Indie Comics Spotlight: Seven Percent, Lost Vegas #1, Bandthology II
by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)
Seven Percent #1
Humans and medical research have forever attempted to unlock the full potential of the human brain. The thinking is that if the brain is fully utilized, humans will be able to do so much more than they currently do; maybe even superhuman things. Seven Percent #1 from Red 5 Comics is such a book that looks at that last bit of untapped potential. The title is written by Luke Keith and Jeremy Fiest, with art by Jarreau Wimberly.
In 3499 A.D., Earth has been abandoned. There’s a group seeking out an object named the Psion Machine, a piece of technology perceived as the most powerful in the entire universe. It was created centuries ago by Dr. Adam Bell and is currently being studied by Jonathan Ethan Chambers. The catch? Chambers is a Separatist, living in secret with the machine in Subterra. The concept explored by Keith and Fiest sparks a lot of curiosity in the reader. After all, if humans were capable of using the entirety of their brains, what would that mean in the way of everyday affairs? While the question isn’t answered in the first issue, the writing duo manages to present the answer atmospherically. That is, they make it clear that the Psion Machine is quite the prize, despite no one quite knowing exactly what it does. It’s fascinating that characters are so blindly committed to the possibility of self-improvement with no knowledge of the full ramifications.
The additional twist that makes the concept even more intriguing is that the device is with a group of Separatists. Normally, you’d expect something like this to be in the hands of the evil intergalactic organization (in this case, Stone Corp.). The company rules with an iron fist and proceeds with military engagements as if they’re simply doing the citizens a favor by being there. The oppression is truly impressive, yet still prompts the Separatists to fight to understand the Psion Machine better.
Wimberly’s art is impressive throughout. Character models are detailed and infused with photorealism, helping to propel the story set so far in the future along perfectly. The visual representation of failed experiments with the Psion Machine present an almost feral individual, regressing as opposed to demonstrating the expected progress. If there’s one minor gripe though, it’s that some of the panels are excessively dark. Granted, a good chunk of the issue takes place in Subterra, but there are some instances where it’s very difficult to discern what exactly is happening.
Overall, the premise behind Seven Percent #1 is sound and is being set up well. Nothing is known about the Psion Machine aside from the fact that everyone wants it and the thought of humans fully utilizing their brains is quite tantalizing. If the military aspects of the book don’t take over too much (and devolve the book into a war book), there could be tons of subject matter to mine in the search for the missing seven percent.
Seven Percent #1 is available now on both comiXology and iVerse.
Lost Vegas #1
What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas; even if that happening ends up with something lost, whether it be money or people. Vegas prides itself on its ability to part patrons with their hard-earned money, but in that case, generally the worst those poor, broke individuals are faced with is walking away empty-handed. Quite the opposite in Lost Vegas #1 from Image Comics. Lost Vegas #1 is written by Jim McCann, illustrated by Janet Lee, colored by Chris Sotomayor and lettered by Dave Lanphear.
Roland is a smooth-talking gambler with a penchant for reading people and using that knowledge to win the big hands. His “methods” are uncovered during one particular high-stakes game, prompting his sentencing to the Lost Vegas. The Lost Vegas is a ship roaming the galaxy and offering gamblers the chance to pay off their debts. The catch? Indentured servitude doesn’t really lead to many principal payments…it’s all interest. Such a scenario has a way of spurring more creative ways of paying off the debt.
There’s a lot to like in Lost Vegas, but the strongest feature is the atmosphere. McCann makes sure to include a wide variety of individuals on the Lost Vegas, all gambling their lives away and providing a great backdrop for the concept of the story. The variety adds a universal flavor to the book and really helps emphasize the world Roland inhabits. He’s not just going up against mobsters who run casinos; no, he’s going against some crazy aliens. Speaking of Roland, the man is pitched as somewhere between Danny Ocean and Han Solo. He’s got the charm and ability to rip off everyone without them knowing, but he’s got the occasional bad luck that strikes Han from time to time. He’s built a reputation as a smooth-talking gambler, but even that’s not enough to get out of every situation. By the end of the first issue, he’s definitely upping the stakes so to speak and whether or not he can pull off his latest plan will be fun to find out.
