Indie Comics Spotlight: Sherlock Frankenstein & the Legion of Evil: From the World of Black Hammer #1, The Family Trade #1, and Aspen Universe: Decimation #1


By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Sherlock Frankenstein & the Legion of Evil: From the World of Black Hammer #1

“…I need to get to work.”

Being the child of a superhero or supervillain brings with it a wide variety of issues that one has to contend with. The superhero/supervillain surname automatically brings with it a lot of baggage and how the offspring handle that baggage is telling. In Sherlock Frankenstein & the Legion of Evil: From the World of Black Hammer #1 from Dark Horse Comics, Lucy Weber is looking to parley her baggage into answers. The issue is written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated/colored/lettered by David Rubin, and flats by Kike J. Diaz.

Lucy Weber, daughter of the Black Hammer, grew up to become an investigative reporter for the Global Planet. Now she’s on the hunt for the true story about what happened to Spiral City’s superheroes after they defeated Anti-God and saved the world. All answers seem to lie with the dangerous super villain tenants of Spiral City’s infamous asylum. As she gets closer to the truth she uncovers the dark origin stories of some of her father’s greatest foes, and learns how they tie into the puzzle of what happened to Spiral City’s greatest hero.

The way Lemire approaches Sherlock Frankenstein & the Legion of Evil: From the World of Black Hammer #1 is very engaging for the reader, primarily because the reader knows as little about the events as Lucy Weber does. Lemire’s script essentially lets the reader tag along with Lucy as she seeks answers in regards to the Anti-God battle, while filling in some blanks along the way. It’s a great storytelling mechanism in that at no point does it feel like Lemire is holding the reader’s hand. And considering how steeped in lore the characters are, Lemire does an excellent job of making everything accessible for all readers. The dialogue throughout the issue is Lemire’s way of reminding the reader that they don’t have to necessarily know what happened during that fight with Anti-God because enough characters allude to it that you get a sense of its magnitude (and consequences).

Coupled with the investigative tale is Rubin’s illustrations which offer a touch of Lovecraft to the proceedings. Much of the issue is spent in Spiral City Asylum where Rubin gets to showcase a wide variety of individuals being sequestered as dangers to both themselves and society at large. One character in particular in Mectoplasm is illustrated as truly monstrous, with Rubin emphasizing his size and appearance to reinforce the notion that these aren’t ordinary criminals. Panels sit cleanly arranges amidst empty gutters to keep the visual flow of the book simple. Rubin’s colors are muted throughout to further a sense of the spooky, enforced by the flatting of Diaz.

Sherlock Frankenstein & the Legion of Evil: From the World of Black Hammer #1 is a somewhat low-key and somber issue in its tone, but what it achieves is far greater. Lucy Weber wants to know what happened to her father and along the way she’ll likely learn a lot more about the life he led then she probably expected to learn. Lemire’s tale is very tightly woven and gives the reader just enough information to be intrigued and have their curiosity piqued. Rubin’s artwork is terrifying in a simplistic way in many regards, rendering a corner of Spiral City as relatively dark and moody. Sherlock Frankenstein & the Legion of Evil: From the World of Black Hammer #1 does a great job of establishing an atmosphere that is truly unique to the Black Hammer universe.

Sherlock Frankenstein & the Legion of Evil: From the World of Black Hammer #1 is available now.

The Family Trade #11

“My family’s task – my task – is to make sure the Float keeps floating.”

Everyone’s family has its own quirks. Some families have an uncouth uncle or a prejudiced grandparent, for instance, but they’re still considered to be family. In The Family Trade #1 from Image Comics, families have a lot more than just culturally inappropriate relatives. The issue is written by Justin Jordan and Nikki Ryan, illustrated by Morgan Beem, and lettered by Rachel Deering.

Steampunk, alchemy, and adventure meet the ocean. On an island city in a world where history didn’t quite turn out like ours, a hidden family of spies, thieves, and assassins makes sure that the world keeps going. Or they did, until Jessa Wynn, their youngest member, manages to start a civil war.

