Indie Comics Spotlight: Princeless, Drifter, Django/Zorro

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By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)



Princeless: The Pirate Princess #1

princeless


“Life just never turns out like you expect.”

Life as a princess waiting to be rescued is all sorts of slow and dull. Sure, you get a great view of the surrounding landscape, but other than that, there’s really not that much to be enthused about. That’s what makes escaping that much sweeter, especially when the liberator is a princess herself. Action Lab Entertainment is delving back into that universe with Princeless: The Pirate Princess #1, written by Jeremy Whitley and illustrated by Rosy Higgins.

Princess Adrienne has made it a point to emancipate any and all princesses who need rescuing. This time, Adrienne and Bedelia have found another young princess locked away in a tower and decided to rescue her. But Princess Raven is more than meets the eye and Adrienne may have finally met her match. Needless to say, Raven is a princess who’s more than capable of holding her own when the situation calls for it.

The Princeless books excel at offering stories about empowering princesses (and women in general). Whitley maintains that general theme in Princeless: The Pirate Princess #1, with Adrienne meeting another like her in Princess Raven. Both princesses are fiercely independent and are seeking their own version of independence for different reasons. For Raven, her motivation is simply just to be “rescued” as a means of escaping the boredom of being a damsel in distress. Adrienne’s proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that she’s capable of rescuing when necessary, but her methods tend to be a little on the violent side. It seems the only way she knows how to save a princess is by fighting her way in and out, instead of using her intelligence or mental acuity.

For an all-ages book like Princeless: The Pirate Princess #1, the art is just as important as the story and Higgins nails it. His illustrations are vibrant and alive, presenting very clean lines and sharp details. Raven resembles Mulan in some ways, yet still feels as if she’s a natural part of the Princeless universe. The empty gutters allow further attention to be directed towards the beautiful panels, panels presented precisely and in a way that clearly depicts the action unfolding. There’s great use of colors throughout the book as well, demonstrating a range in various lighting and environmental factors.

Princeless: The Pirate Princess #1 is another solid entry in the Princeless mythos. Raven is every bit the equal to Adrienne, with the latter a little befuddled by how capable Raven really is. Whitley’s story this time around is actually an interesting twist on the damsel in distress trope, as Raven can clearly fend for herself (and was even trained by her father to do so) and still waits to be rescued. Higgins’ illustrations are wonderful, adding the very joyous and lighthearted tone that the series has made its name on to this point. Princeless: The Pirate Princess #1 is another great book in the series that merits your attention; pick it up in January or get your local comic shop to put in some preorders for this.

Princeless: The Pirate Princess #1 is in stores January 2015 and is currently available in previews under NOV140910.


Drifter #1

drifter


“Law here’s a relative concept.”

Ever find yourself crash-landed on a strange planet with no recollection of why or how you got there? If so, you may not the only one. When in that situation, it’s best to stay calm and try to piece things together as to what it will take to get out of there. Even if you happen to be a little on the injured side like Abram Pollux in Drifter #1 from Image Comics. The issue is written by Ivan Brandon, illustrated by Nic Klein, and lettered by Clem Robins.

Abram Pollux has a problem. After his ship is struck by space debris, he barely survives the crash on Ouro. It’s here that he’s tended to in Ghost Town by the town marshal Carter and reverend, both of whom seem to do this type of thing on a rather daily basis. It’s here that he learns a little more about himself and his situation, yet the answers he’s seeking might be a little different than what he was expecting.

Drifter #1 is an interesting entry into the interstellar space travel genre. Brandon’s script reads with an air of etherealness to it, as the story and exchanges feel as if they’re reaching for philosophical undertones. There’s a lot of mystery surrounding Abram and his situation, all of which doesn’t seem to be getting resolved anytime soon. Brandon presents a very bleak living situation for the inhabitants of Ghost Town, even if Abram doesn’t fully comprehend that picture at the moment. The dialogue is delivered with an emphasis on the abstract, as everyone’s lines feel as if they’re reaching for a certain level of allegory or morality.

The world of Ouro is one of desolation and lawlessness to some extent, despite the presence of some law enforcement. Ghost Town is a very barren-looking town that evokes memories of the Wild West, when people settled there to be on the frontier more than anything. Klein captures this very well through his use of dark colors and shades. The book is peppered with strange transitions from night to day and inside to outside which are bolstered by some of the color choices. There are some instances where the shading or lack of variation makes it a little difficult to discern the precise emotion being portrayed by the characters. For instance, Abram’s expression remains largely unchanged throughout the issue, despite him going through quite a bit.

