Indie Comics Spotlight Mirror, Kennel Block Blues, and Dejah Thoris

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By Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Kennel Block Blues #1


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“Ohhh, it’s a per-fect dayyy…”

When you find yourself in a situation you’d rather not be in, there are a few things you can do. You can attempt to make the best of it. You can attempt to escape. Or you can singlehandedly set off a chain of events that puts your life and the lives of those associated with you at risk. Oliver chose all of the above in Kennel Block Blues #1 from BOOM! Studios. The issue is written by Ryan Ferrier, illustrated by Daniel Bayliss, colored by Adam Metcalfe, and lettered by Colin Bell.

Oliver is a good dog. A family dog. But without warning, he’s sentenced to Jackson Kennel, where he’s instantly placed on Death Row with the rest of his fellow inmates, awaiting a lethal appointment on The Table if salvation doesn’t come. He’ll need help escaping the Kennel, but when the stress of prison life builds, he starts escaping reality instead, imagining a fantasy world of cartoon friends. It’s time to break out…into a musical number?

There are plenty of movies that describe to viewers the harsh reality that prison can be, but very few delve into it from a dog’s perspective. Ferrier’s take on incarceration is a bit more canine and it’s a pretty fantastic take to boot. Oliver is the newest dog in the kennel and is put through all the same paces that a new prisoner would be put through, only Ferrier anthropomorphizes the experience. He paces the issue beautifully as well, allowing the reader to follow Oliver as he “tours” the kennel – it’s a narrative style that cleverly reveals the world to the reader. The dialogue is pretty snappy as well, even if some of the characters and situations are a bit cliché at times.

Bayliss’ artwork is very strong and concise. He manages to bring together disparate animal types in a way that works when the sum of them are viewed within the context of a prison, mixing together individuals from different backgrounds. Each inmate manages to be very expressive throughout the issue, effectively reinforcing the notion that even the kennel is a tough place for dogs. Bayliss manages to work in every familiar aspect of a prison in the kennel in a way that feels natural and helps with the flow of the story. Metcalfe adds in some spice to the issue as well, primarily with the more psychedelic sequences where Oliver finds his happy place to escape the depressed reality of the prison.

Kennel Block Blues #1 is a great first issue that breathes new life into a relatively familiar concept. Oliver is a solid main character and builds up a rapport with the other characters the helps move the story along. Ferrier’s take is a pretty refreshing and clever, working on quite a few levels. Bayliss’ artwork is a great fit for the story as well, in that he effectively capitalizes on different animal shapes and sizes to fill out certain visual needs for the book. Kennel Block Blues #1 starts off strongly and doesn’t look to slow down anytime soon.

Kennel Block Blues #1 is in stores now.

Dejah Thoris #1


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“Once I was called Dejah Thoris, Princess of Barsoom. But that life is no longer mine.”

Being a princess brings with it a world of expectations. Etiquette, marriage prospects, proving your innocence amidst kingdom-changing conspiracies. How a princess deals with any or all of the above is always compelling and Dynamite Comics is all about compelling in Dejah Thoris #1. The issue is written by Frank J. Barbiere, illustrated by Francesco Manna, colored by Morgan Hickman, and lettered by Erica Schultz.

A shocking conspiracy unravels in Helium as Dejah’s father has gone missing. In the wake of assuming the throne, Dejah learns secret information from her past that will have resounding effects on the kingdom – and her life!

There’s a certain malaise that can accompany more established characters such as Dejah Thoris, yet Barbiere looks to eschew that ennui with a bold take on the character. Dejah Thoris has always been characterized by her fierce independence coupled with her political standing as a princess, which would imply she hasn’t really dealt with many of the same hardships others on Barsoom, may have faced. Barbiere upends that notion by putting her right at the center of a conspiracy of power and reinforces her as someone capable of solving her own problems. The presence of John Carter can easily allow the story (and Dejah Thoris) to fall into a damsel in distress trope, so it’s nice to see the different direction here. And Barbiere’s dialogue is very proficient at keeping things moving in the right direction without getting bogged down.

The illustrations of Dejah Thoris by Manna depict the character as proud woman capable of holding her own in combat and conversation. Her look has traditionally been provocative and Manna’s rendering of her is done in a way that doesn’t seem oversexualized. The rest of the kingdom is fleshed out with a variety of characters (most male) that serve as a stark contrast to Dejah’s more voluptuous physique. Manna relies on a mix of panel layouts in moving through the setup issue with insets and overlays being used to great effect. Hickman relies on goldish hues for most of the issue to represent the wealth of the kingdom, switching to darker blues for scenes in jail and reds when outside the kingdom.

Dejah Thoris #1 is a fantastic new take on a relatively old character. It’s clear from the start that the issue wants to challenge readers familiar with her to re-calibrate their notions of Dejah Thoris as a character. Barbiere’s script gets all the personality traits of Dejah Thoris right without sacrificing any, keeping her sense of perseverance on display in circumstances unusual for her. Manna’s illustrations are clean and straightforward, offering a picture of Helium that works to further characterize Dejah Thoris and give her obstacles to overcome. Dejah Thoris #1 is a strong start and fans of the character will definitely want to check their familiarity at the door.

Dejah Thoris #1 is in stores now.

Mirror #1


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“Come. It is time.”

Magic is a gift and a curse. It grants a user tremendous power, but that power doesn’t come without enormous expectations as well. Plumbing the depths of one’s magical powers is a thrilling journey that Image Comics takes in Mirror #1. The issue is written by Emma Rios and illustrated by Hwei Lim.

Mirror #1 follows a terrorist talking dog, an idealist mage, and a heroic lab rat on their quest for acceptance.

There’s a lot going on in Mirror #1 that speaks to the deft creativity of Rios. Her tale immediately brings the reader into a world rife with drama and promptly asks the reader to give the book their undivided attention. Ivan acts as the central character of the story, but everyone around him is equally as rich in development. And while Ivan may be the main character, Zun seems to be the catalyst for many of its events, scurrying from one place to the next to accomplish a myriad of tasks. Rios does manage to mix in some intrigue throughout the script, pacing it in a way that establishes the world of Mirror prior to offering up the stakes.

The artwork bears an ethereal quality to it that’s befitting of the script. The characters in Mirror #1 have an airy quality about them that makes them feel detached from one another and the setting itself. Lim doesn’t allow panels to constrain the artwork; rather the same sense of vague artistic style pervades every page and gives the book a larger flow. There’s a gamut of emotions on display in the characters and Lim taps into each and every one with vigor. The watercolor effect for the colors furthers the notion that the world of the Irzah colony is a truly magical place.

Mirror #1 is quite simply a beautiful book. There are some moments where the story gets a little confusing, but it’s never so overwhelming that the reader feels like they’re missing an important detail. Rios has a very firm grasp of the tale she wants to tell and does so quite strongly. The artwork by Lim is beautiful and airy, harkening back to some of the work by Yoshitaka Amano. Mirror #1 is a fantastic book that feels solid from start to finish.

Mirror #1 is in stores now.


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