Indie Comics Spotlight – Ringside, Vampirella, Dragon Age: Magekiller

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By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Ringside #1

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“The world’s done nothing but change, my friend. And you haven’t moved on at all.”

Like it or not, professional wrestling garners a lot of attention and viewers. It’s essentially a violent soap opera, but that does nothing to detract from the sheer physical toll that being on the road and performing so many days out of the year takes on the wrestlers. Relationships are formed and broken, with Ringside #1 from Image Comics focusing on it all. The issue is written by Joe Keatinge, illustrated by Nick Barber, colored by Simon Gough, and lettered by Ariana Maher.

Each issue will explore the relationship between art and industry from the view of the wrestlers themselves, the creatives they work with, the suits in charge, and the fans cheering them all on. But that’s just the beginning. The real violence is outside the ring.

As someone who’s followed professional wrestling off and on over the years, there’s a lot that resonates with Keatinge’s script in Ringside #1. That being said, there are definitely aspects of pro wrestler Dan Knoussos as a character that will resonate with any and all readers. Keatinge does a masterful job of pacing the story very methodically, slowly revealing Dan’s current plight as a “has-been” as juxtaposed against his desire to be something great personally. The interactions among the wrestlers feel genuine and contribute to the overall tone of the book. There’s a fascinating reveal at the end of the issue that Keatinge uses to great effect to set up the future of the series, as well as truly define Dan as someone who doesn’t know when to quit.

The most obvious visual comparison for Ringside #1 is Southern Bastards. Barber uses a similarly vague style that Jason Latour relies on, which adds a layer of grit to Dan’s world that’s reflective of the shadiness that goes on behind the scenes in wrestling. And true to form in wrestling, all the characters boast different body types that remind the reader that wrestlers come in all shapes and sizes, with Barber emphasizing those body type differences for varying forms of action. Barber’s relatively simplistic style is extremely effective at keeping the reader abreast of all the wrestling action. Gough’s color palette is rife with pale and pastel colors as well, further underscoring a certain pessimism pervasive throughout the wrestling industry.

Ringside #1 is a very somber look at a performer’s life at the top and the consequences of taking a fall. Dan wants to redeem himself for something that happened in the past, but what that is remains something of a mystery. Keatinge’s script is clean and concise, setting the characters up as flawed individuals struggling to let go of what made them great in the past. Barber’s artwork is loose and carries with it a grime that’s reflective of underhanded dealings and exchanges. Ringside #1 is a great first issue that sets the table exceptionally well.

Ringside #1 is in stores now.

Vampirella #1969

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“Oh, my! This Earth is a place of chaos and turmoil! Drakulon was a dying planet, but this one may be even more dangerous.”

Vampirella is one of the iconic characters of comics. She’s interesting because she’s become so iconic while not being a traditional superhero; rather, she relies on her horror ties as a means to make her unique. Dynamite Comics recognizes her contributions to the industry in Vampirella #1969, a throwback to the year she debuted. “’69” is written by Nancy A. Collins, illustrated by Fritz Casas, and colored by Inlight Studios; “Mercy’s Lullaby” is written by Eric Trautmann and illustrated by Brett Weldele; “Magic” is written by Phil Hester, illustrated by Jethro Morales, and colored by Inlight Studios; “The Beezlebums” is written by Mark Rahner and illustrated by Colton Worley; and “Werewolves of Dixie” is written by David F. Walker, illustrated by Aneke, and colored by Inlight Studios.

Vampirella first appeared on the scene in 1969 and quickly became a fixture of comics, horror, and pop culture. Now, Dynamite Entertainment proudly presents a special, over-sized issue celebrating those heady days with a who’s who from their roster of all-star writers and artists.

