Indie Comics Spotlight-Splinter Cell Echoes, Midnight Tiger, Billy the Pyro

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by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)


Splinter Cell: Echoes #1
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“The world is small, nasty, and complicated. Everyone dies alone.”

Protecting the free world requires people willing to sacrifice just about everything to keep the world safe. There are few individuals, though, who are so talented and skilled in that profession that their reputation exceeds that of myth. Sam Fisher is one of those individuals and his talents are on display in Splinter Cell: Echoes #1 from Dynamite Entertainment. The issue is written by Nathan Edmondson, illustrated by Marc Laming (additional inks by Dave Stokes, Michel Lacombe, and Salgood Sam), and colored by Ian Herring.

Sam Fisher is a Splinter Cell, a clandestine operative who operated in the shadows of the NSA. That is, he was a Splinter Cell. Now, he mows the lawn and spends time with his daughter. Things are going swimmingly on that front until a mysterious terrorist organization called KROWE begins pursuing targets around the globe, bringing Sam back into the fight.

Fans of the Splinter Cell games know who Sam Fisher is, but for those who don’t, Edmondson does an excellent job bringing them up to speed. His Sam is exactly in line with the one portrayed in the games: cold, confident, and extremely calculating. It’s almost to the point where it seems outlandish, but for someone like Sam it also makes a lot of sense that he really is that elite. The story as a whole is pretty interesting and relevant to our times, as it relies on the current geopolitical climate that enwraps the world in heightened fears of terrorism and subversion. Edmondson excels at the espionage tales and his work with both the dialogue and events in Splinter Cell: Echoes #1 are very well done. There’s also a really interesting sequence of panels that showcases Sam’s familiarity with his place, even in different missions; Edmondson really gets to the core of who Sam is in the book.

Most of the games in the Splinter Cell saga thrive in the dark and thankfully Laming doesn’t dwell too long in the shadows. His characters are realistic in their appearance and keep the reader engaged with the high-stakes game playing out in Edmondson’s script. Most of the facial expressions come across as pretty emotionless, which makes sense considering the underlying gravity of the book. And while the book doesn’t really spend all that much time in extremely dark settings, the inks used for the book skew darker in general, which blur some of the details in the characters and their clothing.

Splinter Cell: Echoes #1 is a very intriguing book that takes place between Splinter Cell Conviction and Splinter Cell Blacklist in a way that feels like it really is a story that exists in that universe. Sam Fisher is effectively introduced to new readers as something of a black ops legend, while readers familiar with him are reacquainted with his skills and feel right at home with his missions. Edmondson’s tale is crafted very well and is full of all the espionage that comes with a Splinter Cell story. The book even has the look of a game in the series, with Laming doing a great job of lending some photorealistic touches to the characters and settings. Splinter Cell: Echoes #1is very accessible to new and familiar readers and it’s a book that’s definitely worth checking out.

Splinter Cell: Echoes #1 is in stores now.

Midnight Tiger #1
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“…I was getting superpowers. It only took getting my guts ripped open and being in a coma for three days. No big, right? Just trying to be a Good Samaritan.”

Gotham gets a bad rap. Sure, it’s polluted by a seemingly endless supply of criminals, but it’s also got Batman. The Caped Crusader does everything in his power to keep the city from falling into the brink. It’s an unenviable task for sure, but someone’s got to do it. And in Midnight Tiger #1 from Action Lab Entertainment, that someone is Gavin Shaw. The issue is written by DeWayne Feenstra and Ray-Anthony Height, illustrated by Height, and colored by Paul John Little.

Gavin Shaw is a high school senior who doubles as a disillusioned teen living in Red Circle. Red Circle has a little crime problem, prompting Gavin to lose faith in the heroes he admired growing up. After trying to save a hero named Lionsblood, Gavin finds himself imbued with superhuman abilities and facing the potential destruction of the superhero community.

Readers of Midnight Tiger #1 will see obvious parallels to Peter Parker, but most teenage superheroes tend to feel that way as well (for instance, Billy the Pyro is another one). Feenstra and Height put Gavin in a much grittier situation than Parker though, as he’s forced to contend with a city on the brink of collapse. His characterization comes largely from the interactions of those around him and some quick crime scenes, both of which hammer home the difficulty of his situation. It’s a testament to Feenstra and Height to craft a character and setting so devoid of hope that even the promise of superheroes doesn’t really make things any better. In fact, a supervillain is on the loose and the city seems resigned to it. Some parts of the script feature an excess of narration and dialogue, although there’s a very subtle nod to the plight of the Waynes on that fateful night in the alley.

