Indie Comics Spotlight: The Goon, Cluster, Nameless


By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Nameless #1


“Talk to the guy who made his wife and kids drink bleach then hung himself with barbed wire.”

Of all the ways the world could end, being taken out by an asteroid is one of the more realistic ones. It’s likely that humanity won’t be in a position to stop the impending disaster. Unless there’s an individual with unique capabilities who’s sought after and can stop the foreign attack. In Nameless #1 from Image Comics, the main character is one such individual. The issue is written by Grant Morrison, illustrated by Chris Burnham, colored by Nathan Fairbarn and lettered by Simon Bowland.

An astronomer kills his family, then himself, leaving a cryptic warning. A Veiled Lady hunts her victims through human nightmares. An occult hustler known only as ‘Nameless’ is recruited by a consortium of billionaire futurists for a desperate mission. And the malevolent asteroid Xibalba spins closer on a collision course with Earth. But nothing is what it seems—a terrifying inhuman experiment is about to begin.

Nameless #1 is a pretty frenetic first issue. Nameless the character comes across as something of an arrogant mercenary for hire who knows something about the world in Nameless #1. The problem is that Morrison doesn’t really let the reader into the secret, keeping them in the dark on many of the important details of the new universe. The issue sort of fast forwards through a lot of the set-up stuff and doesn’t really let up, with Morrison seemingly wanting to get to the point of the series. There are a lot of intriguing and subtle clues peppered throughout, showing that Morrison clearly has a grander ambition in mind that he wants to achieve.

Burnham’s illustrations are terrifying. There’s anything and everything included, right up to some strange creatures who appear to be fish-like aliens who inhabit the dreams of humans. Burnham handles the shift between dreams and realities effortlessly, ensuring that the reader doesn’t lose track of the characters. Those characters boast exaggerated facial expressions that reinforce the horrors contained within. The change in panel layouts throughout the issue keeps up with the pace of the story and fits Morrisson’s approach. Fairbarn’s colors perfectly punctuate the tone of the work, covering a range of vivid purples and bright oranges. 

Nameless #1 trades in horror and the work features that in spades. Nameless is a desired man because of his talents and his perceived ability to save the world. Morrisson is no stranger when it comes to writing fiction and Nameless #1 continues that tradition, with Morrisson establishing a character who’s full of intrigue. Burnham’s illustrations are full of life and encapsulate the script effectively, presenting scenes that are both horrible and curious. Nameless #1 

Nameless #1 is in stores now.

Cluster #1


“Welcome to Midlothian, ladies and gentlemen.”

Defending one’s territory is no easy feat, which is why soldiers are needed. The thing is, not everyone is exactly thrilled about the idea of sacrificing their life for the good of the country or world they inhabit. Still, someone has to fight, so why not conscript prisoners? That’s the premise behind Cluster #1 from BOOM! Studios. The issue is written by Ed Brisson, illustrated by Damian Couceiro and colored by Michael Garland.

In the distant future, as mankind discovers life on other planets, it needs soldiers to defend its colonies and outposts across the stars. In order to increase the number of boots on the ground, criminals are offered the opportunity to serve in the place of incarceration known as Tranent. But as wars wage on and more soldiers are needed, small-time crimes are given long-term punishments. When a group of prisoners–led by Samara Simmons–serving their time as soldiers become stranded and abandoned on a war-torn planet, they’ll need to work together to survive and uncover the truth behind Earth’s role in deep space.

What starts off as a fairly formulaic plot ends with the stakes raised immeasurably for the prisoners in Tranent. Brisson relies on the concept of a sort of work release program, only in Cluster #1 the prisoners must serve on military duty while incarcerated in order to get out sooner. It’s almost like being sent to Castle Black in Game of Thrones, only without all the political gamesmanship. The big twist is the way the prisoners are kept in line, something which Brisson touches upon briefly in the beginning of the story and then decides to base the remainder of the series on. Much of the issue is point blank informing the reader of the stakes (the prisoner control being one of them) and it’s not until the end that the premise really coalesces, but the first part does feel a little dry because of the presentation. A few prisoners in particular emerge as the focus of the work, with Samara herself being the one they all gravitate towards as a focal point.