The enduring nature of Vampirella as a character is what really makes Vampirella #1969 work so well. Pitting Vampirella as a misunderstood character in a setting as turbulent as the 60s is a fascinating choice and works exceptionally well – especially as a celebration of the character. The authors do an excellent job of referencing her general demeanor when faced with adversity while at the same time preserving her sense of honor that makes her loyal. Vampirella has always been about her attempting to control the demon within her and Vampirella #1969 doesn’t lose sight of that. In fact, that transformation is the catalyst for a few of the tales in the issue that prove truly terrifying to those she encounters.

The artwork in Vampirella #1969 is varied. Casas’ work in “’69” feels the most traditional when it comes to Vampirella illustrations and Casas presents her with an era-appropriate look. The look of “Mercy’s Lullaby” by Weldele is probably the most eerie out of the collection, as it relies on a very minimalist style that emphasizes the shading more than anything. The look in “Magic” by Morales feels like a comic book and relies on panel arrangements befitting the magic theme of the story. Worley’s work in “The Beezlebums” looks like colored sketches, as Worley doesn’t emphasize too much in the way of character detail or features. The “Werewolves of Dixie” does a lot with crowds and Aneke mixes in a slew of werewolves for good measure that feel ferocious.

Vampirella #1969 is a very interesting retrospective on the character that maintains her reputation as a capable and cunning heroine. She makes her way through whatever environment surrounds her with a focus on righting wrongs and protecting the innocent. The writers in Vampirella #1969 all rely on those tenets as backbones of the issue, reminding the reader why Vampirella is such a long-lasting character. The artwork is varied in Vampirella #1969, even though it all gravitates to the aforementioned character traits. Vampirella #1969 is a great homage to a great character by emphasizing what it is that makes her so fascinating.

Vampirella #1969 is in stores now.

Dragon Age: Magekiller #1

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“The problem with magic is that it cheats.”

The world of Dragon Age is replete with all manner of individual, but there seems to be a particular focus on mages and spellcasters in general. Those characters always make for interesting reading, which is why Dark Horse Comics is teaming up with Bioware on Dragon Age: Magekiller #1. The issue is written by Greg Rucka, pencils by Carmen Carnero, inked by Terry Pallot, colored by Michael Atiyeh, and lettered by Michael Heisler.

Tessa and Marius are mercenary partners, eliminating those who use blood magic to hurt others, but when a powerful patron employs them, they realize this next job may be their last…

Rucka sets up the issue with something of an introduction to the type of magic beings found in the world of Dragon Age. The duo of Tessa and Marius are essentially narrating their latest mission to stop one such spellbearer and Rucka doesn’t pull any punches in reinforcing the notion that her magic requires physical sacrifices. Most of the issue follows this sort of narration and the issue works better for it because it provides a quick and dirty look at one facet of Dragon Age. The second half of the issue is focused more on where the story is going from here, with Rucka choosing a scenario that blends together Tessa and Marius’ disdain for magic users with a forced hand. The pacing of Rucka’s script works very well despite the seemingly disparate halves of the whole and his dialogue feels tight.

The look and feel of Dragon Age is maintained thanks to Carnero’s illustrations. Tessa and Marius are believable as bounty hunters and Carnero illustrates them with a certain youthful exuberance befitting ambitious youths. The panel layout is largely a grid, yet Carnero stacks them atop one another in a way that feels staggered and frenetic. Faces look sufficiently weathered and befitting of travelers weary from their journeys. Pallot’s inks married to Atiyeh’s colors reinforce the notion of blood magic, as many panels are awash in reddish hues ranging from scarlet to pinks.

Dragon Age: Magekiller #1 is a solid entry into the Dragon Age universe that fans of the game will definitely want to check out. Tessa and Marius end the issue in a slightly dangerous predicament that will dictate the future of the series. Rucka’s got a firm grasp on the character and their interactions, providing exchanges that don’t feel outlandish. Carnero’s illustrations are clean and simple, effectively showcasing the fantasy aspects of Dragon Age. Dragon Age: Magekiller #1 has all the fantasy elements that one would expect from a book with “dragon” in the title, right down to the emphasis on magic, combat, and thievery.

Dragon Age: Magekiller #1 is in stores now.


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