Indie Comics Spotlight-Morning Noon and Night, Hellboy: the first 20 years, and Clockwork Angels #1
by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)
Morning Noon Night
War rarely ends well for anyone involved. Sure, the winner gets all the spoils, but the loss of life tied to that victory is often rather large.Morning Noon Night is a book that really looks at that dynamic and captures the essence of warfare exceptionally well. The issue is written and illustrated by Brent Boates.
War is something that takes its toll on countless individuals. The soldiers fighting on the front lines pay the biggest toll, often sacrificing their lives and safety for their country. Their loved ones back home also pay in a way, wondering if and when their loved ones will ever return home. Morning Noon Night focuses on many different aspects of war and the different audiences it effects and it does so exceedingly well.
The biggest selling point of Morning Noon Night is the fact that the art carries the story, as there’s no dialogue at all. The morning story focuses on how quickly war rolls through and devastates those who live there. The afternoon story takes a look at how those soldiers tend to be forgotten by everyone else the soldiers are defending. Finally, night shows the detached atmosphere that war has become, as drones are simply sent towards their targets with little regard for the targets. All three stories really manage to convey the intensity of the perils of war and manage to make a play for the reader’s emotions.
Since the book is largely illustrative, Boates escalates the illustrative style with each part of the day. The morning is sepia toned, the afternoon is the same with some splashes of red mixed in and night features more colors for added effect. The progression of the three parts of the day via color palette really hammers home the emotional impact of the story. The relatively simple panel layout really makes the book read very quickly as well, moving the reader through days in the lives of the military.
Morning Noon Night is exceptionally good at underscoring the emotion tied to war. Despite the lack of dialogue and script, Boates proves that illustrations can speak just as greatly, offering up very poignant looks at modern warfare. The “Afternoon” story is particularly impactful, emphasizing the fact that more often than not soldiers aren’t really given the full respect they deserve. Pacing the story over the course of a day also showcases a day in the life of the military; with the common theme being that the more things change the more things stay the same. Morning Noon Night is very powerful in its simplicity, offering readers a deep look at the subject of warfare.
Morning Noon Night is available now via Comixology.
Hellboy: The First 20 Years
On March 22, 1994, Mike Mignola and John Byrne and Barbara Kesel teamed up for Hellboy: Seed of Destruction #1, the first comic dedicated to Hellboy. Dark Horse Comics published the four-issue miniseries which was met both reader and critical claim. In fact, it won two Eisners: one for “Best Graphic Album: Reprint” and one for “Best Writer/Artist” for Mignola. Readers familiar with the miniseries recognized many elements of the plot in the first Hellboy movie, brought to life quite convincingly by Ron Pearlman. Well, it’s been twenty years since that first issue and, with March 22 declared Hellboy Day by Dark Horse Comics, it’s only fitting that the publisher proudly release Hellboy: The First 20 Years.
To call Hellboy: The First 20 Years an art book would do something of a disservice to Mignola and Hellboy himself. In reality, the book is more of a “this is your life” retrospective on the character and universe, both of which have gone on to have a tremendous impact on comics in general. Mignola deserves credit for creating and maintaining a rather large universe of characters that readers have come to know and love. The affection Mignola has for his characters is on full display in Hellboy: The First 20 Years, with some his favorite pieces on display for all to admire and enjoy. There’s a solid mix of sketches, pages and character renderings that really impress upon the reader the level of beauty found in characters with otherwise monstrous
Longtime fans of the property will definitely get the most out of Hellboy: The First 20 Years, as it offers them a chance to revisit some old favorites. That isn’t to say that only die-hard fans should pick up the book; on the contrary, it would make a welcome addition to anyone’s library, whether they’re a comic book fan or fan of art in general. Mignola has always imbued characters in the Hellboy universe with a Victorian sensibility, maybe even making steampunk cool before it was cool. That atmosphere is further emboldened by and large by Dave Stewart, a colorist who has done more than his fair share of Hellboy books. The eight-time Eisner Award winning colorist always manages to make the macabre feel a little more proper than it has any right to, capitalizing on shadows and a darker palette for effect.
