Indie Comics Spotlight: The Last of Us, Polarity, Ark

indiecomics4913 Separator

by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Last of Us: American Dreams #1

Last of Us is poised to be a major AAA release from Naughty Dog Studios, previously known best for the Unchartered series. It’s a game set in a world beset by a parasitic fungal outbreak, where everyone struggles to survive however they can. While gamers won’t see the game until June 14, comic fans can get a jump start on a prequel comic in Last of Us: American Dreams #1 from Dark Horse Comics. The first issue is written by Neil Druckmann and Faith Erin Hicks, with art by Hicks, colors by Rochelle Rosenberg and letters by Clem Robins.

Ellie is a new arrival in Boston, one of the last remaining quarantine zones. She’s recently been transferred to the military prep school where all orphaned teenagers attend upon turning thirteen. It’s a dangerous, post-apocalyptic world, where Ellie must handle all manner of danger, whether it be prep school bullies or the actual parasitic outbreak.

As the comic is a prequel to the game of the same name, Druckmann and Hicks aren’t really afforded much creative leeway. Having said that, what they do with the first issue is very expansive. They really give readers a glimpse into the downtrodden world the characters of the franchise will inhabit and make it readily known that danger lurks around every corner. Ellie is more than capable enough of handling the world on her own, with a feistiness that almost makes up for her relatively diminutive status.

Hicks also handles the illustration for the book and she does a great job with it. The panels filled with fighting seem to explode of the page, with lots of action jammed into a slew of different panels. The characters do have a cartoonish, Scott Pilgrim look to them, which doesn’t entirely fit with the narrative. It’s not bad, just seems a little disconnected with the subject matter. Again, not to sell Hicks short, as her work is phenomenal in the book.

Lots of folks have been looking forward to Last of Us when it hits the PS3 this summer. In the meantime, fans can get their fix with Last of Us: American Dreams #1, a prequel comic that sets the table well for the impending video game buffet. The story establishes the setting exceptionally well and is accompanied by strong art that handles action equally as well. Definitely worth checking out if you’re looking forward to the game.

Last of Us #1 is available now.

Polarity #1

Artists have an uncanny knack for finding inspiration to do phenomenal things. If they didn’t have that ability, they wouldn’t really be artists. Sometimes though, that inspiration comes from deep within; an individual coming to grips with something that makes them tick. The “inspiration process” isn’t always the cleanest, as evidenced in Polarity #1 from BOOM! Studios. The first issue is written by Max Bemis, with art by Jorge Coelho, colors by Felipe Sobreiro and Steve Wands.

Timothy Woods is a bipolar artist stuck in Brooklyn, the world of hipsters, meaningless sex and vain art. What got him to that point was a near fatal car accident suffered as a result of a psychotic break from a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder. The diagnosis flings Timothy on manic highs and depressed lows, both of which he draws on to create art that has become all the rage in the Brooklyn hipster scene. It’s when he’s off his treatment plan that he finds the most adventure, including some events that may actually be happening (and not a delusion of grandeur).

First and foremost, Bemis has penned something quite intriguing with Polarity #1. He pretty accurately conveys the highs and lows of Bipolar Disorder, right down to a feeling of invincibility at times. Timothy relies on his diagnosis to reach creative pinnacles, but whether or not he’s actually any good is still left unclear. His work taps into a hidden aspect of psyche and the accolades lauded on him by others is the second thing about the book.

By presenting Timothy as an artist drawing on Bipolar Disorder, he also manages to skewer societal regards as well. The environment Timothy inhabits is presented as phony and erudite, with his fellow “artists” oohing and aahing over all his works. They’re not blind to the fact that he finds the most inspiration when he’s at the mercy of his diagnosis, but they’re also content with the fact that he’s suffering to create. It’s a heady take on what people accept in order to be part of the in crowd.

Coelho’s art is aptly laid out. When Timothy has everything together, the panels and illustrations are clean and well-defined. When he start to stray from treatment, pages become more disheveled and chaotic. It’s a great visual representation of his descent into a world rife with symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. There’s also a great full-page panel representing the duality Timothy feels of being both an alien and a citizen of the new world his art has invited him to.

As the first of four issues, Polarity #1 is an interesting start. It sets the foundation for a series that will alternate between reality and illusion, with the reader often questioning the surreality of it all. Timothy learns that breaking from treatment comes with its own perils (beyond just being hit by cars) and how he reconciles events real and imagined will be a pensive journey for the reader.

Polarity #1 is in stores April 3.

Ark

Space is a big place, begging to be explored. That exploration leads to missions where crews are cut off from mass populations and are forced to enjoy the company of those on the mission with them. Sometimes, those crews feature a few individuals with more independent motives, leading to events such as those in Ark from Arcana Comics.

The graphic novel is written by Peter Dabbene and illustrated by Ryan Bayliss.

The spaceship Explorer has traveled for thirteen years, past the orbit of Pluto, until finally its communications are cut off from Earth. Despite this, they still manage to receive a message that comes with shocking news. As such, some crew members handle the news better than others, leading to intrigue, murders, betrayal and revenge.

Dabbene doesn’t really tread on new ground with Ark, relying on the tried and true space exploration formula. The passengers are an interesting twist, reflecting a mix of human crew and hybrid. The hybrids are combinations of animals/plants and humans, struggling to fit in amongst the rest of the crew. Why they’re on the ship though isn’t really explained and they seem to play a part in some random murders and mutinies. The dialogue is fairly wooden throughout, but it’s enough to move the story along, despite a readily obvious influence from Mass Effect.

The art by Bayliss is shiny. The finish is very glossy and really accents the relatively nondescript art. There’s some creativity in the hybrids, attempting to present the variety of the beings throughout the universe. Other than that though, the art lacks any intense detail, with most panels presenting the character in focus with little attention paid to the background settings.

Ark is an intergalactic story of beings trying to find commonalities. The crew has to contend with everyone representing some of the dirtier aspects of humanity. Despite that, the crew of the Explorer manage to find some sort of resolution as an ending, concluding the 140-page graphic novel.

Ark is available digitally via comiXology now with interiors below.


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