Indie Comics Spotlight: Past the Last Mountain #1, Conan the Slayer #1, and Lucas Stand #1

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By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

 

Past the Last Mountain #1

 

PASTTHELASTMOUNTAIN

 

“After all, if you don’t eat your oatmeal, the goblins will get you!”

 

Fantasy realms are thought to exist in scores of literature, movies, games, etc. As of now, that’s the only place where you can explore those themes and be exposed to beings of non-human ilk. Past the Last Mountain #1 from Comics Experience looks to change that notion. The issue is written and lettered by Paul Allor and illustrated by Louie Joyce (layouts by Gannon Beck).

 

A troll, faun, and dragon are on the run from the United States government in this geopolitical fantasy.

 

While the solicitation for Past the Last Mountain #1 reads like the start of a bad fantasy joke, Allor is aiming for more in the first issue. The plot unfolds in a way that moves from relative tedium to something more fantastical and it’s clear pretty early on that the actual concept is brilliant. Allor is tapping into an innate curiosity in viewing things in captivity, only in Past the Last Mountain #1, those in captivity are fantasy beings. The parallels drawn between Allor’s world and zoos/aquariums/etc. is strong and emphasizes the damage to the psyches of both the captors and the captives. The issue reads extraordinarily fast as well, with Allor racing from the start and refusing to let the reader catch their breath.

 

The story itself is very intriguing, but Joyce’s art is interesting in its own right. Joyce relies on a style that’s somewhere between sketching and cel-shading characters who move like cardboard cut-outs against the backdrops. This style makes every page feel like a storyboard and gives the reader a bit more latitude in imagining what’s happening – a fitting approach considering the content of the issue. And even though the book focuses on a troll, faun, and dragon, Joyce gives each their own look that reinforces both their personalities and the preconceived notions about their mythology. The pastel colors add another level of fantasy to the story, making the characters stand out more against the expectations of reality.

 

Past the Last Mountain #1 is a really smart take on the notion of captivity. The mythical creatures on the run are seeking asylum from a government keeping them for whatever reason and it’s clear that the series wants to delve at least a little bit into those reasons. Allor’s script is very fast-moving and cleverly lays out the scenario for the reader. Joyce’s artwork is ethereal in a way that underscores the fantasy aspect of the work. Past the Last Mountain #1 is an imaginative take on some pretty common ethical quandaries when it comes to keeping beings in captivity.

 

Past the Last Mountain #1 is available now via comiXology

 

Conan the Slayer #1

 

CONAN

 

“…hither came Conan…marching, ever forward.”

 

Conan the Barbarian earned his name through plenty of violent actions. Many of those actions involved the slaying of countless foes which could prompt people to refer to him as Conan the Slayer. That’s what Dark Horse Comics is going with in Conan the Slayer #1. The issue is written by Cullen Bunn, illustrated by Sergio Dávila, colored by Michael Atiyeh, and lettered by Richard Starkings and Comicraft.

 

Alone, battle weary, and with nothing but his sword, Conan of Cimmeria faces his inevitable death in the arid wastes…but instead stumbles into a camp of Kozaki raiders. With a knife at his throat and a band of Turanian hunters at his back, will the half-dead barbarian find a new ally in the Kozaki chief?

 

It’s not often that Conan is shown in a vulnerable state, but Bunn makes it work exceptionally well in Conan the Slayer #1. The issue opens with Conan staggering through the desert after his latest bout while being pursued by even more opponents and Bunn uses this to set up the rest of the issue (and series). Having Conan find himself in a subdued position could have backfired spectacularly, but Bunn uses it to his advantage to breathe some fresh air into the concept of Conan. Make no mistake – Conan is still fiercely formidable even when vulnerable (as evidenced by his brashness when exchanging barbs with a Kozaki chief) and Bunn successfully marries the two seemingly opposite concepts of Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Barbarian Who Needs a Break Every Now and Then. The dialogue is perfect for such a characterization with Bunn offering spirited exchanges throughout that mitigate the need for ever encounter to end in swordplay.