One of the biggest impacts of Hellboy: The First 20 Years is that the reader can really see just how forlorn and lonely Hellboy really is. Sure, he’s outgoing, brash and bold, finding comfort in other members of the B.P.R.D. (some of whom look even stranger than he does). The thing about Hellboy though is that he has a dormant ability to bring about the end of the universe and is truly one of a kind. A lot of the art in Hellboy: The First 20 Years really hammer this point home, as there are quite a few shots of Hellboy looking off into the distance, somewhat crestfallen and almost as if he’s come to the same realization about his capabilities on more than one occasion. Hellboy isn’t really one to fit in right away (and he doesn’t really care to) and seeing his history in the book is a confirmation of this notion.
Hellboy: The First 20 Years is ultimately as much a celebration of the Hellboy universe as it is of Mignola. The character has persevered despite not being a “traditional” comic book hero, thriving on paranormal storylines, sometimes gargantuan beasts and the bureaucracy of being a quasi-government agent. All of that strangeness is on display in Hellboy: The First 20 Years, showcasing highlights from the first twenty years of the universe at Dark Horse. Hellboy has always been something of an outsider, both in the storylines and when compared to other comic books, so the fact that he’s been around twenty years in the ever-changing landscape that is comics is a testament to the character’s popularity. It should be considered essential for all the die-hard fans of Hellboy, but would also make a great addition to just about anyone’s library to be honest.
Hellboy: The First 20 Years is available now.
Clockwork Angels #1
“But not today. The Watchmaker has a rainstorm scheduled in thirteen minutes. We’ll have to run.”
Rush is one of the greatest bands in rock and roll history. They’ve churned out hit after hit and have amassed quite a loyal following. As the drummer and lyricist for the band, Neil Peart has been a big reason for the band’s popular impact, but he’s no stranger to books as well. Working with Kevin J. Anderson, Peart saw the band’s 2012 album Clockwork Angels adapted into a novel. Now, BOOM! Studios has teamed with them to release the book as a comic book, written by Anderson (adapted from a story by Peart), illustrated by Nick Robles and lettered by Ed Dukeshire.
Owen Hardy, like all the people of Albion, has lived his whole life under the rule of The Watchmaker. His entire life has been planned down to the exact second. But what happens when a young boy decides that things should not always goes as planned? When those seconds become indicative of something greater, it means that Owen is possibly destined for greater things as well.
Anderson’s script is well-paced and even, presenting readers with a fleshed out world where citizens are subject to the whims of the mysterious Watchmaker. With ever minute of every day choreographed, there’s little room for free will and that’s what Clockwork Angels #1 does exceptionally well. Peart’s story focuses on free will vs. determinism and it’s the latter that the characters are struggling to break free of in their world. The beauty of Owen’s plight is that he doesn’t really understand that he’s trying to break free; he sort of haphazardly stumbles into freedom out of sheer curiosity. The dialogue evokes great imagination in the reader as well, transporting them to another world.
The painted quality of the illustrations further emboldens the reader to delve into their imagination, as Robles has created a world that depicts a quiet depression among the citizens. Owen and the others live their life daily; not really giving much thought to the world around them and Robles captures this really well. He imbues the work with elements of steampunk amidst and otherwise idyllic setting, the peace kept much like time itself. Characters look like something you’d see in a Victorian nursery rhyme book and it really works within the context of the story itself. There’s a darker color palette that hits home the setting for the reader, accompanied by a myriad of panel layouts to keep things fresh and varied.
Clockwork Angels #1 is a very fascinating read that transports the reader to a different place and challenges their thinking about fate. Owen is content to live his life and not want more, but that’s primarily because he doesn’t know what more there is. As the curtain on the life in front of him is slowly peeled back, he learns more and more about the world around him his curiosity grows stronger. Yes, this is a comic adaptation of the novel of Rush’s album released in 2012. That doesn’t make it any less powerful and insightful; with Anderson reprising his script duties and Robles’ illustrations, Clockwork Angels #1 is a great book that is paced well and makes for an enjoyable read.
Clockwork Angels #1 is in stores now.