Indie Comics Spotlight-The Woodland Welfare Manifesto, Big Trouble in Little China #1, Rise of the Magi #1

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By Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

The Woodland Welfare Manifesto

 

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“Remember, my friends – do not wake bear, for they are very grumpy in the morning!”

Manifestos sound a lot more cogent than they actually usually are. The word itself seems rational and intelligent. The thing is, some manifestos make sense only to the writer and a select few of said writer’s followers. That’s not to say there isn’t a place for them; it’s just that successfully delivering the message often requires some convincing on the part of the writer. Animals may be a great way to sell a manifesto, though, like in The Woodland Welfare Manifesto from Slave Labor Graphics, written by Justin Sane, and illustrated by John Hageman, Jr.

What do a burned bear, singed rabbit, and perverted monkey have in common? A need for money, that’s what. Burnt Beat, Crazy Rabbit and Pervert Monkey are three proletarian animals raging against the capitalist machine. Turns out that even if you’re an anarchist rabbit, you’ve still got to pay the bills, even if that means going on quite an adventurous journey throughout a heavily populated forest. And it all starts with Burnt Bear being cut off from the disability checks he was making his way in life on.

From the beginning, The Woodland Welfare Manifesto holds nothing back. There’s a very clear assault on the current state of things, with the concepts of capitalism ruining lives and anarchy being the path to freedom. Sane presents those tenets through anthropomorphizing the animals and having them act as the conduits for social commentary. It works pretty well, ensuring that the book isn’t taken too seriously. The thing is, there is a very real satire within the pages that manages to seep through every now and then (at some points it clubs you over the head). It’s a good mix between humor and soapbox ranting and the characters remain true to their positions in the entire production. The dialogue is told in a broken Russian accent which keeps the book feel fresh and moving along at a nice pace.

Artistically, the book looks as crazy as some of the characters. Hageman, Jr., has given forest creatures all manner of ailments and depravity, promising to make those characters memorable to the reader. There’s a Ren and Stimpy feel in some of the action as well; while things don’t get quite as disgusting as that show did, the reader does follow a half-burnt bear for the duration of the book. The colors and outlines are bold and pop off the page. And each character’s facial expressions appropriately showcase their emotion (and general sentiment) throughout the book. It’s a testament to Hageman, Jr., to present creatures who are convincingly human in some ways.

The Woodland Welfare Manifesto is an interesting book that doesn’t really apologize for what it is. There are some rather scathing observations made about the culture we live in today and hiding those behind furry forest animals doesn’t diminish them at all. In fact, the appearance of the characters emboldens those positions. Sane’s story is very much relevant even if it’s extremely opinionated and the characters make for great vehicles for that opinion. The look of the book feels childish at times, but Hageman, Jr., uses that style to subtly insert his own perverse takes on what an anarchist rabbit, perverted money and burnt bear would really look like. The Woodland Welfare Manifesto is a book that’s definitely full of emotion on the part of the creative team and is interesting if you’re missing crass forest animals rising up against the system.

The Woodland Welfare Manifesto will be available June 18 on Amazon and comixology, which are technically the same thing.

Big Trouble in Little China #1

 

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“Sister, challenge accepted.”

Quantifying trouble usually just gets you in more trouble. Sometimes, though, there are issues that are so big that you can’t help but refer to them in that manner. And when those troubles are big and happen to be in Little China, well, then you’ve got a movie and comic book series on your hand. BOOM! Studios handles the comic side of things in Big Trouble in Little China #1, written by Eric Powell, illustrated by Brian Churilla, colored by Michael Garland, and lettered by Ed Dukeshire.

Jack Burton is hopping on the Pork Chop Express and getting out of town. The thing is, he’s got a stowaway, who at first seems to be a big deal, but it turns out he’s really the least of his problems. He helped his best friend Wang save his fiancée from the clutches of a demon, but now the wedding has been invaded by more evil forces with one thing on their minds—revenge against Jack Burton. In a world where the man seemingly can’t get a break, Jack is forced back into action, fighting demons and sounding sarcastic while doing so.

