Indie Comics Spotlight: Stillwater #1, The Fix #1, and Aliens: Defiance #1

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By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Stillwater #1

1

“Did you hear that?”

Things that go bump in the night are typically our imaginations getting the best of us. When something is more than just our imagination though, that’s when things start to get real. A large, mysterious lake is a great setting for things to get real in Stillwater #1 from Action Lab Danger Zone. The issue is written by C.W. Cooke, illustrated by K. Wroten, and lettered by Warren Montgomery.

Set in a small town with a dark secret, the story follows Bill, a recent transplant in town, and a paranoid cop named Jude. As the duo uncover the mysteries around, they get more than they bargained for. In the depths of the local pond, a creature beyond explanation lurks and tragedy is sure to follow.

Off the bat, Stillwater #1 feels uneasy. Cooke does a great job of setting the mood up, largely by relying on the mystery surrounding a lake on a farm. Bill is new to town and is trying to find his way as a transplant, yet despite his best efforts the town seems to have something else to say. Jude is an interesting addition to the story as well, considering he’s clearly a persistent investigator who knows there’s a truth to be uncovered. The script itself is relatively simplistic, but that doesn’t prevent Cooke from still managing to cram in tons of intrigue in the sleepy little town setting.

While the story feels pretty concise, Wroten’s art feels more loose. Wroten’s approach relies on illustrating characters with features that resemble caricatures in some ways, emphasizing exaggerated facial features and body movements. It adds a surreal terror to the town and events that help bolster the eeriness of the story. And since the comic is all black and white, the enigma that is the lake feels even more terrifying because it’s illustrated as a massive, black hole basically. It all comes together in a quite unsettling way.

Stillwater #1 plays on the notion that the still waters of the lake are anything but still underneath. Bill is learning a lot about the new town he’s arrived in, yet it’s what he learns from Jude that will likely bear the most in terms of revelations. Cooke’s script is straightforward and doesn’t hesitate in establishing the mood. Wroten’s illustrations are abstract and provide another level of suspense to the story. Stillwater #1 is an interesting first issue that sets the table for a mystery that may be steeped in the supernatural.

Stillwater #1 is available now on comiXology.

The Fix #1

2

“I’m not gonna lie to you…”

There are two sides to the law. Those two sides are eternally at odds with one another so it only stands to reason that crossing over and playing both sides would make things easier for that individual. Even playing both sides brings with it plenty of danger as one will find out in reading The Fix #1 from Image Comics. The issue is written by Nick Spencer, illustrated by Steve Lieber, colored by Ryan Hill, and lettered by Nic Shaw.

The Fix is a story of the crooked cops, scheming mobsters, and corrupt politicians that run things—and the sex toy that can bring them all down. Oh, and the hero is a drug-sniffing beagle named Pretzels. Bad people do bad things to each other in this frenetic, outrageous, sometimes off-putting new caper!

The Fix #1 is a criminal tale that relies on an old-school mentality to drive the characters through a new way of being a criminal. Lieber’s script is very snappy and fast-moving, effectively giving readers what they need to know about the players involved and their somewhat dastardly motivations. And the entire issue builds up to an extremely satisfying reveal at the end that sets the direction of the remainder of the series. Every characters feels realized and Lieber gives them plenty to work with as far as personality goes. There are also plenty of great callouts to what it’s like being a physical criminal in a digital age, using that as a plot device to force the criminals into some rather unseemly (even by their standards) situations.

The illustrations in The Fix #1 lend the story an almost whimsical sensibility. Spencer’s characters are defined by pretty sharp lines and square jaws, all of which works together effectively to present the cast of characters. There’s also a lot of attention paid to the backgrounds the characters live in, with Spencer filling each panel with plenty of detail that adds to the tone of the book. Facial expressions also really help the book as well, with Spencer giving each character expressions that are lively and really give them a sense of emotional heft and has the effect of giving the events plenty of levity. Hill’s colors mute the action to an extent, but seems to fit the ideal that California is a place that seems to be under a continual fog of some sort.

The Fix #1 is a very enjoyable first issue that sets a rather irreverent tone. The premise seems like a relatively straightforward crime caper story, but there’s a lot more going on in it to make it stand out on its own. Lieber’s script feature rapid-fire dialogue and plenty of entertaining characters working together for a story by criminals and about criminals. Spencer’s illustrations are fantastic and really give the book the almost airy attitude it needs. The Fix #1 is a lot of fun and is something readers will definitely want to check out.

The Fix #1 is in stores now.

Aliens: Defiance #1

3

“Suck it up, soldier.”

In all of our eventual space travels, we’ll probably encounter life somewhere out there. The hope is that said life likes us and doesn’t want to kill us immediately, but that might just be wishful thinking. That threat comes to fruition in Aliens: Defiance #1 from Dark Horse Comics. The issue is written by Brian Wood, illustrated by Tristan Jones and colored by Dan Jackson.

Battling demons from her past while fighting for her life, Colonial Marine Private First Class Zula Hendricks, in the company of Weyland-Yutani synthetics, is forced to question her strength and loyalty when the discovery of an insidious alien species on a derelict hauler sends her on a dangerous journey across the stars.

At this point the Aliens mythos is pretty well-traversed across all mediums, but Wood is looking to put his own stamp on the work. The story in Aliens: Defiance #1 mixes together some of the more familiar actions of Weyland-Yutani with a battle-worn lead character in a way that is intriguing. Wood moves the story along pretty cleanly, getting the reader from point A to point B without hurrying them along. The overall plot is fairly intriguing as well, offering up a new take on the aforementioned familiar mythos. There is some depth to the exploration of the Aliens universe by Wood that is buoyed by some familiarity with the property, but it’s not so steeped that a new reader will feel lost.

There’s a detached feeling to the illustrations by Jones. This is quite effective at showing the difference between humans, synthetics and the Xenomorphs themselves, ensuring that the reader knows the looks of all the players. The approach also reinforces the notion of solitude in space, as Jones makes each character stand out amongst each other in a way that individualizes them. Some of the facial expressions feel a little too worn and incomplete, but it’s not so distracting that the reader loses sight of the bigger picture. Jackson’s colors are dull and grim, providing the atmosphere with plenty of dourness and terror.

Aliens: Defiance #1 is another entry in a long line of Aliens canon that draws on some familiar and some not so familiar. Hendricks will be forced to deal with both her internal struggles and those of the mission unfolding around her. Wood’s script bears all the hallmarks of his writing style, mixing in the militaristic approach to the characters and setting with the science of Aliens. Jones’ illustrations are effective at setting the tone of terror that accompanies the mysteries of space. Aliens: Defiance #1 is definitely worth a read to those looking to explore the Aliens universe a little bit further.

Aliens: Defiance #1 is in stores April 27.


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