Indie Comics Spotlight: The Reason for Dragons, All New Fathom, Department O


by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

The Reason for Dragons
“Why would you take such great risks to prove yourself to those who think so little of you?”

If you ever encounter a dragon, it’s good to be a knight. The stalwarts of history and fiction have made dragon slaying one of the top lines on their resumes and they’ve gotten quite good at it. A knight encountering a dragon makes sense in stories of lore; not so much in the present. Still though, such a scenario makes for good reading in The Reason for Dragons from Archaia. The graphic novel is written by Chris Northrop, illustrated by Jeff Stokely and colored by Northrop and Andrew Elder.

Go head Mr. Wendell. Wendell is a young man struggling with relating to his new stepfather Ted. Ted means well, but he’s got a personality that’s a little rough around the edges, showing itself primarily in the care of his bike Lilly. Ted tries to teach Wendell to “be a man,” but it doesn’t quite work out as either would hope, prompting Wendell to run off. After a harrowing encounter, Wendell finds himself smackdab in the middle of history when he meets a knight desperate to defend his king and defeat the dragon.

Northrop’s story is definitely of the coming of age variety and it’s very well told. Wendell is caught in the middle of a maelstrom of emotion, unsure of whether or not he belongs in any place in his life. That’s what makes his encounter with the knight so revealing. The knight is an anachronism of sorts and knows firsthand what it feels like to be out of place, giving Wendell someone to commiserate with. Everyone knows what it’s like to grow up and be unsure of oneself for whatever reason and Northrop taps into that sentiment perfectly. Pairing Wendell with the Knight gives both motivation to grow and be better people.

Stokely’s art exhibits the appropriate level of levity necessary to help depict a comic like The Reason for Dragons. Characters aren’t illustrated too realistically, as Stokely relies on slight caricatures in illustrating the main players in the book. The landscapes are very effective at setting the tone for the book as well; fall is coming over the world Wendell lives in that brings with it a sense of renewal. It’s rather well illustrated and really gets the reader immersed in the world of angst and potential dragons.

It’s made clear by the end what the reason for dragons really is: redemption. Everyone needs some sort of adversary to better themselves against and the allegory of the knight and the dragon proves to be an excellent tale for Wendell to follow in his trials. There’s something in the book that everyone can relate to and–since this is an Archaia book–the presentation is top-notch. The Reason for Dragons is definitely a book that should be on your radar that will really hit a note with a lot of readers.

The Reason for Dragons is available comic shops now and everywhere else on August 6.

All New Fathom #1
“One day he would tell his grandchildren about this moment…”

Certain moments occur that transcend, well, everything. A giant glacier rising from the depths of the ocean with a living cloud accompanying it is one of those moments. Newlyweds on their honeymoon can sometimes be at the wrong place at the wrong time, giving cause for someone like Aspen Matthews to make an appearance and save the day. Those events are just the start of All New Fathom #1 from Aspen Comics. Writing duties are handled by David Wohl, pencils by Alex Konat, inks by Mark Roslan and John Ercek, colors by Beth Sotelo and letters by Josh Reed.

As the Great Barrier Reef proves to be a great tourist attraction, it also proves to be the genesis point of an impending invasion, preceded by a massive glacier rising from the depths. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, a massive oil spill spurs Aspen into action, where she aids in the clean up and proves her general friendliness with humanity. That friendliness is spun into a proposal from an influential Russian seeking her assistance in a new endeavor. All roads lead to the new glacier though, where Aspen makes a startling discovery.

Aspen is sort of taken back to her roots in All New Fathom #1. Wohl presents a character who’s familiar to the world at large thanks to her generosity, but she’s also a character who many don’t know too much about. She’s perfectly content with the famed anonymity, traveling the world to help where she feels she can make a difference. There’s a lot of narration in the issue that guides the reader through Aspen’s past somewhat without being overbearing, which is refreshing. Fathom is such an intricate universe that having some context makes new series more accessible to new readers.

Konat’s pencils are very familiar territory. The illustrations here feel cleaner than some of his past work, which isn’t an attack on that work. It’s just that the work feels much more refined in All New Fathom #1 for some reason. He gives Aspen plenty of character through her expressions in reaction to various events, supplying the reader with context for the situations she’s faced with. The last page of the book features some frightening new developments, blending elements of the seas with some new faces.

If you’ve heard of Fathom before, but have been intimidated to attempt jumping in because of the property’s longevity, then All New Fathom #1 is the book for you. Fans of the series to this point will also find something intriguing in the book, as it presents brand new foes with ties to the Blue. Aspen looks to have her work cut out for her yet again and still can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to saving the world. While the new series is more accessible, it remains to be seen if the creative team have some tricks up their sleeve to explore new territory with both the characters and the settings.

All New Fathom #1 is in stores now.

Department O #1
Clandestine organizations poised to protect humanity from things that go bump in the night are certainly not lacking for representation. While each of them have their own agendas, they do share one thing in common: an eclectic mix of teammates working in concert. Monkey Pipe Studios has another book with such a team-up in Department O #1. The first issue is written by Jamie Gambell, illustrated by Andrew Maclean and colored by Heather Breckel.

Things aren’t going according to plan in Department O. Members include only Mr. Bristol, Mr. Harrigan, Sir Miles, Mr. Zeikel, Sir Henry and Lord Blutstein. The biggest reason why their numbers are so low is the “incident,” referenced in the book and pitched as cause of great concern for the team. Regardless, they’ve still been tasked with doing their duty and that duty includes entertaining a very unique set of guests.

There’s going to be obvious comparisons to Hellboy, but relating Department O to Atomic Robo wouldn’t be far off either. The work exists somewhere in between both of those, with Gambell offering readers a very interesting collection of individuals who have little difficulty bringing things together when necessary. The first issue lays out the prime dynamics of all the characters without giving too much away and establishes a tone for the series as well. Characters are interesting and the pitch looks like it could be exciting as well.

Maclean’s illustrations are very enticing. He doesn’t rely on an excessive amount of detail in characters or settings; rather, he lets broad strokes carry his work throughout. Such a style gives the characters various looks that match their personalities as well. There are some solid full-panel shots as well that really give certain characters and scenes more space to breathe, allowing the reader to full enjoy the great art presented as part of the issue. The last page is probably the most detailed of all of the art and it offers both a chilling preview of what’s to come and a glimpse into relationships past.

Works that feature the strange and unexplained will always garner attention. Works that do that and mix in a merry band of “heroes” are definitely worth checking out. Department O #1 has a happy blend of all of the above, offering readers some relatively lighter fare that’s pointing to a rather intriguing story. Fans of Hellboy and Atomic Robo will definitely find a lot to like in Department O #1. Fans who haven’t checked out either of the aforementioned works will also want to check out the book for something fresh to enjoy.

Department O #1 is available via comiXology now.

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