Indie Comics Spotlight: No Angel #1, Athena Voltaire and the Volcano Goddess #1, and The Untamed: Killing Floor #1
By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)
No Angel #1
“Relax. This is not my first rodeo.”
Individuals who find solace in a religion do so in an effort to reinforce their lives. Some religions are more universally recognized than others and some of them emphasize the notion that there are otherworldly beings who exist within that religion. More often than not, those individuals exist on a different plane, but not the beings in No Angel #1 from Black Mask Studios. The issue is written by Eric and Adrianne Palicki, illustrated by Ari Syahrazad, colored by Jean-Paul Csuka, and lettered by Jim Campbell.
Religious texts from The Bible to the Sumerian tablets speak of strange creatures descending from the heavens and mating with humans, their children the superhuman heroes of myth. None of this ever meant anything to Iraq War veteran Hannah Gregory, until she found herself in the crosshairs of a dangerous cult convinced that she’s a descendant of these mysterious bloodlines…bloodlines they’re determined to eradicate.
Palicki starts off No Angel #1 in a pretty ho-hum way, introducing the reader to Hannah as a character who’s had her fair share of trials to contend with. From there, though, Palicki takes things in a very interesting direction, presenting Hannah as something more than just an Iraqi war veteran and someone with a unique bloodline. Hannah is a very strong and assertive lead character who is shown to the reader through her interactions with people from home as she attends her father’s funeral. That funeral is the catalyst for the series as it sets Hannah up with another interesting character and points the narrative in a more religious direction. The dialogue is pretty natural for the scenario, as Hannah’s exchanges feel very matter-of-fact and those familiar with Adrianne Palicki’s work can picture her speaking the lines.
Syahrazad emphasizes the world of No Angel #1 with very sharp, thin lines that underscore a very simplistic approach. Hannah is illustrated as a clear representation of Adrianne Palicki herself and Syahrazad captures her mannerisms and facial expressions very well. Backdrops are rendered relatively sparsely as Syahrazad includes enough so that the reader can get a sense of the setting without overwhelming them with detail. Panels are laid out in a way that allows Syahrazad to frame shots in different ways, adding a cinematic feel to the story. Csuka’s colors are pretty minimal and every page feels pretty singular in the color tones that cover that page.
No Angel #1 adds a religious/cultish twist to the concept of a war veteran returning home to an older life. Hannah’s return home for her father’s funeral brings with it more than just a few bad memories and damaged relationships. Palicki’s script is a slow build to the reveal at the end, focusing on establishing Hannah as a character first before delving into the story. Syahrazad’s artwork is relatively simplistic yet extremely effective at parlaying Adrianne Palicki’s look to a comic book character in Hannah. No Angel #1 has the potential to get very abstract depending on where it goes, but Preacher might be an apt comparison.
No Angel #1 is available now.
Athena Voltaire and the Volcano Goddess #1
“I always have a thing or two up my sleeve.”
Athena Voltaire is something of a world-renowned traveler with a penchant for treasure hunts. Danger doesn’t slow her down and she’s always one for a new adventure. She’s getting a little bit of both in Athena Voltaire and the Volcano Goddess #1 from Action Lab Entertainment. The issue is written, illustrated, and lettered by Steve Bryant and colored by Jim Nelson (color assists by Drew Browne).
When her father gains possession of a legendary necklace, Athena Voltaire must save him from both strange assassins and the Nazis who want the power the artifact could unlock!
Athena Voltaire is a different kind of hero and Bryant knows that. To that end, he’s given her plenty of dashing ability and unique know-how to traverse the globe in a search for treasure and peril. Bryant’s script is a great introduction to the character, presenting her in a way that’s not completely hand-holding for those already familiar with her. The premise of the first issue (and the series) is also pretty straightforward, but Bryant builds up to the overarching plot pretty steadily, not forcing things at all. The dialogue is appropriate for the era Bryant is evoking, as he infuses the characters with the right amount of charm and sentiment.
Bryant’s artwork in Athena Voltaire and the Volcano Goddess #1 is an homage to the pulpy throwbacks of the character and others like her. Bryant emphasizes subtle detail in the characters, relying on concise linework to illustrate the different era that Bryant is hearkening back to. The approach is predominantly successful, although there are some moments when the characters seem a little more rigid than Bryant probably intended. Bryant still has a very firm grasp on how to illustrate characters believably and he doesn’t exaggerate the physiques in a way that’s distracting to reader. Nelson’s colors are predominantly muted and there’s a general gloom that pervades the action and matches the tone of the narrative.
Athena Voltaire and the Volcano Goddess #1 is a pretty low-key start to the series. Athena is off on another quest that will test her mettle and abilities, but she seems to be up to the challenge. Bryant’s script is straightforward and easy to follow, paced in a way that the reader progresses patiently through the tale. Bryant’s illustrations are a great nod to the tone is narrative is setting, relying on sharp lines to emphasize the characters and their interactions. Athena Voltaire and the Volcano Goddess #1 is a great jaunt through globetrotting adventure that’s a nod to a different era of storytelling.
Athena Voltaire and the Volcano Goddess #1 is available now.
The Untamed: Killing Floor #1
“My life is a shadow that deepens in death.”
Some will argue that life in the Dark Ages was pretty rough. It had to have been, considering the entire era was named for it. In The Untamed: Killing Floor #1 from Stranger Comics, life in a fantasy world reminiscent of the Dark Ages is just as hard. The issue is written by Sebastian A. Jones, illustrated by Peter Bergting, layouts by Darrell May, and lettering by A Larger World Studios.
Stranger and Niobe, a dead man and a would-be savior, reach the port city of Asarra Bay, a haven for thieves and killers, two of whom may know the whereabouts of Stranger’s family. They just so happen to be the ruthless leaders of rival assassins guilds, and neither has much love lost for Stranger.
There’s a lot of really good fantasy lore in The Untamed: Killing Floor #1 that shows Jones has a tale in mind he’d like to tell. Stranger and Niobe are an odd pairing who are on a mission together, but Jones infuses their relationship with something of a mutual respect that makes their pairing work. They are given plenty of opportunity to showcase their abilities against some nameless fodder, but Jones ends the issue with a much greater enemy on their trail. Jones presents that enemy in a very effective way, mirroring an encounter with a traveler from earlier in the issue to highlight the difference in morality between Stranger/Niobe and the new pursuer. There’s a slow and steady build-up throughout the issue that gives it very effective pacing, not hurrying towards any reveals sooner than necessary.
Bergting’s artwork is minimal in many ways. The characters exist in relation to one another, but there’s little in the way of background scenery as he relies on the fantasy-inspired looks of the characters to carry the world. It works really well for the content of the book and is given even more gusto by the use of a simple color palette that washes full pages in monochromatic tones. This has a great effect of emphasizing the time of day or location, for instance, and makes up for the lack of busy backgrounds. And the panels are largely presented in a clean format that follows the action intuitively.
The Untamed: Killing Floor #1 is an interesting fantasy comic that has a lot going on. Stranger and Niobe an unlikely duo on a mission and/or adventure that will take them all over the world. Jones’ script is entertaining and well-thought out, offering a long-term storyline that will likely come to a head sooner than later. Bergting’s illustrations are simple yet elegant in conveying to the reader the world that the two main characters are traveling through. The Untamed: Killing Floor #1 has appeal for fans of books that delve into realms where magic and bar brawls are more commonplace.
The Untamed: Killing Floor #1 is available now.