Indie Comics Spotlight: Oniba: Sword of the Demon, The Hangman, Black Magick

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By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

 

Oniba: Swords of the Demon #0

1

 

“Throughout history, war has never paused for preparation…”

 

Feudal Japan is one of the more fascinating eras in history. The time period featured a heady mix of brutal wars underscored by an almost zealot-like devotion to honor among the Samurai. Aspen Comics chose that setting as the backdrop for their latest new comic in Oniba: Swords of the Demon #0. The issue is written by Vince Hernandez, illustrated by Paolo Pantalena, colored by Hi-Fi, and lettered by Josh Reed.

 

When the actions of her feudal lord begin to lay the seeds of doubt within her, Yukiko, a samurai with exceptional swordplay and even far greater courage, must make a bold decision that forever changes her fate-along with the history of Japan itself!

 

Oniba: Swords of the Demon #0 plays out like a zero issue should, as it introduces the reader to Yukiko, a samurai forced to contend with difficult choices. Hernandez and Pantalena do a pretty good job of her setting her and her situation up, even if it does feel a little hurried at times. The issue sets the stage for a Japan amidst turmoil, as there are factions seeking to obtain the means to rule the country. One of those men is Yukiko’s sensei, with Hernandez and Pantalena characterizing him as a pretty monstrous villain of sorts whose actions serve as the catalyst for Yukiko’s new path. Yukiko is presented as more than combat-capable and she exhibits subservient qualities found in a master/apprentice relationship.

 

The characters in Oniba: Swords of the Demon #0 are illustrated by Pantalena with very crisp, clean lines that stand out from the rest of the art. All the characters boast looks that fit perfectly within the feudal Japan setting fostering the book’s events. Pantalena finishes the artwork with a brushed look that gives the artwork a watercolor resemblance at times and further accentuates the emotion in the characters. There are an abundance of panel insets and overlays throughout that keep the pacing feeling frenetic, with some of the panels even sporting various colored borders. The colors by Hi-Fi are largely red and purples, all of which accent Yukiko’s armor very well.

 

Oniba: Swords of the Demon #0 is a very promising zero issue that is ambitiously planning for down the road. Yukiko is an honorable warrior forced to contend with events that thrust her moral compass into complete disarray. The script by Hernandez is straightforward and paced well, effectively putting the characters through situations that don’t feel forced. Pantalena’s artwork is very precise and he does a great job of capturing the intensity of war in feudal Japan. Oniba: Swords of the Demon #0 is a great start that offers yet another strong, female character in the Aspen Comics universe.

 

Oniba: Swords of the Demon #0 is in stores now.

 

The Hangman #1

2

 

“Uh…nothing, honey. Just keep those eyes closed.”

 

Urban legends are just that: legends. They exist somewhere in the collective psyche of a geographic region, haunting dreams of children and instilling fear in adults. It’s very rare that the legend becomes real, but when it does, like in The Hangman #1 from Dark Circle Comics, it does so in a big way. The issue is written by Frank Tieri, illustrated by Felix Ruiz, lettered by Rachel Deering, and colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick.

 

They say the Hangman is nothing more than an urban legend. A spook story told to scare criminals straight. But those who encounter him – like hitman “Mad Dog” Mike Minetta – know different. They know that when he comes for you, you’re dead already. It’s an ongoing tale of horror, the supernatural, and violence – and explains why some men may never be redeemed.

 

Mike Minetta is far from a nice guy–despite what his family life would have you think–and Tieri uses him as a prism for justified violence of sorts. Most of the issue is spent focused on Minetta and explaining to the reader why he’s the target of the urban legend that is the Hangman. Tieri doesn’t pull any punches either, painting the world in The Hangman #1 as one rife with crime and brutal punishments. Tieri does an excellent job of maintaining the tension throughout the issue, as the reader knows Minetta is veering towards receiving vengeance because of his actions. There are shades of Arrow in the issue, as the Hangman loudly proclaims how his victim failed at being moral, but it doesn’t take away from the overall enjoyment of the issue.

 

Ruiz does a great job of keeping the graphics visceral and gritty. Characters are defined by sharp lines and angles that seem to cut against the backdrops. There are interesting panel designs that accompany the pacing, with many pages sporting tall, vertical panels that follow along with the action as it progresses. Deering offers lettering that lends an old-school sensibility to the work that fits the equally old-school mob retaliation mentality. And Fitzpatrick pollutes the book with plenty of dark colors (primarily black and blue) with some greens and reds thrown in for good measure.

 

The Hangman #1 is a pretty intense opening issue that clearly establishes the world the characters live in. The Hangman is more than just an urban legend to some, doling out justice as he deems fit to those requiring punishment. Tieri’s script is straightforward and darkly illustrates the world that evil men live in, even if they can reconcile their actions with their own moral compass. The illustrations by Ruiz are just as dark, matching the tone of the story perfectly. The Hangman #1 is a bold first issue that relies on men being evil to carry the tale.

 

The Hangman #1 is in stores now.

 

Black Magick #1

3

 

“So mote it be.”

 

The life of a detective is nothing if not exciting. It doesn’t need much else to be any more exciting, but that’s not going to stop Image Comics from adding more in Black Magick #1. The issue is written by Greg Rucka, illustrated by Nicola Scott, color assists by Chiara Arena, and lettered by Jodi Wynne.

 

Detective Rowan Black works robbery/homicide for the Portsmouth PD, but her greatest mystery is the truth about herself…both who she has been, and who she will become. Yet there are others in Rowan’s world with very long memories, and the power that one person holds, another will always covet.

 

The opening for Black Magick #1 is pretty intense, until Rucka adds a bit of levity to it that immediately sets the tone for the book. Rowan has powers to her that normal detectives don’t and Rucka draws upon that to carry the story into a situation that requires Rowan to rely on that ability in addition to her detective abilities. There’s nothing new about blending together the supernatural and normal lives, but Rucka does so in a way that is intriguing. That blending turns a typical hostage situation into something more that requires Rowan to draw upon something dark to survive, which compels Rowan to question who exactly she is. Rucka excels at presenting strong, female characters and Rowan is certainly no exception, even if there are mysteries surrounding her past.

 

There’s a powerful mix of photorealistic characters and sparsely detailed backgrounds throughout the issue. Scott illustrates characters with impassioned facial expressions to underscore the intensity of certain scenes, all of which defines the characters pretty cleanly. Most of the pages rely on a fairly typical panel layout, but there are a few instances where Scott deviates–for instance, one page features Rowan triumphantly arriving on a motorcycle that’s set atop the panels. The book is largely black and white, save for a fantastic two-page spread toward the end where Scott and Arena depict a rather amazing display of a burning fire. The predominantly simple coloring gives the book an older sensibility to it that fits within the context of the characters involved.

 

Black Magick #1 has the sort of ending that’s clearly meant to ask questions and does so, challenging the reader to wonder what’s going to happen next. Rowan has something more to her than it seems upon first glance, drawing upon a relatively checkered past. Rucka’s tale is paced cleanly and gets everything in place to further unfold down the road. Scott’s artwork is relatively simple yet effective at conveying the action-packed life that a detective has to contend with. Black Magick #1 is a great first issue that promises to delve into the darker side of things as one woman discovers more about herself.

 

Black Magick #1 is in stores now.


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