Indie Comics Spotlight: Neozoic #1, Amala’s Blade, Grimm’s Fairy Tales Unleashed


by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Neozoic #1: Trader’s Gambit

Ever wonder what life would be like if the dinosaurs didn’t go extinct? Would humans no longer be the top of the food chain? Would dinosaurs rule the world, similar to Planet of the Apes? Or would humans and dinosaurs live alongside one another in uneasy fear? In Neozoic #1: Trader’s Gambit, it’s the last scenario that Red 5 Comics is most interested in. The title is written by Paul Ens, with art by Jae Korim, colors by Ivan Plascencia and letters by Troy Peteri.

In the 65 million years since a meteor never hit the Earth, humans have lived alongside another set of beings named “savros.” They also like to be known as dinosaurs. In the walled city of Monanti, the best of the best serve in the Predator Defence League, but even that didn’t prepare them for subversion by the telepathic, underground-dwelling race of Talpid. Enter Lilli Murko, something of a hero and a villain to all, but proficient enough to handle her own.

The story by Ens feels a little disjointed. It opens with the PDL guarding a construction site, and then segues into Lilli going off on a mission. Avide is living in the king’s castle and is something of a prodigy himself when it comes to dropping dangerous savros. The issue finishes with Lilli making something of a stark realization about some idiot kids and that’s the first issue. It’s not bad, just feels a little uneven.

It’s likely that Lilly and Avide will cross paths down the road in something of a competition of talents. What the overarching thrust of the book is though remains to be seen. The world has been established (or re-established since this is the second volume) and the concept is solid. Lilli is about to get thrust into the middle of something fairly crazy though and that will do wonders for the feel of the story.

Korim’s art is very strong. While the panel layouts are fairly standard, the action panels are very well-detailed and ensure nothing is lost on the reader. He mixes in a good variety of dinosaurs (savros) as well, helping to flesh out the world of Neozoic and make it feel expansive. There are some panels that are close-ups where it’s a little difficult to make out what’s going on, but by and large the art is a great fit for the story.

Neozoic #1: Trader’s Gambit is off to an interesting start and the title will likely get even more interesting once it sort of settles down. It’s a four-issue miniseries and nothing has really been established as an overall end point just yet, but the second issue will likely move the story forwards much more. In the meantime, enjoy watching young, hothead PDL members square off against one another and savros.

Neozoic #1: Trader’s Gambit is in stores now.

Amala’s Blade #1

There’s something about a skilled assassin. Someone who can get the job done, job after job. Sometimes though, that assassin gets a little cocky, drawing unwanted attention to themselves and their primary employers. It’s times like those where things get rough for the assassin, as in Amala’s Blade #1 from Dark Horse Comics. The issue is written and lettered by Steve Horton, with art and colors by Michael Dialynas.

The kingdom of Naamaron is bitterly divided into warring factions: the low-tech Purifiers and the high-tech Modifiers. Both fear the great vizier’s deadliest assassin, Amala. But for all her lethal skills, Amala’s drawing too much attention for the vizier’s taste. So what better way to deal with a troublesome cutthroat than to send her on a suicide mission?

As a character, Amala is quite rambunctious. Horton has made sure that she’s well-known for talents of assassination, but that she’s also quite brash about it, realizing it as well. That bravado naturally makes some higher-ups a little uneasy, especially the Vizier, her main employer. That brewing conflict sets the stage for the series, sending Amala on an almost impossible mission. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of revelations Amala will have along the way.

Dialynas’ art is strong and feels timely. It’s got a sense of a samurai look to it, working well with the image being conveyed by Amala as a character. There are a few panels rife with violence and Dialynas handles those panels very well. Even the ghosts Amala frequently converses with are depicted somewhat eerily, ensuring the reader feels just as haunted by them as Amala presumably does.

The first issue of the new series positions it for a strong run. Amala is an interesting character that will likely make some harsh realizations about her role and life, realizations that could end poorly for anyone involved. The Vizier is vile enough to serve as a main villain and the backdrop of the Purifiers against the Modifiers could be an interesting setting for Amala to work against.

Amala’s Blade #1 is in stores now.

Grimm Fairy Tales: Unleashed #1

In the world of Grimm Fairy Tales, there are Highborns and Falsebloods. The two share something in that they’ve both got supernatural capabilities to be used for whatever reason. When a being arrives who threatens both though, things will get a little crazy, as they do in Unleashed #1 from Zenescope Comics. The issue is written by Pat Shand, with art by Carlos Paul, Jacob Bear and Miguel Mendonca, colors by Anvit Renderia, Francesca Zambion, Ulises Grostietta, Stephen Lemineur and Daniel Morales and lettered by Jim Campbell.

The Being has arrived and he’s making quite a name for himself. His intention is to unleash a legion of monsters that have been trapped for centuries onto the world, prompting uneasy alliances to form in order to stop him. That includes even the very powerful Belinda, someone who may be the key to stopping all the evil from being unleashed. Mix in Sela and Van Helsing, Zeus and his crew and a vampire named Samira and you’ve got everything unraveling at the seams.

Shand is quickly becoming the go-to guy in the Zenescope universe and with good reason. He does a great job allowing the story to unfold evenly, without rushing things too much. Samira’s motives aren’t completely clear at this point (beyond just wanting to summon the Being to control the world) and Belinda’s involvement will likely be further fleshed out. The partnership of Sela and Van Helsing is intriguing and helps hammer home how dangerous the Being really is.

If there’s one complaint about the writing, it’s that the Being might be a little over-characterized. He’s shown in a variety of situations, ranging from killing with abandon to levitating a city to playing chess. Someone as powerful as the Being really should let his actions define him and they do in Grimm Fairy Tales: Unleashed #1, but there are some instances where it seems a little overkill. Again, this isn’t a knock against Shand’s writing or characterization; it just feels like the Being is a little overused if that makes any sense.

The artistic team of Paul, Bear and Mendonca do a great job. They’ve got the Being illustrated as someone menacing and dangerous, while the other characters are true to Zenescope form. The book runs a wide-ranging gamut of panels and layouts, moving effortlessly from fight scenes to more pensive and relaxed situations. Van Helsing and Sela get to show off their fighting talents and the Being gets to kill with ease.

Grimm Fairy Tales: Unleashed #1 is a solid start at a universe crossover event. Shand keeps the story moving well and in an interesting direction and the first issue is really setting the tone for some fascinating events. The Being is every bit as feared as he should be and it’ll take all of the Zenescope heavy hitters teamed up to take him down. The series should be a fun ride.

Grimm Fairy Tales: Unleashed #1 is available in stores now.

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