Indie Comics Spotlight: The Sweetness #1, Rok of the Reds #1, and Midnight of the Soul #1

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By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

The Sweetness #1


1

“You hang on Earth or die in space. Not our problem.”

Bounty hunters make their living by hunting, well, bounties. Tracking down a target and bringing them in is their livelihood and many will go to great lengths to ensure they complete the job as intended. Sometimes – as in The Sweetness #1 – that means taking a few more risks than expected. The issue is written by Miss Lasko-Gross, illustrated by Kevin Colden, and colored by Frank Reynoso.

The Sweetness, by wife and husband duo Miss Lasko-Gross and Kevin Golden, follows two badass female intergalactic smugglers of a mysterious controlled substance who cater to the unique tastes of alien drug addicts.

Character drives The Sweetness #1 and each of the main characters in the issue are very unique. Danielle is a reformed criminal accompanying Bachman and Scout, the former of which is something of a nervous wreck while the latter is keen on having a good time. Each character’s dialogue is appropriate for who they are as Lasko-Gross doesn’t rely on keeping exchanges formulaic. Lasko-Gross allows an interplay among the three that is thoroughly entertaining and provides a pretty compelling reason for the plot to move forward. That plot is somewhat conventional, but Lasko-Gross is presenting it in a way that’s unconventional in many regards and doesn’t give everything away in the first issue.

It’s clear the characters aren’t the best people in the world and Colden illustrates them as such. Danielle is probably the most “honest” of the three and demonstrates that approach through very telling facial expressions. Bachman and Scout are illustrated with more grit to them that reinforces the notion that they have their vices as well. The backgrounds are effectively illustrated by Colden to accentuate the space setting the book is going for. The empty gutters accent the panels and work well to show the chronology of certain events as they proceed (for instance, launching the rocket to enter space). Reynoso’s colors are also very muted throughout the book, reinforcing the notion of a somewhat grimy group of individuals.

The Sweetness #1 is a pretty fun book that thrives based on its unique characters. The trio leading the charge all have their different motivations and it’s those motivations that give the story a solid foundation. Lasko-Gross seems to have enjoyed writing them and it’s going to pay off down the line for the story as a whole. Colden’s illustrations are somewhat dirty, but it’s a style that fits the narrative. The Sweetness #1 is a great first issue that sets things up well for an entertaining series.

The Sweetness #1 is in stores now.

Rok of the Reds #1


2

“But appearances can be deceptive.”

The arrival of aliens on Earth will bring either peace or war. If they come solo, though, it could be a little bit of both. That’s the case in Rok of the Reds #1 from BHP Comics. The issue is written by John Wagner and Alan Grant, illustrated by Dan Cornwell, colored by Abby Bulmer, and lettered by Jim Campbell.

Rok of the Reds is a six-part series showing what happens when the lives of a dangerous intergalactic outlaw and an arrogant footballer collide. With his home world destroyed, Rok of Arkadi is on the run and needs a hiding place. And that hiding place happens to be troubled football star Kyle Dixon. A black comedy about revenge, redemption, and the beautiful game.

Rok of the Reds #1 opens up in a pretty formulaic fashion inspired by Superman: alien abandons planet on the verge of destruction and is forced to find a new life on Earth. However, Wagner and Grant mix things up a bit by giving Rok the opportunity to take on the persona of Kyle Dixon – a character written as something of a jerk. His character is every bit as entitled and spoiled as many modern-day athletes are perceived to be which makes the arrival of Rok so much more impactful. Much of the issue is focused on defining Kyle as such a spoiled individual, but it’s done in a way that the reader can get a sense of where things are going. The dialogue is pretty conversational and lends more of a real-world mentality to the plot (as real as a plot can be with an alien from another planet).

Cornwell’s artwork is a relatively no-frills approach in many regards. His characters are illustrated with an almost comical style that’s reminiscent of newspaper strip characters in the past. That’s not to say they’re completely cartoonish; on the contrary, Cornwell does a great job of illustrating them in ways that reinforce the kinetic nature of playing soccer, for instance. The panel layouts are very busy as Cornwell works in plenty of insets and overlays throughout the work to keep the reader’s eyes moving across the pages. The colors by Bulmer are chosen in a way that’s effective for showcasing various times of days and locales.

Rok of the Reds #1 is an interesting twist on a somewhat familiar tale. Rok’s arrival on Earth will no doubt bring with it plenty of opportunity for confusion and mayhem, although it won’t be in a necessarily vindictive way. The script by Wagner and Grant is pretty straightforward and the duo will likely have fun writing to the weaknesses of Kyle as a character. Cornwell’s illustrations are an appropriate fit for the book and his renderings of Rok in particular give the book plenty of interstellar flair. Rok of the Reds #1 is a pretty fun first issue that seems to have a few surprises in store.

Rok of the Reds #1 is available now.

Midnight of the Soul #1


3

“That faith would sustain him amongst the mud men.”

Fighting in a war is not something soldiers typically seek out. No matter how old or young one is, you can never be fully prepared for what you’ll encounter during war – or after. Sometimes it’s the post-war life that proves to be more difficult than life during the war, as in Midnight of the Soul #1 from Image Comics. The issue is written and illustrated by Howard Chaykin, colored by Jesus Aburtov, and lettered by Ken Bruzenak.

It’s 1950, and Joel Breakstone, former GI and liberator of Auschwitz, is seriously damaged goods. He hasn’t exhaled a sober breath in five years – until the sheltered life he’s created for himself unravels and he begins the long night that will change his life forever.

There’s a palpable tension throughout Midnight of the Soul #1 that Chaykin capitalizes on quite masterfully. Joel Breakstone is a very damaged individual and Chaykin isn’t shy about making his life as rotten as possible, despite his seemingly heroic efforts fighting during the war. His current predicament lends itself exceptionally well to the direction of the story in that it acts as a microcosm of the world at large. Chaykin realizes that the world isn’t a very nice place for many people and all the characters in Midnight of the Soul #1 proceed along this track, using one another in ways that are beneficial to them at the expense of others. It’s hard to root for even Joel based on this, especially considering the fact that he’s really no better than anyone else despite his efforts during the war.

Chaykin doubles down on the artwork in Midnight of the Soul #1 and his style offers the book a very refined look. Joel is depicted as both a war-ravaged soldier and a struggling writer in the suburbs, yet despite the clearly disparate outfits, Chaykin allows him to maintain a sense of familiarity. Filling out the book are other characters, all of whom are powerfully expressive and really hammer home their respective personalities. The coloring work by Aburtov is subdued, allowing incidents of violence to really stand out amidst the otherwise mundane daily routine. And Bruzenak does a powerful job with the lettering, allowing emphatic actions to be defined by big, bold letters in certain panels.

Midnight of the Soul #1 is a very powerful issue that looks at the simmering emotion that many veterans of war struggle to contain on a daily basis. Joel Breakstone is a soldier who saw more than more people ever will in their lifetime and those memories still haunt him. Chaykin’s dialogue is very believable and reflects a certain trivial aspect of life that Joel is forced to endure. Chaykin’s artwork is fantastic and lends a touch of humanity to the work. Midnight of the Soul #1 is a very sobering look at the trials and tribulations those struggling with addiction are forced to contend with on a daily basis.

Midnight of the Soul #1 is in stores now.


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