 

Conan is a hulking bruiser and Dávila captures that look very well with his artwork in Conan the Slayer #1. There’s enough of an emphasis on Conan’s massive frame even if Dávila doesn’t draw him as overtly muscular or even massive for that matter. Dávila presents Conan as a cunning and capable warrior, thanks to panels that capture the frenetic pacing of the heat of battle. And placing the panels amidst empty gutters sort of isolates the action in a way that helps the reader to feel as if they’re alone in the desert with Conan. Reds splash against earthier tones as Atiyeh seeks to emphasize the desolate desert landscape and its inhabitants who share a similar coloring.

 

Conan the Slayer #1 is savagely fantastic. Conan has always relied on his sword and brute strength first, but in Conan the Slayer #1 he’s forced to rely on his wits as well. Bunn’s grasp of the character is perfect and his portrayal of Conan is deeper than what readers typically get out of Conan. Dávila’s artwork is the right amount of pacifist and violent interactions to give the book a proper ebb and flow. Conan the Slayer #1 reads very well and offers a slightly under-served side of Conan in his tactical intelligence.

 

Conan the Slayer #1 is in stores July 13.

 

Lucas Stand #1

 

LucasStand

 

“We’re all just animals at the mercy of our impulses.”

 

The inevitability of death is right up there with the sun rising – it’s going to happen. For most everyone who encounters it, there’s no more. Some people like Lucas Stand get a second chance and that’s on display in Lucas Stand #1 from BOOM! Studios. The issue is written by Kurt Sutter and Caitlin Kittredge, illustrated by Jesús Hervás, colored by Adam Metcalfe, and lettered by Jim Campbell.

 

Lucas Stand is a military vet who can’t reintegrate into society and has emotionally cut himself off from the people he loves. At his lowest, Lucas does something he can’t take back. Hell comes calling, offering him the opportunity to make things right. Demons escaping Hell are upsetting the balance of evil, and now Lucifer has recruited Lucas to send them back. It doesn’t matter in what era the demons escape – World War II, old-timey Hollywood, Vietnam, present day – he must learn to fit in both the past and the present. Given new purpose, Lucas starts to rebuild himself and his life, even as he struggles at the human cost that comes with it.

 

The script by Sutter and Kittredge leverages Lucas Stand as a greatly disillusioned combat veteran struggling to find a post-war identity – something that’s sadly all too realistic in many returning veterans. What’s different about Lucas, though, is he’s given a second chance to fight the enemy. The dialogue in the book feels coarse – befitting of a man like Lucas tired of it all. There are some pacing issues in that the flow feels a little forced in order to properly set the table, but Sutter and Kittredge do a great job of still keeping everything on track. And the premise behind the book itself doesn’t feel overly tired, primarily because Lucas Stand is sort of a demon himself tasked with finding other demons.

 

Artistically, the approach by Hervás has an appropriate level of roughness to it that fits with Stand’s characterization. Lucas is depicted as a hulking figure who has clearly served in the military and Hervás uses that stature as a means of forcing Lucas upon both the characters around him and the reader. Many of the panels have an unfinished quality to them that echoes the relative incompleteness of Lucas’ life and Hervás handles the lulls and action-sequences quite deftly. There’s a “nostalgic” scene as well that Hervás manages to make feel anachronistically appropriate. Metcalfe’s colors are largely darker, but he pops in splashes of red and pink for moments of heightened intensity.

 

The premise behind Lucas Stand #1 is equal parts Punisher and Constantine. Lucas is no longer a good person and it’s arguable that he’s even doing good in his new assignment. The duo of Sutter and Kittredge have a clear goal in mind for him, though, and they’re do a solid job of letting the reader know what that goal is. Hervás’ artwork is grimy in a way that works. Lucas Stand #1 is a new take on an old formula, giving readers a new antihero to cheer for.

 

Lucas Stand #1 is in stores now.


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