be forgiven if you were a little tired of the zombie/vampire story epidemic that seems to be pervasive throughout all media. At first blush, you would think that Memetic #1 would fall into the same trap, but fortunately for readers, Tynion doesn’t allow that. His approach is very clever, presenting a world so committed to their devices that they’re metaphorically zombies, prior to becoming actual zombies, courtesy of a meme. And of course that meme just so happens to be the Good Time Sloth. Where the concept gets even more intelligent are the main characters: Aaron Summer is color-blind and Marcus Snow is blind. Tynion uses that to his advantage, presenting characters who aren’t affected by the hypnotizing meme of a smiling sloth.

The Walking Dead seems to have made a name for itself by trading in tons of gore, but Donovan doesn’t let Memetic #1 fall into that trap. His illustrations border on being amusing and intense when necessary, walking a very fine line in between. It’s a testament to his ability to be able to offer up those two seemingly disparate styles, offering up a world that feels jovial in the good times and menacing in the “end-of-days/eyes-bleeding” times. Guzowski lends a hand here as well, relying on an overload of brown and black tones that cast an appropriate pall over the story. There’s definitely a lot going on this book and the panel layouts successfully handle all the action, jumping from grids to insets rather effortlessly. The use of social media box overlays also gets the reader completely immersed in the world to great effect.

Memetic #1 is a very entertaining and smart book. The concept of people as zombies with their devices is nothing new, but taking it to the next level in making a meme a catalyst for the apocalypse is pretty brilliant. Tynion handles the concept excellently, tapping into the Smartphone/tablet/social media zeitgeist that typifies modern society. Donovan’s illustrations are clean and concise, without getting so bogged down in excessive detail that it loses the tone of the book. Memetic #1 is only slated to be three issues, but those three issues will be really, really interesting to read as the meme epidemic unfolds.

Memetic #1 is in stores now.


Retropunk

Retropunk cover


“I was debating whether or not your fleshy body was worth saving. I have often contemplated the aesthetic you would make on impact. -BZZZR- That, or I was stuck in traffic.”

Bounty hunters have a penchant for always being in the thick of things. Their jobs require a lot of danger and risk on their part, but the payoff is typically worth it. Sometimes, though, their bounty brings with it other bounty hunters, some of whom are going after the original bounty hunters. It’s a fun dynamic to keep up with in Retropunk from Markosia. Retropunk is written by James Surdez and Matthew Ritter and illustrated by Jhomar Sorian.

Beneath the steel and neon glow of Pacific City, a low-rent bounty hunter named Synthia “Muffy” Chambers just got a job offer, a small fortune offered for a simple bodyguard position. She’s tasked with protecting a pop star named Naoki Yamamura, who goes by the stage name Lilith. But no job called simple ever is. Especially in a world of robotic partners named Vern, powerful mega corporations, and cyber ninja assassins named Aya Muneyoshi. Mix in a rather sadistic bounty hunter sent after the original bounty hunter and you’ve got the makings of madcap mayhem of sorts.

Retropunk is a pretty familiar story akin to something you’d see on Cowboy Bebop. In that sense, there are lots of double-crosses and backstabs set against a somewhat whimsical look at life. Muffy is a very easy-go-lucky bounty hunter who’s willing to rely on sheer luck more than skill to get through just about any situation, save for those where she actually does showcase some cleverness. The plot is a little formulaic as well, but Surdez and Ritter do well to make it feel exciting, thanks to a very fast-paced script that manages to tackle tons of themes. There’s also some very interesting character dynamics shared amongst certain characters, which offer slight twists to the familiar tale.

There’s a clear leaning towards a manga look in Retropunk, with Sorian relying on black and white illustrations that are defined by sharp lines. Characters are depicted with relatively simple detail, but Sorian manages to fill out the backgrounds rather intricately. This affords the reader a fuller immersion into the setting of the story, by making every panel feel as if it’s teeming with life. The characters also showcase a variety of looks that clearly differentiate one another, with Muffy coming across as a half-human/half-cat hybrid. Typically, black and white illustrations can come across as somewhat incomplete, but Sorian manages to infuse the work with a style that’s both clean and offering a tech-infused look when it comes to characters and setting.

Retropunk is a very interesting book that takes a very familiar story of bounty hunters and mixes in some new twists in the way of the character relationships. There are some interesting interactions that carry the story along and give readers something to get invested in. Surdez and Ritter managed to make those characters fascinating and relatively complex enough that their dynamic feels spontaneous. Sorian’s illustrations are a good mix of simple and complex, presenting a fully-realized world that one can dive into. Retropunk is a lot of fun to read and doesn’t really take itself too seriously, which gives it room to breathe and become its own world.

Retropunk is out for sale right now on Amazon and on the Markosia’s website. It will be for sale on Comixology on October 28.


Archeologists of Shadows: Volume 3

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What is life and what is death? Does everyone have a destined path? Or are we free to choose how our lives should go? These are the sorts of question one ponders about after reading Archeologists of Shadows: Volume 3. I had the chance to check out it out and once again I was just blown away by the visuals and the story, and I enjoyed the questions posed by the third installment. Publisher Septagon Studios has one amazing graphic novel on hand, as co-creators Lara Fuentes (Writer) and Patricio Clarey (Artist) have created a polished graphic novel that just keeps you turning the page to see what’s in store for the characters. This has been a project five years in the making and in reading this latest volume you can tell it was a labor of love for all those involved.

Archeologists of Shadows: Volume 3 has been well worth the wait, as it definitely helped fill in some blanks and threw a few surprises in there for good measure. A nice resolution for sure, but I’m hoping this isn’t the end of the Alter Egos; they have so many more stories and one hell of a journey to continue on. Fuentes didn’t make Volume Three as action-packed as the second one, but it had its fair share towards the end and I freaking loved how awesome the Alter Egos have become. As the story unfolds, you see the progression the Alter Egos go through as characters and the new heights they reach in Archeologists of Shadows: Volume 3 are just awesome.

Visually, Clarey set the bar high and still managed to clear it. The steampunk world created is still stunning, vibrant, and just brilliant for the characters to inhabit. Every page is dark in a way, but there’s also is a brightness to them as well. Each page strikes a perfect balance between the two opposing shades. It all just fits together perfectly and the visuals are what make the story come alive. I spent twice as much time on each page, as I had to read each page and then go back to look at what was going on visually as well to make sure I didn’t miss a thing.

Reading Archeologists of Shadows: Volume 3 was simply a joy. I know I’ll be reading all three volumes again in succession to put the whole story together in its entirety. Fuentes’ writing and Clarey’s fantastic visual images contained on each page go above and beyond what you’d expect in a graphic novel and are just quite spectacular to immerse yourself in. I hope this isn’t the end of the story for the Alter Egos, as they have an entire new world open before their eyes now and knowledge to discover. If you’re looking for a compelling story with some visually amazing artwork that makes you question what you know, then you should definitely check out Archeologists of Shadows: Volume 3. It’s well worth it and is currently available on Amazon.


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