Indie Comics Spotlight: Outre, Hogtown Spirits, Hellboy and the B.R.P.D.

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By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)



Hogtown Spirits #1: Wyatt Blake

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“The rain falls in four-four time. On pedestrians pounding pavement.”

Life as a musician is hard. Getting the big break is all it takes, but getting to that point is something that pushes aspiring musicians to make all sorts of decisions, some which aren’t quite as good as others. Hogtown Spirits #1: Wyatt Blake is a one-shot that boasts lost loves, unlucky characters, and the pervasiveness of music throughout society as one guy seeks to get his break. The one-shot is written by Kevin Parnell and illustrated by Barb Felix.

Wyatt Blake is a down-on-his-luck trumpeter who can’t seem to catch a break. His latest woes involve the Nighthowl, a club that offers jazz every night that Wyatt is a part of, until he isn’t. From there, Wyatt stumbles across his past on the streets of Hogtown as he struggles to find a way to survive. Wyatt got in deep with the wrong people, moving him to desperation when it comes to making a quick buck to stave off death.

As a character, Wyatt is definitely believable. He makes his way through Hogtown with a sort of rhythmic flair that makes him stand out as more than just an average musician indebted to the wrong people. And through his narration, the reader is treated to his viewpoint, as he finds the beat in life around him, a byproduct of his devotion to music. Based on the description, it’s easy to assume the book will become another standard noir tale, but there’s a certain bit of levity that can be appreciated in the form of Wyatt’s former flame, Silver. His trip down memory lane with her is carefully balanced with his survival instinct, prompting the book to flirt with a rather dark turn briefly before Wyatt comes to a broader realization. The end result is a character in Wyatt who somehow manages to grow a lot in the one-shot.

Where Hogtown Spirits #1: Wyatt Blake really delivers in the noir front is the art. Felix’s sketches accompany the tone of the book with a scratchy feel that really helps the reader feel as if they’re visiting the somewhat grimy Hogtown along with Wyatt. The way the characters are illustrated demands the full attention of the reader on them and their actions as well, ensuring the reader knows where to focus in each panel. There are a couple of pages that feature some pretty intricate and adventurous layouts, with the events progressing in panels overlaid on another single action. It’s a great nod to the layering in music that gives a song depth and makes it feel active.

Hogtown Spirits #1: Wyatt Blake is a creative one-shot that infuses music into the traditionally coupled writing and art mediums. The result is a book that manages to delve into quite a few emotions and feelings, both on the part of Wyatt and in the reader. Parnell’s tale bucks the expected when it comes to a story such as this, eschewing the traditional focus on the “bad guys” for time with the “good guy” and his bad luck. The approach taken by Felix on the art also hammers home the concept of Hogtown as a character, as well as gives other characters plenty of opportunity to showcase their personality traits in ways that inform the reader. Hogtown Spirits #1: Wyatt Blake is a great one-shot that presents the subtle beauty of music against a backdrop of a town teeming with ugly personalities.

Hogtown Spirits #1: Wyatt Blake is currently available via Comixology and Gumroad.


Outré #4: Silence

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Outré #4: Silence is the fourth anthology in the series. This one is a little different, though, as the work takes its name seriously and doesn’t feature any dialogue. The anthology features “Planetary Rings” by Bret Bernal, Alex Diotto, and Jon Scrivens; “The Language of Violence” by Devon Wong, Peter Mason, and Kóte Carvajal; “Peon” by Lex Wilson and Kelly Williams; “Cyborg Witch” by Dave Newbold and Joshua Jensen; “Last Sign” by Danos Philopoulos; and “Can’t Say” by Noel Franklin.

All the stories in Outré #4: Silence are presented with no dialogue. Despite this design choice, there are still some very heady stories to be told. “Planetary Rings” is a broad interpretation of marriage and the importance (or lack thereof) of wedding bands as a sign of the couple’s commitment. “The Language of Violence” depicts a father and husband choosing his somewhat atypical career over his family, a choice that bears consequences when he realizes he has no relationship with said family. “Peon” is a pretty cute story about a little goblin fighting a war that he’s not supposed to be a part of, while “Cyborg Witch” is a story that boasts a samurai witch with cyborg augmentation. Finally, “Last Sign” and “Can’t Say” are two full-page panels that evoke emotions associated with their titles.