Drifter #1 feels as a book much like its main character: drifting. There’s a lot of potential in the story about a man waking up in a new world with little recollection of what got him there in the first place, potential made even more intriguing by the cast of characters surrounding him. Brandon relies on this potential to carry the book, not really giving the reader much to grab onto with Abram that will resonate with them. Klein’s illustrations capture the bleak reality that is Ghost Town, but there are places where characters would be a little better served if they expressed a bit more emotion and detail. Drifter #1 is the kind of ambitious book Image Comics is known for, but the first issue is light on enough of a hook to keep you curious and heavy on what appears to be a tale of morality.

Drifter #1 is in stores now.


Django/Zorro #1

django


“Yeahhh…you really remind me of someone I used to know.”

The power of a symbol is awe-inspiring. It can inspire hope in those who view it. It can evoke fear in those who come across it. While a sword-etched “Z” is certainly recognizable to many, there’s really not much in the way of a “D” symbol that offers up the same associations. If Django/Zorro #1 from Dynamite Entertainment has its way, Django won’t need a D…he’ll just “borrow” the Z. The issue is written by Quentin Tarantino and Matt Wagner, illustrated by Esteve Polls, colored by Brennan Wagner, and lettered by Simon Bowland.

Set several years after the events of Django Unchained, Django is again pursuing the evil that men do in his role as a bounty hunter. Since there’s a warrant on his head back east, he’s mainly been plying his trade in the western states. After safely settling his wife, Broomhilda, near Chicago, he’s again taken to the road, sending her funds whenever he completes a job. It’s by sheer chance that he encounters the aged and sophisticated Diego de la Vega – the famed Zorro – and soon finds himself fascinated by this unusual character, the first wealthy white man he’s ever met who seems totally unconcerned with the color of Django’s skin…and who can hold his own in a fight. He’s hired on as Diego’s “bodyguard” for one adventure and is soon drawn into a fight to free the local indigenous people from a brutal servitude, discovering that slavery isn’t exclusive to black folks. In the course of this adventure, he learns much from the older man (much like King Schultz) and, on several occasions, even dons the mask and the whip of The Fox.

If there’s one thing Tarantino knows (and for sure he knows many) it’s offering up characters who are extremely interesting in their own way. Django is no exception and pairing him with Zorro (and Tarantino with Wagner) leads to a script that boasts extremely witty and engaging dialogue. It’s clear from the start that both Django and Diego suspect the other is more than they’re letting on, but there’s also a certain trust fostered between the two that doesn’t jeopardize their impending partnership. In fact, it’s almost as if there’s a changing of the guard when it comes to stopping evil from prevailing, as the older Diego gives way to the younger Django. Granted, this isn’t to say that Django will end up being the next Zorro, but it does offer a very explosive dynamic between the two that’s further amplified by their similar ideals and approaches.

While the writers definitely nail the tone of a meet-up between the two legends, Polls offers up a look that’s every bit as satisfying. Characters exhibit a rough and tumble nature that comes with life on the frontier, while still maintaining some of their more recognizable characteristics. He handles the gunfights very well, focusing on the shooters in ways that make them feel kinetic and in the midst of action. Details definitely cascade from front to back, with characters and objects in the forefront getting the most attention, while landscapes in the background get less. Brennan Wagner relies on a series of dark colors for the book that give it a grittiness that works, even if there are a few times where it’s a little too dark to quickly discern who or what is going on.

Django/Zorro #1 is every bit the team-up you would expect it to be based on the caliber and popularity of the two characters involved. The two characters share views of justice that prompt them to risk their lives in an effort to enforce those views, which makes for an extremely gratifying and entertaining rapport. Tarantino and Wagner know the characters and what makes them so appealing, ensuring that all of their charms work in tandem to further the story. Polls’ illustrations have the right amount of dinginess to them that reminds the reader things aren’t exactly safe in the wild west Django/Zorro #1 will appeal to fans of either leading character or westerns in particular where a vigilante takes it upon him (or her) self to save the day.

Django/Zorro #1 is available now.


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