The opening pages of Cluster #1 are illustrated with tremendous impact, courtesy of Couceiro’s depiction of a tragic accident. It’s from here the tone of the book is set and Couceiro moves on to depicting an overcrowded prison juxtaposed against the barren landscape of Midlothian. A clever use of hologram illustrations accompanies Brisson narrative in getting the characters (and reader) up to speed on the situation and Coucerio blends them perfectly into the world. The characters feel alive as well, as Couceiro infuses them with an energy that makes their actions feel kinetic. Much of Garland’s color palette boasts yellows and oranges, which reinforce the notion that Midlothian is a very distant location in a vast universe.

Cluster #1 is an issue that introduces a new world and “community service” model before ending on a much more dire note for the series protagonists. Samara and her party are tasked with not only surviving Midlothian and Tranent, but doing so when pitted against forces they can’t control. Brisson’s script holds the reader’s hand a bit in the beginning, yet after he establishes the ground rules for Cluster #1he quickly escalates things. Couceiro’s characters feel alive and populate a realized world that’s far removed from the more populated civilizations that presumably exist alongside it. Cluster #1 is a fun first issue that starts off a little slow before snowballing from there, growing into a book that ticks a lot of science-fiction check boxes in new ways.

Cluster #1 is in stores now.

The Goon: Once Upon a Hard Time #1


“Boys and girls, this is a cinder block.”

The Goon has always been characterized as thoughtful and calculating. Sure, he’s got beastly strength, but he carefully weighs his options before just jumping in. Sometimes though, the brawn beats the brains and in The Goon: Once Upon a Hard Time #1 from Dark Horse, The Goon is relying purely on muscle to get answers to his questions. The issue is written and illustrated by Eric Powell.

After the tragic events of Occasion of Revenge, the witch coven believes that control of the unnamed town will soon be in their grasp and the Goon’s tragic soul will contribute to the curse that increases their power. But has their plot destroyed the Goon or created a monster too savage for them to withstand?

The Goon: Once Upon a Hard Time #1 features The Goon as essentially an emotional bulldozer laying waste to anything and anyone in his path. He’s determined to find the answers he’s searching for, even if it means nearly destroying everything in his path. In this regard, Powell does an exceptional job with the character, maximizing his physical capabilities to pummel his problems into submission. What makes his actions much more frightening is Powell gives The Goon some purpose in his violence and even though his actions seem haphazard they’re actually very calculated. The fact that Powell puts The Goon in a state of mind that not only scares his opponents but his friends too is extremely powerful and terrifying.

Fitting with the noir narrative, Powell’s art has always relied on grays and a clean look. The Goon: Once Upon a Hard Time #1 is no exception, yet here Powell manages to make the book feel even darker. It likely has to do with all the instances of The Goon pummeling a source to get information, but from a broader perspective Powell illustrates The Goon just plain angry. The emotion on the faces of the characters reflect that as well; from the obvious scowl The Goon sports to the looks of concern and fear on the faces of those around him. The encounter with a familiar foe gives Powell the chance to branch out a little bit in terms of colors and look, but the emotional impact of the panels are just as violent as some of the preceding ones.

The Goon: Once Upon a Hard Time #1 is a very dark, angry issue, even for the series that it’s a part of. The Goon is on a rampage and is giving no thoughts at all to the collateral damage his actions will cause. Powell’s story is dripping with revenge and it’s something that gives The Goon enough motivation to inflict pain on any and all comers. The illustrations of said anger are even more powerful and really hammer home the emotional state The Goon is in as he pursues his somewhat reckless agenda. The Goon: Once Upon a Hard Time #1doesn’t boast any cheerfulness at all really, unless you find joy in a character taking out his anger on any and all opponents in the name of presumably love.

The Goon: Once Upon a Hard Time #1 is in stores now.

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