Indie Comics Spotlight-Southern Bastards #1, Rai #1,Star Wars: Rebel Heist #1

indiecomics0507 Separator

By Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Southern Bastards #1

southernbastards

“Three days is all I figure it’ll take.”

Returning to one’s old stomping grounds is typically an experience that’s trying more than enjoyable. For whatever reason, there’s something in us that resents returning home. The south is a geographical area that’s especially good at conveying that sense of dread and Image Comics’ Southern Bastards #1 offers such a setting. The book is written by Jason Aaron and illustrated by Jason Latour.

Craw County, Alabama, is the home of Boss BBQ, the state champion Runnin’ Rebs football team and a lot of ignorance. Earl Tubb is an angry man returning to tie up some loose ends and forever put the town behind him. The thing is, the town has swirled downwards, with a man named Coach calling the shots. Earl is reconciling the past of the legend of his father, Bertrand Tubb, with the present of those currently calling Craw County home.

There’s been a recent fascination with the dirtiness of the south, with properties like True Blood, True Detective, and Justified showing a world that many would prefer to blissfully ignore (save for True Blood, which has that whole vampire thing). The point is, the south as a setting is very powerful and a character unto itself, something Aaron really taps into extraordinarily well in Southern Bastards #1. Earl is a quiet beast, entirely content with merely passing through the town he formerly called home. Places like Craw County have a way of remaining fixed at one point in time and this is something that Aaron makes pervasive throughout the book. Something in Earl resonates with the reader, in that we can all relate to the hometown malaise that seemingly falls over places where we grew up. Every return visit feels like the area is stuck in one particular point in time for some reason.

What Aaron offers in terms of story, Latour matches with art. There’s an ugly grittiness to the illustrations; for instance, characters are depicted as ravaged by the same town they call home. Craw County looks like an extremely small town, with the stereotypical locales constituting the majority of the town frozen in time. A lot of the characters’ facial expressions are hidden behind shadows, which is ok because most relay some sense of trepidation on the part of the cast. Latour relies on blacks, reds and yellows that underscore the ugliness found in Craw County. The staggered panel layouts also remind the reader that things are likely to get worse before they get better.

Southern Bastards #1 is a very visceral book. Both Aaron and Latour grew up in the south, so in a way there’s a certain catharsis in the book. The thing is, though, it also offers something that anyone who’s ever spent some time in one place can relate to. While the south gets the most attention in terms of being a place that’s a little strange, just about any place in the world can have a similar effect. Aaron offers up a very strong lead character in Earl, who is saddened by the fact that the town he left hasn’t changed, even if he’s not very outward facing about it. Latour’s art is very harsh and fits the story perfectly, convincing the reader that Craw County is a pretty awful place. Southern Bastards #1 is a book that’s done very well and offers a great combination of script and art that’s a strong read.

Southern Bastards #1 is in stores now.

Rai #1

rai

“But…this mean I was going to achieve one of my life goals: See Rai in person.”

The power of a legend is that it affords people all manner of emotion. For some, that emotion is hope, while for others, things like fear come up. Few legends offer a mixture of both based on their skillset and Valiant Comics has one of those in Rai #1. The issue is written by Matt Kindt, illustrated by Clayton Crain, and lettered by Dave Lanpherr.

The year is 4001 A.D. – led by the artificial intelligence called “Father,” the island nation of Japan has expanded out of the Pacific and into geosynchronous orbit with the ravaged Earth below. With billions to feed and protect, it has fallen to one solitary guardian to enforce the law of Father’s empire – the mysterious folk hero known as Rai. They say he can appear out of nowhere. They say he is a spirit…the ghost of Japan. But when the first murder in a thousand years threatens to topple Father’s benevolent reign, Rai will be forced to confront the true face of a nation transformed…and his own long-lost humanity…

As a folk hero, Rai is very intriguing. He’s referred to as such, yet his name is also spoken with reverence by everyone who mentions it. His appearance is typically a last resort and Kindt really makes it special, both for the reader and the citizens of Japan. Rai is something of a quiet intimidator, relying on the legend of his name to investigate the sudden rash of murders. He’s also more than capable of handling himself in combat, which Kindt works to provide plenty of in the issue. There are broader questions of existence, with some wondering whether the Father is really worth all the idolizing. Rai himself is forced to ponder this from time to time, which should make future issues pretty interesting.

