Indie Comics Spotlight: The Black Sable #1, Scales & Scoundrels #1, and Lazaretto #1


By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

The Black Sable #1

“Now it and my crew…are some of the most notorious pirates on this side of the galaxy.”

Sailing the high seas as a pirate is so 17th century. The new hotness is traversing the cosmos in search of corporate transports to be robbed and plundered. Zenescope seems to agree and offer up a new take on the concept in The Black Sable #1. The issue is written by Joe Brusha, illustrated by Sergio Ariño, colored by Dijjo Lima, and lettered by Kurt Hathaway.

One hundred years in the future the “age of pirates” has returned as mankind reaches out for the stars. Schooners have been replaced by star ships and these pirates wield space age weaponry, but they are as bloodthirsty and ruthless as their predecessors were centuries before them. Experience a new universe of swashbuckling action and adventure in the vast reaches of space!

Brusha knows what makes a good space sci-fi and all of those characteristics are on display in The Black Sable #1 – that being said, nothing about the issue feels particularly original. The issue sets up the main character in Black Sable and from there, Brusha basically writes a script that hits all the space sci-fi high notes. There’s a heist that’s upended by morality, a major corporation that makes an easy target for pirates, an “off-world” location where pirates gather and rival pirate factions. All of this plays out the way you’d expect as Brusha doesn’t really leave much room for something new. And the number of characters Brusha introduces in the issue is somewhat dizzying and makes it slightly difficult to keep up with who’s who and faction alignments.

Ariño’s style for the book is pretty simple. The characters are illustrated in a way that takes the concept of pirates and sets them in space as many of the characters sport familiar pirate trappings. Ariño does illustrate quite a few crowd shots pretty well where the reader gets a sense of the mayhem unfolding during a pirate raid. There are some instances where Ariño focuses on a particular character’s head and shoulders as a means of introducing that character to the reader. Lima’s colors are pretty straightforward and populate the book with the typical reds/greens/blues.

The Black Sable #1 is a very ambitious book that is pretty obvious with what genre it’s inspired by. The Black Sable as a lead character is likable enough, but there’s really nothing about her that fans of the space western/pirate genre haven’t already seen. Brusha’s approach does set up plenty of players to interact with one another and the hope is that as the series unfolds things will get more complex as their paths cross. Ariño’s artwork is a good fit for the tone of the story as it adds a bit of pirate levity to space. The Black Sable #1 has a lot of good intentions and whether or not they’re realized remains to be seen.

The Black Sable #1 is available now.

Scales & Scoundrels #1

“You lousy cheat!”

When faced with a scenario where your city is being pillaged by knights, there are very few options. Things get even worse when a dragon burns all your grain stores. Fortunately for most, those scenarios typically only play out in games, but they’re fairly close to being reality in Scales & Scoundrels #1 from Image Comics. The issue is written by Sebastian Girner, illustrated by Galaad, and lettered by Jeff Powell.

It’s hard to make an honest living in a land brimming with magic and mystery, and treasure hunter Luvander is tired of being a penniless adventurer. Ever in search of gold and glory, she sets off for a fabled dungeon, “the Dragon’s Maw,” an ancient labyrinth, at the bottom of which slumbers endless wealth…or certain doom! But what starts out as a road to riches becomes the first step on an epic journey to destiny, for Luvander holds a secret in her heart that will shatter the chains of fate and bring light to a world encroached upon by an ancient darkness.

Girner knows what makes a great high-fantasy tale and ensures that all of it is on display in Scales & Scoundrels #1 as Luvander lies, cheats, and steals her way to a living. Despite the possibility of falling into familiar territory as far as fantasy goes, Girner works in a rather fast-paced narrative that hews more closely to a flat-out adventure. What’s equally impressive is Girner’s seeming wink and nod at the genre itself, starting with the card game Luvander is conning the others in at the beginning. There’s a good sense of mystery that spins out from that game about Luvander and what she’s really about – that mystery persists to the last page as well. The book works so well because Luvander has such an engaging personality as Girner ensures that she’s always front and center throughout.

Galaad’s artwork is very light and airy which makes it a perfect match for the tone set by the narrative. The linework is very clean when it comes to defining the characters, but the tone is cartoonish enough that the artwork never feels too heavy. The backgrounds feature enough detail to get a sense of what’s going on when and Galaad also excels in presenting the world as one that struggles to keep up with Luvander. This is further evidenced by the panel layouts which eschew the safety of a grid for something more organic and frenetic. The colors are vibrant throughout the work and do a lot to effectively convey the change in scenery from the village to the forest and accentuate the ferocity of the fire at the beginning.

There’s a lot to like in Scales & Scoundrels #1 as it wear its fantasy influences on its sleeve. Luvander is a very enthusiastic lead character through which the narrative flows through in a way that helps keep things moving. Girner’s script is pretty easygoing and does what it needs to do as far as getting the reader up to speed while still leaving some things to the imagination. Galaad’s artwork is very clean and the lighthearted tone is a great fit for the story. Scales & Scoundrels #1 has plenty of great things about it that make for great fantasy reading that also manages to offer some mystery to the reader.

Scales & Scoundrels #1 is available now.

Lazaretto #1

“Welcome to Yersin Univesity!”

College generally ends up being fun by the end, but at the beginning it can be pretty rough. There are all manner of people, groups, and cliques that one has to find their way through to discover one’s self. Work in a pandemic and things get a little dicier as they do in Lazaretto #1 from BOOM! Studios. The issue is written by Clay McLeod Chapman, illustrated by Jey Levang, and lettered by Aditya Bidikar.

After a pandemic strikes, a dorm complex at a small American college is quarantined with all of the students trapped within. What first starts out as youthful freedom from authority soon devolves into a violent new society – it’s Lord of the Flies on a college campus.

Chapman offers plenty in Lazaretto #1 that makes it feel at least somewhat plausible in the sense that the college campus feels realistic. The two main characters Charles and Tamara are depicted as navigating the new realities of being new students at a college and Chapman uses this as the backdrop for what unfolds by the end of the issue. There’s also a ton of dialogue throughout the issue that gives the characters room to establish their personalities; these personalities are seemingly disparate but the desperate circumstances bring them together. Once the setting and players have been introduced, Chapmen gets to work in setting up the premise of the story that revolves around a pandemic. The pacing definitely ramps up in this regard as Chapman starts things out slowly before getting into a full-throated outbreak situation.

Levang relies on an illustrative style that feels as uneasy as the students faced with the sickness do. Characters are drawn with a loose attention to physique, but Levang still manages to give each character plenty of room to be unique and better reflect the melting pot that is college. Peppered throughout the new groups and clubs that Charles and Tamara can join is evidence of the illness which Levang illustrates with pretty gory effect. It’s not that Levang lets things get so graphic that readers will be turned off; rather, there’s an emphasis on the toll such an illness takes on the body in the form of blood, vomit, and tears. These effects are further emboldened by the fact that much of the book feels like it’s colored in pastels that add a sense of brightness to an otherwise dreary situation.

Lazaretto #1 is an interesting first issue that upends the traditional tale of freshmen going to college. Charles and Tamara are in the thick of learning how to be adults while having to deal with an outbreak of epic proportions. Chapman has a story he wants to tell although there are still some outstanding fundamental questions that still need answering, such as why the students don’t trust the authority at the school. Levang’s illustrations provide the right level of levity for an otherwise dramatic book in a way that doesn’t undercut the underlying message and story. Lazaretto #1 is a book about people finding themselves as individuals as well as society as they band together to survive.

Lazaretto #1 is available now.

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