Probably the strongest selling point of the book is Height’s art. Gavin is illustrated as a very lean and potent superhero whom you have no problem believing could go toe-to-toe with some of the city’s more fierce opponents. What slightly takes away from that is the fact that almost every other character in the book is also illustrated as very fit. It isn’t completely outlandish, but when the superhero’s dad looks like he could beat Superman in an arm-wrestling match, you do wonder if Gavin isn’t the only hero in town. Height also does some rather interesting 3-D illustrations in some ways, as some characters overlap other panels that make their actions really pop off the page. Little uses colors that live on the darker end of the spectrum underscoring the grittiness Gavin faces everyday.

Midnight Tiger #1 skips a lot of the origin stuff and goes straight into the drama. Gavin comes across as a mix between Peter Parker and Kick-Ass, blending the educational aspirations of the former and pure heart of the latter. Feenstra and Height want Midnight Tiger to deal with aspects of life that even normal people don’t want to deal with, throwing him into a rather fierce fight to save himself (and likely the city). Height’s artwork is very impressive, effectively carrying with it a level of kinetic energy that fits a superhero like Midnight Tiger. Midnight Tiger #1 is setting up to be a book that pulls no punches and doesn’t want to offer any semblance of a happy ending, which should keep things refreshing.

Midnight Tiger #1 is slated to ship in July.

Billy the Pyro #1-2
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“I’ve always been told that I wasn’t normal, that I didn’t quite fit in. I was curious to see what normal actually meant, so I looked it up…”

Teenagers and angst go together like peanut butter and jelly. Most of that angst comes with sensations of loneliness and desperation to fit in. Other times, that angst is rooted in a very difficult home life. A teenager dealing with angst from all angles is one of the toughest situations, unless you have a propensity for controlling fire like Billy in Billy the Pyro #1-2 from Alterna Comics. The issues are written by Brad Burdick, illustrated by Fabian Cobos, colored by Eddy Swain, and lettered by Crank!

Billy has trappings of a normal teenager; at least, he’d like to. Instead, he’s forced to deal with an alcoholic father, a short temper, and a strange ability to control fire. What he doesn’t know is that the Genetic Alteration and Pyrokinesis Research Institute has been keeping an eye on him and his abilities for their own interests. When Billy comes to grips with his newly discovered powers, he finds a new lease on life and the chance to make a difference in his life and the lives of those around him.

Pyromancy and pyrokinesis are often unheralded powers in the pantheon of superpowers. After all, how much good is it really to be able to control fire? Burdick’s decision to imbue Billy with that ability makes the book feel new and refreshing since the power is somewhat underserved in comics. Sure, there are some notable characters who boast that power, but Burdick seems to rely on it as something of a secondary feature with Billy. Billy is forced to contend with a tough life and views his power as a potential way out, which will likely lead to some rather interesting morality questions. Burdick tackles such questions in the second issue, as Billy tries to save someone from being attacked and is “thanked” by being called a freak.

While pyrokinesis may not get as much attention as a character trait in all books, it’s one of the more fun powers to illustrate. Cobos does so by subtly weaving the flame outbursts into the book in a way that really adds to the build-up and reveal. A lot of this is also owed to Swain’s color choices, as most of the panels live in the darker range of colors and literally light up when the flames appear. It’s a great combination of art and coloring by the team that really enforces the notion that Billy is a pretty powerful being when he needs to be. Some of the more kinetic panels feel a little awkward at points; for instance, Billy’s running looks a little unnatural at times.

Billy the Pyro #1-2 looks to want to delve into the psychology behind the hero. Billy starts off as a maladjusted youth with a penchant for lighting fires, but by the end of the second issue he’s a little more aware and confident. Burdick’s story seems to be building up to some sort of confrontation between Billy and GAPRI for whatever reason (likely some sinister ulterior motives on the part of GAPRI). Cobos’ art features characters defined by bold outlines that cut the panels they’re set against. Billy doesn’t understand the full weight of his role in the world and with GAPRI, but it’s likely that when he does, the true pyrotechnics will come out.

The first two issues of Billy the Pyro are both available via Comixology.


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