Indie Comics Spotlight: The Zoohunters, Here We Go, Sonic Boom

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By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)



The ZooHunters #1

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“He is a man. And you should have told him.”

There are many hard parts about growing up, but few are harder than dealing with illness and death at a relatively young age. Such events shape an individual in ways they may not otherwise be shaped, forcing them to reconcile a seemingly innocent youth with a harsher dose of adult realism. Despite the difficulties, many do soldier on and maintain a way of life that feels right to them, even if it hurts at times. Aspen Comics presents such a tale in The ZooHunters #1, written and illustrated by Peter Steigerwald.

Abros Kel is a ZooHunter — a man who is hired to capture animals for zoos on alien worlds. He and his young son Ty have lost everything due to a tragedy and together this uncomfortable pair set out into the stars to train Ty as a ZooHunter. Along the way, they encounter scores of alien life forms on faraway worlds, including Qaurec, an unscrupulous rival ZooHunter who is hunting Abros down. Can Abros and Ty stay one step ahead of his villainy and prove successful in their quest?

Based on its cover and the solicit, you think you know exactly what
 The ZooHunters #1 is: a book about a man who travels the galaxy in search of exotic creatures to capture and sell to zoos. The first few pages change that perception dramatically, as Steigerwald offers up a tone that’s a lot more serious and sincere. Ty’s been coping with numerous ailments, while his father Abros is coping with his own personal problems, both of which come together quite elegantly by the middle of the issue. For as much as The ZooHunters #1 is a book about the work, it’s also about a father’s relationship with his son as he raises him in his image, following in his footsteps. There seems to be some slight pacing issues throughout, as the first two-thirds is fairly slow and seems to be telling one story, while the last third is a bit faster and seems to be telling another story. It’s almost as if Steigerwald wanted to get all the origin stuff out of the way so he could focus on the zoo hunting aspect of the story, while keeping the backstory of Ty and Abros in the back of the reader’s mind.

Books where the writer is also the artist tend to have a lot more cohesion, largely because the left half of the brain is talking to the right. In this regard, Steigerwald’s illustrations are very ethereal in some ways, underscoring the drama faced by Ty and Abros. Emotion pours from the characters through their facial expressions and stances, giving a lot of information into their nature. He also does interesting time-lapse representations with the panel layouts, as progressive layouts showcase what would otherwise be fleeting moments. It’s done to pretty great effect, again emphasizing the beauty found in even the most mundane moments when they’re shared with someone you love. While there wasn’t much in the way of many exotic creatures in the first issue, it’s expected that future issues will delve a bit more into those creatures to help flesh out the wonderment in their universe.

The ZooHunters #1 is a book that’s trying to accomplish two things. It’s trying to be a book about intergalactic animal hunters while at the same time be a coming-of-age book for a teenage boy. The first issue excels more at the latter than the former, with Steigerwald almost exclusively focusing on Ty’s immediate growth as a framing device for the entirety of the series. The hunting side will likely play a larger role down the line since Steigerwald addressed much of Abros and Ty’s backstory. Steigerwald’s illustrations carry a lot of emotional weight and it’s pretty obvious that he poured a lot of his own emotion into the illustrations, which helps make the somber looks of the characters feel genuine. The ZooHunters #1 is an interesting issue that is definitely ambitious and should be a melancholy read once it settles down and focuses more on the business of zoo hunting.


Here We Go

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“Here we go!”

Anthologies offer a look at some up-and-coming talent. Some boast multiple writers and artists, while others boast a single writer and multiple artists. Here We Go is an example of the latter. Here We Go is comprised of the following short stories, all written by Jesse Young: “Here We Go” illustrated by Anwar Madrigal and lettered by Thomas Mauer, “Forbidden Love,” illustrated by Artyom Trakhanov and lettered by Mauer; “The Silver Street Boys,” illustrated by Brent Schnoonover, colored by Robert Snyder and Schnoonover, and lettered by Mauer; “The Daring Adventures of Android Jones – Part 1 & 2,” illustrated by Ryan Cody and lettered by Mauer, “Uncle Buck” is illustrated and lettered by Matt Battaglia; “Ex Occultus,” illustrated by Joann; “Estep,” colored by Paulina Ganucheau and lettered by Deron Bennett; “He’s Heating Up” illustrated by Michael Odom, colored by Ganucheau, and lettered by Mauer; and “The Devil You Know,” illustrated by Jason Copland and lettered by Mauer.

“Here We Go” is about a drive to the first day at a new school a mother and her son, taking an adventure beyond imagination. “Forbidden Love” is a western inspired by the folk classic “Long Black Veil,” where a man’s silence gets him more than he bargained for. “The Silver Street Boys” is about a group of intrepid young reporters seeking out the science-fiction story. “The Daring Adventures of Android Jones – Part 1” takes place while surveying an alien planet, where Android Jones and his trusty robot sidekick PIP get themselves in a bit of jam after a “misunderstanding” with the local alien race. “Uncle Buck” is about a man defending his family’s innocence.

