Indie Comics Spotlight: Reddin, Klaus, Carver

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By Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Reddin


reddin

“What you say ta that, pardner?”

Life in the old west was nothing short of impossible for most people. If you weren’t robbed and killed, you were probably going to live a short life punctuated by death from an illness. Some were a lot tougher, though, and made a name for themselves moving through the world with a keen eye on survival. Two such individuals are Kirkwood and Driver in Reddin, published by Dead Canary Comics. The issue is written by Matt Fitch and C.S. Baker, illustrated by Conor Boyle, and lettered by Paul Clark-Forse. “The Adventures of Kirkwood and Driver” is written by Clark-Forse and illustrated by Scott Cooper.

In a forgotten corner of the Old West, shadows lurk. Dean Driver and Karl Kirkwood are two friends on the long and dusty pioneer road, hunting bounty, doing good. But what starts as just another adventure becomes a supernatural nightmare when a Faustian deal is struck and a horrible, revenge-fueled spiral into madness unfolds. Scores will be settled, blood will be spilled. The evil of Reddin is nothing when measured by the evil in all men’s hearts.

Tales from the old west generally tick off a lot of boxes and in Reddin, Fitch and Baker rely on the concept of vengeance as one of those boxes to carry their story. Kirkwood and Driver are best friends faced with an impossible decision that drives them apart, but not in the way you would think. Fitch and Baker do an excellent job characterizing the men as sporting an almost unbreakable bond, which also explains their reputation throughout the west. There’s an element of the supernatural pervasive throughout the work as well that adds a pretty interesting twist to that concept of revenge. The story is paced pretty cleanly, as the story starts with the two as friends and moves with them as they seek to rediscover their bond.

The artwork in Reddin is gritty and matches the tone of the story. Clark-Forse illustrates the characters with an attention to detail that makes them believable as frontiersmen, replete with ten-gallon hats and spurs. Kirkwood and Driver are characterized by grizzled facades that reflect a life lived full of danger and daring. Clark-Forse does an especially good job with facial expressions, underscoring the mature concepts the characters are forced to contend with. The legendary entity working in the background is depicted as a vaguely defined nightmarish creature that helps sell the concept of the lead characters being haunted by its presence.

Reddin takes a familiar Wild West setting and mixes in some supernatural elements, intertwining the two in a way that makes the daily dangers of the time even more dangerous. Kirkwood and Driver are well-respected and well-worn travelers who maintain a mutual respect and bond through thick and thin, regardless of the external stressors applied. Fitch and Baker characterize that bond quite convincingly and definitely put it to the test, mixing in a sense of mythology to an otherwise standard western setting. Clark-Forse illustrates the characters with an attention to the trials and tribulations of the time, as all the characters sport a weariness to them indicative of the west. Reddin is a pretty solid western that works in the supernatural to keep things interesting.

Reddin will be available soon.

Klaus #1


klaus

“This is the greatest untold story of them all.”

The issue is written by Grant Morrison, illustrated by Dan Mora, and lettered by Ed Dukeshire.

Set in a dark fantastic past of myth and magic, Klaus tells the story of how Santa Claus really came to be. Where did he begin? What was he like when he was young? And what happens when he faces his greatest challenge? Drawing on Santa Claus’ wilder roots in Viking lore and Siberian shamanism—taking in the creepier side of Christmas, and characters like the sinister Krampus—Klaus is “Santa Claus: Year One.”

Grimsvig is a town in a snowy setting that’s beset by somewhat cruel rulers and serves as the perfect setting to introduce readers to Klaus. Morrison opens the issue by introducing the reader to Klaus as a competent trapper and hunter, fighting through the elements to simply ply his wares. After the introduction to the reader though, Morrison lends Klaus a bit of a soft side, demonstrating a gradual anger at the state of the town that contrasts to his memory of it. Much of the first issue is focused on building Klaus up as a sympathetic character, which Morrison uses as a means for making his transition to the benevolent character of legend more believable. The pacing of the story feels pretty tight as well, as Morrison effectively moves Klaus from a man content to be a hunter to a man who wants to make a change for the better for others.

Mora does a fantastic job of illustrating the harsh, snowy environment Klaus and the citizens of Grimsvig are forced to contend with. It’s easy to see how Klaus could manage in that environment, considering he’s presented as a burly warrior who can hold his own in combat and survival. Mora depicts Grimsvig through tight, focused panels that accent various buildings throughout the town, but you still get the sense that it’s a much more massive than that. There are also subtle nods to Christmas as modern society recognizes it, with the upper echelon of Grimsvig celebrating with a large tree decorated accordingly for the holidays. Toward the end of the issue, there’s a really psychedelic two-page spread that serves as a moment of clarity for Klaus that Mora manages through a style akin to that of throwing paint against a canvas and swirling it.

Klaus #1 opens up heavy on the fantasy setting, pitting the main character against the harsh elements of winter and the memories of a different era. It gradually turns into something bigger than that, still leaning on fantasy yet pitching it in a slightly different way. Morrison has laid the groundwork for revealing the origin of Santa Claus as he’s known today, relying on Klaus as a character full of confidence and generosity. Mora’s artwork is stunning, giving the reader sweeping landscapes with a chill in the air and a hero in Klaus more than capable of surviving. Klaus #1 is a great first issue that takes some liberties with the legend of Santa Claus in a way that works.

Klaus #1 is in stores now.

Carver: A Paris Story #1


carver

“So there you go…”

Fancy yourself a person of the world and then you’ve probably encountered all manner of individuals. Those individuals are well-versed in the world in general and Carver in Carver: A Paris Story #1 by Z2 Comics is one such man. The series is written and illustrated by Chris Hunt.

The first story arc is about Francis Carver, an infamous Gentleman of Fortune who comes to the aid of an old friend, whose child has been kidnapped by a gang of anarchists for mysterious reasons.

Hunt relies on many familiar themes to introduce the reader to the tale’s main character. The most readily apparent is the concept of an internationally-renowned man with the pedigree of James Bond or Sterling Archer–it’s safe to say that Carver falls somewhere in between those two characters. The premise of the first issue revolves around Carver’s visit to Paris in search of a friend, pitting him against an enemy who’s the exact opposite of Carver. Hunt uses their looming encounter well to characterize the two as villains in their own right, as Carver doesn’t really come across as much of a gentleman. The dialogue is pretty straightforward and the characters are very blunt in what they’re seeking from one another, which furthers the narrative that the characters are pretty stereotypical.

Hunt has garnered acclaim as an artist through both his work and his studying under Paul Pope. Hunt’s style in the book is very meticulous and clean, with characters evincing emotions on par with their roles. Carver himself boasts a rugged appearance that’s inspired by characters such as Indiana Jones for instance, with a powerful jaw and formidable physical presence. Hunt’s choice to keep the book in black and white adds a throwback vibe to it as well. The panel layout is extremely simple and follows the traditional grid format, affording the reader a very clean reading experience.

Carver: A Paris Story #1 is a relatively straightforward first issue that’s setting the table for things to come. Carver has all the qualities you’d expect from such a character, throwing himself right into the thick of things with little hesitation. Hunt’s script is paced pretty evenly and does a good job of presenting the major players and the universe in general. His artwork is simple yet presentable, using black and white coloring effectively to accentuate the lights and darks of Paris. Carver: A Paris Story #1 will appeal to readers looking to fill the void left by works such as Corto Maltese.

Carver: A Paris Story #1 is slated to debut soon.


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