The premise behind The Family Trade #1 is pretty straightforward in that Jordan and Ryan entertain the thought that there’s a family of assassins/thieves/spies working behind the scenes to keep the world safe. Where things get slightly more complicated, however, is with the actual family dynamics amongst said assassins/thieves/spies. Jordan and Ryan do a swell job of getting the reader up to speed on the entire world being established through the main character Jessa, speaking to the reader as if they’re coming along for the ride. As there is a lot to establish, much of the dialogue is actually monologue in that most of the book flows through Jessa and her words setting the scene. Jordan and Ryan also build up the main antagonist as someone who bears more than a passing resemblance to various political figures, infusing the work with a charge of outrage.

The characters and settings are illustrated without any defined sense of rigidity or formality as Beem instead chose to illustrate the world much like a children’s book in some regards. This certainly isn’t a knock on Beem’s style; rather, the approach lends itself well to the somewhat ethereal nature of the Float and its inhabitants. Beem also relies on pops of color throughout the book that emphasize various aspects of the characters; for Jessa, her red scarf really stands out. Perspectives are presented through the panels that focus the reader’s attention on the action from increasingly tighter angles. And Breem left the gutters empty and that further gives the book a sense of ambiguity reflecting the concept of the Float drifting.

The Family Trade #1 explores a really interesting concept about a family of assassins/thieves/spies working in concert to keep the best interests of a city at the forefront of the city. Jessa is its youngest member and – in her haste – might have inadvertently kicked off a civil war amongst the family. The script by Jordan and Ryan has a lot it wants to explore and in some regards the issue does lean very heavy into exposition more than showing. Beem’s artwork is a great fit for the content of the story as it gives the tale room to breathe. The Family Trade #1 is a pretty heavy first issue that looks very ambitious in scope and could be a lot of fun.

The Family Trade #1 is available now.

Aspen Universe: Decimation #1

“There most definitely was a bang.”

Despite all their scheming and machinations, the plans of villains can often be distilled down to one immutable fact: destruction of something. In Aspen Universe: Decimation #1 from Aspen Comics, that destruction of something becomes the decimation of everything. The issue is written by Vince Hernandez, penciled by Marco Renna, inked by Mark Roslan, colored by Federico Bee and John Starr, and lettered by Zen.

The time for Revelations has ended. The time for Decimation has begun. Orlana the Death Princess has a devastating ability to control minds, and she has recruited the most powerfully gifted villainesses across the globe to do her bidding – with no Aspen hero safe from her reach!

In Aspen Universe: Decimation #1, Hernandez is weaving a pretty intricate tale that involves many of the villainesses of the Aspen Universe. Their plan seems pretty straightforward in terms of its grab for power, but there are still some holes in it that Hernandez doesn’t cover in the script for the issue. That’s not to say that Hernandez doesn’t have a grand plan in mind; rather, there’s a lot of questions after the first issue in regards to why the characters are truly coming together and what their endgame is. The dialogue written by Hernandez is pretty straightforward, allowing each of the main characters to effectively define themselves as evil in one way or another. And the issue’s pacing feels a tad bit jumpy, mainly because Hernandez is attempting to cover all the angles of all the villainesses in the first issue to set the table for the remainder of the series.

Renna’s pencils focus on relatively clean lines in defining the characters throughout the issue. All of the players here are from other corners of the Aspen Universe and Renna does an excellent job of maintaining their recognizable appearances. Roslan’s inks further this look in that the players are rendered with an emphasis on standing out – both in general and from one another. The panels are laid out in a myriad of different arrangements, all of which keep the visuals moving at a pretty modest clip. The colors by Bee and Starr are subtle yet effective in further fleshing out the artwork in the issue.

Aspen Universe: Decimation #1 is a very ambitious book for Aspen in that it’s a crossover with villainous characters who likely aren’t as recognizable as their heroine counterparts. Orlana is orchestrating a seemingly aggressive plan courting destruction and chaos. The script by Hernandez does well in juggling the variety of different characters, all of whom seem to be operating toward the same end. The artwork by Renna and Roslan is pretty solid in its approach and presentation. Aspen Universe: Decimation #1 seems to be aimed primarily at fans of the Aspen universe in general, but those fans will definitely find a lot to like in the issue.

Aspen Universe: Decimation #1 is available now.

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