Lee’s art is airy and happily presented. There’s something of a neon color palette chosen by Sotomayor and Lee really manages to successfully present McCann’s supporting cast. There’s true creativity in her illustrations, a creativity similar to that of Fiona Staples in Saga. The characters in Lost Vegas #1 are a little friendlier looking, but are completely alien nonetheless. She infuses the story with a sense of beautiful retro that really works.
If you’re looking for a fun, adventurous comic, then Lost Vegas #1 might be right up your alley. The pacing is very well-done and moves along very methodically. Roland is very likable as a lead and appears to have the chops to make things happen his way. McCann and Lee are a great team and fans of the spectacular Return of the Dapper Men will definitely want to check out their new collaboration. It’s a gorgeous and feisty book that will likely be over way too soon.
Lost Vegas #1 is in stores today.
Bandthology from King Bone Press was an interesting and intimate look into the life of band members. It featured a wide variety of different perspectives and takes on bands, with most of the stories acting as very introspective looks at what’s generally a tough life. The publisher wasn’t content with only one anthology though and have returned with Bandthology II.
The first story is called “Farewell” by Jon Westhoff and Bobgar Ornelas. It’s about one fan’s sincere devotion to her favorite band’s last show; a show punctuated by a surprise finale that relies on a sadness within the band that’s simmered for years. The second story is called “Cover Up” by Wendi Freeman and Mat Nixon. Jack and the Jammers return to find out that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The work has a Powerpuff Girls look to it, right down the cartoonish violence. “Left to Write” is by Dan Dougherty and looks at song-writing and inspiration; many song-writers will tell you that inspiration often comes from the strangest events. There’s actually a really cool series of panel insets showing a crumpled piece of paper unfolding into an idea, which is a great way of conceptualizing the transformation. “A Matter of Life or Death” is the fourth story by Andrew Vanderbilt and raises the stakes in the Battle of the Bands concept.
“Band of Brothers” is by Aaron Pittman and is really a testament to the camaraderie that inevitably brews amongst band-mates. The panels showcase a band going through all the trials associated with being in a band and the emotional bond that results. “How Do Songs Work?” is by Matt Collander and is a quick look at how songs develop meaning (or lack thereof). “Blood! Blood! Kill! Kill!” is by Don Cardenas and showcases a band using their musical talents to save the world from monsters. Finally, “Sound and Fury” is by Tony Maldonado, Greg Sorkin and Lauren Burke is a story of a band looking to break in big–whatever the stakes. Even if that means going up against competition that the band might not be entirely prepared for.
While the stories are varied in content, they all rely on a strong undercurrent of life in the band. It’s not easy starting out in any creative endeavor, but being in a band is a story of trials, tribulations and triumphs. Bandthology II manages to explore all facets of the efforts and really present them without the glitz and glamour. It’s not easy to be in a band and while not every band faces intergalactic alien invasions, there are issues with writing songs, feelings of depression and fighting for the big break.
The black and white art is varied across stories. Some of the work is a little more refined than others, but that’s not a drawback for any of it. In fact, the art more or less is appropriate for the story it’s visually describing. And not all the art looks exactly like Scott Pilgrim, which is good for Bandthology II. It’s easy to think that the art would be similar, but it’s a bit grittier and more representative of being an up and coming band.
The second collection of band related short stories is equally as powerful as the first when it comes to band life resonating with fans. Some of the stories are a bit more realistic, but all manage to maintain the pervasive sense of difficulty in being successful (and profitable) in music. It’s a great anthology that’s almost an inside look at the trade, written and illustrated by folks who know the grind all too well.
Bandthology II is available for preorder.