Indie Comics Spotlight: The Bounce, Steam Engines of Oz, Akaneiro


by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

The Bounce #1
Superheroes. Every day it seems like more and more of them are springing up, capitalizing on whatever problem or event in their life to become a new persona. Why those heroes do what they do sometimes remains a mystery. What they actually do, however, often doesn’t. If a character is called The Bounce, it’s pretty self-explanatory, such as in The Bounce #1 from Image Comics. The issue is written by Joe Casey, with art by David Messina, colors by Giovanna Niro and letters by Rus Wooton.

Jasper Jenkins is a rather typical twenty-something. He seemingly drifts through life (most of the time high) and doesn’t really show any real purpose around his friends. Clearly, his friends don’t know him that well, as he doubles as a superhero named The Bounce. As a superhero, he springs and leaps against his foes, including those named Crush (who’s fond of bear hugs) and an expected foe in a mysterious, alien being.

The Bounce isn’t exactly treading new ground, as ever since Kick-Ass gained so much popularity the concept of “superheroes” existing and acknowledging one another has exploded in stories. Having said that, Casey seems to be both relying on that idea while lampooning it at the same time. Characters such as The Bounce, Crush and The Fog are relatively straightforward and boring to an extent, but Casey puts a more mature and dark spin on them. The characters are flawed for whatever reason and Casey forces the characters to be slaves to their vices.

Messina’s art is very well done. Panels where The Bounce is bouncing are achieved with a blur effect, which emphasizes the motion of his power. It’s a cool effect and helps the reader learn more about his power. Many of the panels are laid out in a superhero book fashion, giving the reader the sense that they’re reading a superhero book about slackers. There are some relatively trippy panels towards the end of the book that really take the reader along with the character in an interesting way.

More and more books are going the “normal superhero” route and it remains to be seen whether or not this continues to be the focus in The Bounce as the series. In the first issue, the reader is more or less thrown into the mix of it all and forced to catch up. Subsequent issues will likely settle down and help make clear whether or not Casey is making fun of superheroes and the trope or just pitching a really messed up world inhabited by messed up people. Still though, the first issue is interesting and is worth checking out.

The Bounce #1 is available now.

Steam Engines of Oz #1
If you’re off to see the wizard, there’s a good chance you’re off to see the Wizard of Oz. Did you know there’s more to Emerald City than just the man behind the curtain? Such as that the Tin Man is a king with an army? Or the Witch of the North lives in the cold and doesn’t like engineers? That’s all found in Steam Engines of Oz #1 from Arcana Comics. The first issue is written by Erik Hendrix and Sean Patrick O’Reilly, with art by Yannis Roumboulias, colors by Chandran Ponnusamy and letters by Amanda Hendrix.

Victoria Wright is an intelligent engineer tasked with keeping the machines of Oz running. She’s joined beneath the Emerald City by Phadrig Digg, Howard the Wanderer and a Munchkin named Gromit. The three of them are “guests” who feel they’ve overstayed their welcome and are fighting to find a way out of the city’s bowels. They need to find Scarecrow, which means they have to find about thirty (exaggeration) other people first.

The story by Hendrix and O’Reilly is actually quite inventive in how it gives new life to storied characters. The Tin Man is something of a reviled despot, perversely thinking that those who run the engines are there by choice. There are packs of lion-men roaming the jungle, descendants of the Cowardly Lion and ferocious warriors. It’s inevitable that other familiar characters will also be on hand in a variety of new ways as well. That variety of characters may be one of the drawbacks of the book.

It appears that the story is gearing up to be a series of fetch quests so to speak. The escapees want to find the Scarecrow, but first they have to find the Wizard because only he knows where the Scarecrow is. The Wizard’s location is a mystery as well, which means they have to find the Munchkins to find out where the Wizard is (and subsequently the Scarecrow). It all seems a little superfluous and hopefully more time is spent with the Tin Man and Witch of the North, as both characters appear to be villains who the reader should have the chance to get to know better.

Roumboulias’ art is actually quite sharp. What really stands out is a few of the pages have an entire background scene taking up the entire page, with action panels inset within that background. It lends something of a continuity to the scene, giving the reader something to grasp in terms of getting their bearings with the setting. There’s also a good mix of setting in the book, showcasing what has to be a widespread geography in the land of Oz.

Tales of Oz are those that have been around for a while and really haven’t been altered much, so it’s nice to see a book like Steam Engines of Oz #1 come along and offer some fresh perspective. Victoria seems to be a very important player in all of the proceedings, but the reason for that still remains to be seen. Still though, the hope that the Tin Man gets more time to devoted to him as a somewhat deranged king would be very interesting.

Steam Engines of Oz #1 is available in June (Diamond Preorder Code APR130795).

Akaneiro #1
Little Red Riding Hood had a basket of food and was off to see her grandmother. Little did she know of the perils of traveling through the forest alone or that she would be set upon by a bloodthirsty wolf. Had she brought an axe however, well, then maybe the trip would’ve been a lot easier. Akaneiro #1 from Dark Horse Comics is an adaption of sorts of Little Red Riding Hood, proving that even an axe may not be enough.

The new series is written by Justin Aclin, with art by Vasilis Lolos, colors by Michael Atiyeh and lettering by Michael Heisler.

Yomi Island is a beautiful place and the home of the Ainu people. They’re dealing with something of an infestation in Yokai, animals possessed by demons intent on entering the world on Yomi Island and swarming its population. The Red Hunters of Akane hunt and kill the Yokai, but saying they’re friends with the Ainu is a stretch. That’s where Kani comes in. As a half-Ainu girl (on her late mother’s side), she offers to broker a peace between the Ainu and the Akane by joining the Red Hunters and going on a quest to kill Yokai.

It should be noted that the story is based on the game Akaneiro: Demon Hunters from Spicy Horse Games. Having said that, Aclin does a great job living in that world so to speak, yet still infusing it with life. Kani is both fearless and fearful at times; completely confident enough to charge into battle, but still a little uncertain when it comes to her place in society and the Ainu clan. She greatly respects her father–a roaming Ronin–and misses her mother, yet still can’t seem to find acceptance in her current environment.

Her offer to join the Red Hunters was a powerful one, both for her and the preservation of Yomi Island. Most of the first issue is spent introducing the reader to Kani and the island’s situation, which, unfortunately isn’t exactly that riveting. When Kani hits the road though, things really start to pick up and it looks like the Yokai may have a few tricks up their sleeve. Kani’s encounters with them will be anything but boring and the direction the series is headed looks good.

Lolos’ art is very unique in a good way. It’s a little difficult to describe honestly, as it looks to be somewhat anime inspired in some panels and cel-shaded to a degree in others. Faces appear to be painted and showcase emotion pretty well and characters get top-billing over setting. The Yokai show some really creative presentation though, as they more or less reflect their animal counterparts in their demon forms. There’s one towards the end that’s especially clever and proves Kani may be in a bit over her head.

The story features a feudal Japan setting, Shinto religious influences and a girl with an axe. The Yokai are truly demonic and want nothing more than to destroy all on Yomi Island and the end of the issue presents quite an intriguing opportunity for them to do so. Kani’s quest appears to be getting more dangerous than even she realized and her partnership with the Red Hunters should be interesting.

Akaneiro #1 is in stores now.

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