If you’ve ever seen the movie Big Trouble in Little China, then you know that calling it weird is an understatement. There was a sense of zaniness coupled with freak show attraction pervasive throughout; something that Powell doesn’t miss a beat with in the book. Jack Burton is just as quick-talking and brash as you remember him being, while the events that unfold around him feel believable enough for that universe. While the series ultimately seems to be headed in a direction similar to the movie where Jack squares off against new evils, familiar faces return and make the trip just as enjoyable. The odd couple pairing that Powell executes is pretty solid as well, with Jack’s new friend an unlikely but capable companion.

While the film was a victim of filmmaking budgets in the 80s, the book isn’t constrained nearly as much. Despite this, Churilla’s work feels dated somewhat in a way that’s something of a throwback to that era. There are some renderings of Jack that look exactly like Kurt Russell, but others feel a little daintier in terms of his body movements and stances. The evils included are sufficiently terrifying, though, keeping the reader engaged and invested in the notion that this is really just a Tuesday in Jack’s life. Backgrounds are replaced in many panels by an abundance of action lines that emphasize the high-flying combat. There are also quite a few panels where the character speaking just seems to be standing in front of a backdrop for the purpose of monologuing.

Big Trouble in Little China #1 will appeal to the exact same audience who enjoyed the movie, so much so that the storylines exist in sequence. Jack Burton is just as rowdy as you’d like him to be and the stakes are just as high as expected when evil demons are involved. Powell taps into the mythos very well and makes the book feel like an extension of the movie in terms of its tone. Churilla’s art isn’t bad as well, offering up everyone’s favorite truck driver mixing it up with any type of trouble imaginable. The series looks to be headed in the direction of Jack squaring off against more and more evil, which is perfectly fine since that’s what he loves doing most (even if he’d likely tell you otherwise).

Big Trouble in Little China #1 is in stores now.

Rise of the Magi #1

 

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“Trouble. Weapon up and meet me at the orb. Fast as you can!”

Defending a priceless artifact is necessary for multiple reasons. For some, the protection is required for wealth. For others, it’s required for world-preservation. For others, though, it’s
required for the safety and stability of the world it powers. Image Comics prefers maintaining a world in Rise of the Magi #1. The issue is written by Sumeyye Kesgin and Marc Silvestri, illustrated and lettered by Betsy Gonia, and colored by Troy Peteri.

A small black sphere contains all the magic that exists—past, present, and future. Without it, two worlds would not survive. But someone has done the unimaginable: stolen a piece of the sphere and fled from the world of magic into the world of man. Now only the very common Asa Stonethrow can find him. Asa thought saving two worlds was great enough a burden…until he meets a girl.

Worlds based on magic tend not to do that well for too long, mainly because that magic they live on is usually powerful enough to destroy said world. Kesgin and Silvestri really only use the magic to set tone for the remainder of the series, as Asa is put on the run from untold evil. Asa is pretty convincing as flying carpet repairman turned hero, fitting into the traditional zero to hero mold that many stories rely upon. The dialogue is pretty straightforward, but the story is a little jumpy in terms of past, present, and future. The pacing is a little uneven because of the time shift, which isn’t too jarring, but a few parts do require some rereads (there’s a break in the middle that helps keep things moving and does a great job in keeping the story on track).

Considering the level of magic in Rise of the Magi #1, Gonia keeps the characters looking unique and infused with the same magic the world they live in is comprised of. There’s a good bit of variety on display, even if some of them look a little fuzzy at times. Gonia definitely focuses more on the action in the book rather than the characters themselves. There’s also something of a blurriness in her style that gives the book a handcam feel, which would feels strangely appropriate considering the subject matter in the book. More attention is devoted to the action and characters, leaving the backgrounds a little sparse in their depiction.

Rise of the Magi #1 is a pretty lighthearted book that’s immersed in some pretty intense magic fighting. Asa is definitely out of his element by the end of the story and thrust into a situation that offers a pretty interesting twist on the story as a whole. Kesgin and Silvestri’s dialogue effectively convey the action and introduce the reader into the world of magic and orbs. Gonia’s illustrations are a good fit for the story as well, presenting a world that imaginatively brings to life the story. Rise of the Magi #1 reads interestingly enough and offers a surprising ending that is setting up the remainder of the series to be pretty fascinating.

Rise of the Magi #1 is in stores now.


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