As there’s no dialogue in the book, the reader must instead rely on the images to convey the story. For the most part, Outré #4: Silence does a great job in presenting artwork that effectively tells a story. “Planetary Rings” and “The Language of Violence” seem to rely on themes of family and commitment, but there are some gaps in the story that dialogue would have definitely filled in. It’s not to say the stories don’t make sense at all, but there are some gaps that require the reader to take a leap to completely understand what’s going on. The stories in “Peon” and “Cyborg Witch” are very clear and really offer the reader a look at the frenetic and unpredictable nature of combat.

There is a wide range of art styles across all stories. “Planetary Rings” maintains something of a comic strip feel and concise lines and a relative lack of detail in the backgrounds define the art. A very vivid color palette that further emphasizes the otherworldliness of the title accompanies this style. “The Language of Violence” is a stark contrast in appearance as the second story, relying instead on darker hues that cast a general pall over the work. “Peon” feels a lot like something a child would create, in that there’s a color-by-numbers feel to it that encapsulates the imagination in a work that boasts goblins and knights. The look feels energetic and exciting, with even the main character coming across as a very lovable-looking lead. “Cyborg Witch” seems to draw heavily on anime style and the combat very much has the same feel to it as Cyborg Witch does battle with a menacing robot. And both “Last Sign” and “Can’t Say” are short at one page each, the impact of their meaning can’t really be understated.

Outré #4: Silence is an interesting anthology that capitalizes on the premise that silence is deafening. Despite a lack of words, there are still numerous actions that carry with them a tremendous weight and emotion. Those feelings are conveyed very well in the anthology, with each story managing to touch a different emotion through different characters and actions. Both “Planetary Rings” and “The Language of Violence” feel similar to one another in tone, while “Peon” and “Cyborg Witch” share characteristics of more fantasy/comic book material. Overall, the book is very interesting and takes the bold step of featuring only panels and no dialogue.

Outré #4: Silence will be available now.


Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. #1

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‘”First assignment”…?’

Hellboy is one of those characters who could be a major player in just about any franchise. Truth is, though, he’s a major player in the Dark Horse universe, getting plenty of attention throughout the years. A prophecy portends him as the destruction of the world, but until then readers can gain a little insights into his past in Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. #1. The issue is written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi, illustrated by Alex Maleev, colored by Dave Stewart, and lettered by Clem Robins.

A bizarre series of murders and rumors of something worse lead Professor Bruttenholm to send a young Hellboy to a Brazilian village on his first mission. Hellboy is joined by Archie Muraro, Jacob Stegner, Susan Xiang, and Robert Amsel in a mission to uncover something terrible in the shadows of a sixteenth-century Portuguese fortress. Considering the B.P.R.D. is involved, it’s expected that things are about to get really weird, really fast.

Hellboy’s origins aren’t quite that mysterious per se, but it’s still nice to get some insights into his origins. Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. #1 offers a rather adventurous take on Hellboy’s first mission and general acceptance among his “peers” that gives Arcudi time to delve into the reactions to Hellboy. The others in his team know that he has abilities they can’t hope to match, but his appearance gives them the same hesitation that others who work alongside him go through. The story boasts the requisite strange events that merit the services of the B.P.R.D. and even gives Hellboy a chance to showcase a little trepidation about the new experience. Mignola and Arcudi are all too familiar with the Hellboy universe and even if Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. #1 is something of an origin story, their script and plot still fit within that canon.

There’s a grittiness to the art that’s extremely befitting of Hellboy. Hellboy maintains his trademark appearance, with Maleev even offering a great look at the apocalypse that Hellboy is expected to become. The other characters appear more than capable of holding their own in fighting alongside him, evincing a look of grizzled military participants. Hellboy’s youthful appearance reminds the reader that he’s not quite the formidable fighting machine that he’ll eventually grow up to become. Stewart’s colors give the book a feel appropriate for the era it depicts and Hellboy’s vivid red look really pops off of each page he’s featured on.

Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. #1 is a book that fans of the series will definitely want to check out, as it explores some of the earlier days of red demon. His first mission doesn’t seem to be any easier than any of his later missions, even if he is teamed up with other soldiers who seem more than capable of holding their own alongside him. The story by Mignola and Arcudi isn’t too deep for the universe, yet still manages to get a little insightful regarding Hellboy and the expectations foisted upon him. Maleev’s art maintains the familiar look and feel of Hellboy and his cohorts, giving readers a great look at a young Hellboy mixing it up with others who both respect and fear him. Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. #1 is a great issue that explores a character who’s been around the block more than a few times.

Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. #1 is in stores now.


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