Crain’s illustrations are very elegant and extremely poignant for the subject matter. Rai is presented as a massive man who towers over those who stand in his way and Crain does a great job handling all the action that the issue is full of. All the characters are drawn with strong lines that have them cut the settings behind them and they stand out really well. Crain’s depiction of Japan is very tech-thinking and looks like a place that’s put murder behind them. It’s a very dense city, with a lot of nooks and crannies for things to slip through the cracks, something that furthers the notion of the city needing someone like Rai. There’s also a wide array of panel layouts throughout that feel almost as disjointed as the city itself, which helps the reader further immerse themselves in the action.

Rai #1 is just another book in the Valiant line-up that is pretty awesome. Rai is characterized as a pretty powerful protector who only appears when necessary and when murders start piling up, he’s deemed as such. Kindt does a great job building the world that Rai inhabits, offering a lot of interesting mythos surrounding Rai the legend and the action moves pretty well. Crain’s illustrations are very clean and well-defined, offering great looks at Rai in both relaxed and agitated states. Rai #1 is a book that feels like a lot of the cyberpunk anime series you’re probably familiar with and it does a great job building a very fascinating universe.

Rai #1 is in stores now.

Star Wars: Rebel Heist #1

starwarsrebelheist

“…I hope you’ve got him locked up tight. I hear he’s worth quite a bit.”

When Disney purchased LucasFilm, there was a lot of speculation as to what would happen to all the Star Wars licenses everywhere. One of those licensees was Dark Horse, who published a slew of books within that universe. Their run is about to come to an end with the property as Marvel picks it up, but they’ve got a few more books up their sleeve before then. Star Wars: Rebel Heist #1 is one of the last Star Wars books Dark Horse will publish, but it’s pretty promising. The issue is written by Matt Kindt, illustrated by Marco Castiello, inked by Dan Parsons, and colored by Gabe Eltaeb.

A young rebel is on a mission to meet someone who just so happens to be Han Solo. The rebel is, of course, taken aback and mystified by the man in front of him known to many as a legend. That reverence only goes so far though, as the young rebel quickly discovers that Han is seemingly a lot more sizzle than steak. A couple of chases and a botched escape later, things aren’t exactly looking up for the legendary pilot of the Millennium Falcon.

Han Solo is one of the most (if not the most) recognizable characters from the Star Wars universe and Kindt really nails it in Star Wars: Rebel Heist #1. The book is told from the perspective the young rebel and it’s fun to see his view of Han move from near deification to what’s almost embarrassment. Han certainly has a panache about him that seems to be fun for about five minutes, but then quickly puts the two of them in danger. Kindt spins it in a way that both the rebel and the reader aren’t entirely sure as to whether or not the real Han is on display. Readers have the advantage of knowing much more about Han as a character and are likely to trust he knows what he’s doing, but it’s still a rather interesting character dynamic to showcase.

The Star Wars galaxy is rife with a variety of life forms and Castiello does a great job tapping into that familiar style. Han looks very close to Harrison Ford’s portrayal of him in the movies, even when he’s fighting his way through a bar or speeding away to safety. The distance that Han is shown from the reader really puts the story in the rebel’s perspective and as a reader you feel like you’re right beside the rebel observing. It’s a really powerful style that further bolsters the style of the book, even if some of the character details from certain distances is a little muddled.

Star Wars: Rebel Heist #1 seeks to revisit some of the property’s most famous characters, starting with Han. Kindt characterizes him as no less than the daring, swashbuckling freighter pilot than he is, giving readers all the flair that comes with his approach to life. Castiello further cements this image in his portrayal of Han, giving him lots of combat prowess and showing him piloting quite a few different vehicles. There’s almost a false sense of danger in the book, as the reader likely expects Han has something up his sleeve to get out of the current predicament. In the meantime, though, Star Wars: Rebel Heist #1 is really a lot of fun and gives readers some time with one of the best pilots in the galaxy.

Star Wars: Rebel Heist #1 is in stores now.


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