“Ex Occultus” is about Wakefield and Hollander, sent to a temple in Greece to retrieve the fabled Sword of Peleus, a sword rumored to always make whoever yields it victorious in battle. What should be an easy mission turns into something more when they discover what is guarding the temple. In “The Daring Adventures of Android Jones – Part 2,” Jones finds himself captive by an alien race who intends to sacrifice him to the planet’s most fearsome creature. With PIP only available from a distance, Jones is on his own to make his daring escape. “He’s Heating Up” is about love for the game of basketball. And in “The Devil You Know,” after a heist goes south, the crew goes on the run from their employer, the one man you never want to cross.

Here We Go is an anthology and as such, there’s a loose thread relating all the stories. In this case, that thread is Young writing all the stories, with some of them tapping into what is likely personal (“Here We Go” and “He’s Heating Up”). “Here We Go” especially seems to be very personal, taking a very poignant turn when contrasted against the joy of driving to school. The two Android Jones stories, “The Silver Street Boys” and “Ex Occultus” are a bit more on the adventurous side, offering characters who get right into the thick of it for the sake of a good story. “Long Black Veil” and “The Devil You Know” are a bit more on the dark side, with both stories delving deep into the darker corners of human interactions. The stories are all very short, but they manage to move along at a pretty snappy pace. The dialogue is concise as well, clearly giving readers insight into the stories as they’re read.

The art style varies pretty largely from story to story. “Here We Go” takes a very lighthearted approach to convey the relationship between a mother and her son, further emphasized by a soft blue mixed with sharp blacks. Trakhanov’s work in “Forbidden Love” relies on a few primary colors to showcase the range of emotions expressed by the characters. The characters in the Android Jones stories boast strong lines and a very cartoonish look. “Uncle Buck” features art that’s very gritty and dark, which is appropriate for the subject matter. Estep’s work in “Ex Occultus” is very refined in a way, with Ganucheau’s colors offering a great contrast between characters and settings. Copland’s work in “The Devil You Know” is simple, with harsh marks and vague details amplified by a black and white look. Finally, “He’s Heating Up” feels colorful and effectively captures the wonder and imagination in being a big-name player.

Here We Go is an interesting collection of short stories that moves along very quickly. Each story stands on its own and tackles a different topic, keeping things fresh and varied. Young’s stories range from simple to complex and offer a lot of entertainment value for various reasons. The art is very different from story to story, but all of it is very solid for an anthology. Here We Go is worth checking out if you’re looking for a new anthology that presents some great new artists and a talented writer. Here We Go recently finished its Kickstarter and should be hitting book form soon.


Sonic BOOM #1

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“We can debate grammar later — WHO TOOK MY HOUSE?!!”

There’s a certain level of disbelief one must suspend when you consider a hedgehog who can run alarmingly fast. It’s the same disbelief that can be applied to a fox with two tails or an echidna with fists of fury. Once you’ve accepted all of the above though, reading stories about their adventures is always a good time. Archie Comics offers up another entry in the Sonic universe in Sonic BOOM #1, written by Ian Flynn, illustrated by Evan Stanley, inked by Rick Bryant, colored by Matt Herms, and lettered by Jack Morelli.

Dr. Eggman (or Robotnik if you’re on other speaking terms) is up to no good, which is par for the course for Sonic and friends. Still, that won’t stop them from doing their civic duty and stopping him. When he encounters them in his latest robotic monstrosity, Sonic enlists the help of Tails, Knuckles, Amy Rose, and Sticks the Badger to save the day. On top of all that, they’ve also got to contend with another strange being making an appearance and making life slightly more difficult than it needs to be.

As a character, Sonic has always maintained a certain carefree spirit that goes along perfectly with his ability to run exceedingly fast. It was part of what made the game so endearing to players worldwide and that carefree charm is on full display in
 Sonic BOOM #1. Flynn’s grasp of Sonic and the other characters is very appropriate, tapping into each of them in a way that makes the whole issue feel as if we’ve known the characters for much longer. The slight breaking of the fourth wall in introducing the characters also fits with the flow of Sonic, providing a very lighthearted take on what would otherwise be a pretty serious battle. The twist at the end is also intriguing, as it shows the book is willing to play around with the Sonic universe a bit.

Like his personality, Sonic’s look is very well established. Stanley ensures the familiar red sneakers and recent addition of a brown scarf are on full display. The appearances of all the characters tap into what we know them to look like, while also maintaining a very cartoony feel. The book is being used as a tie-in the upcoming Cartoon Network show, so the cartoon similarities are reasonable and expected. Action is detailed very crisply and does its best to keep up with the speed of the main character. The inks by Bryant and colors by Herms further embellish a look that harkens back to the mid-90s, when Sonic was fighting tooth and nail against the likes of Mario for popularity.

Sonic BOOM #1 is the definition of all-ages comic, as it’s a very frenetic book rife with bright colors and familiar characters. You could argue that the plot itself is a little thin, with one seemingly random battle followed by another even more random battle, but it all seems to set up the twist at the end. Flynn knows these characters well and does a great job including all facets of their personalities that make them tick, ensuring that their main qualities are on display. Stanley’s illustrations are very appropriate and make the book very accessible to young readers while maintaining some of the more recognizable features of all the characters. Sonic BOOM #1 is a very fun entry into the Sonic universe that hits all the major points of the character and his friends.

Sonic BOOM #1 is in stores now.


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