Indie Comics Spotlight: Tomorrow, Diablo House #1, and Divinity III: Escape from the Gulag #1
By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)
Life is pretty hard. It’s easier when you have someone to help you through it, though. Whether it’s a spouse or a child or a relative, just knowing that there’s someone else to care for makes things a little less lonely. That applies even in a world where there’s nobody left except you as in Tomorrow from Black Hearted Press. The issue is written by Jack Lothian, illustrated by Garry Mac, flats by Greg Watt, and colors/lettering by Dha Nazir and Kirsty Hunter.
Focusing on one elderly woman living alone in Glasgow, or indeed any similar big city, the story unfolds during the end of days. Unaware that there is no-one left, the woman awakes to an uncertain terrain, of empty streets and buildings. Until… she finds solace in a most unlikely friend.
The opening sequence in Up was devastating because it’s a stark reminder of how fleeting life can be and that’s something Lothian taps into for Tomorrow. He relies on a premise that people live and people die, but that doesn’t mean that the in-between is anything to gloss over. The elderly woman is essentially nameless for the purposes of the story, but Lothian knows she has a name and had a life to go along with it. His tale is relatively sparse on dialogue but dripping in narrative in that Lothian provides her with a motivation to relieve her loneliness. He paces the issue very methodically to reflect an individual’s coming to grips with the fact that they’re no longer alone in a world where they’re the last human alive.
Mac’s artwork is alarmingly simple in its presentation. Every panel is framed very meticulously as he reinforces the routine aspect of the main character’s lifestyle. Mac’s very basic approach in style is certainly the right fit for the content of the story as he doesn’t inundate the reader with tremendous detail. This works out very well for the book and Mac realizes that less is more in the art. The subtlest part of the artwork that might actually work the best is Mac’s muted color palette which adds a very striking sense of calm to a world that’s devoid of action.
Tomorrow is a very poignant book. It deals with very intense topics such as loss and isolation, but does so in a way that doesn’t feel overbearing. It’s not often that you get a story focused on a character so much older, but Lothian’s dialogue and pacing make it work. Mac’s illustrations are very gentle and don’t try to do too much. Tomorrow is a very sobering look at a future predicated on the past and how one deals with it in the ever-changing present.
Tomorrow is available now.
Diablo House #1
“Bottom line: things aren’t always what they seem.”
IDW Publishing is a business, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be creative and/or charitable. In their latest partnership with Humble Bundle, they’ve offered something a little different in the form a comic by the publisher’s CEO/publisher Ted Adams. That offering is Diablo House #1. The issue is written by Ted Adams, illustrated by Santiperez, colored by Jay Fotos, and lettered by Robbie Robbins.
Diablo House #1 plays out much like an episode of Tales from the Crypt – right down to Adams’ decision to open the issue with a narrator in Riley. Adams allows the host of the Diablo House to tell the tale of a man and his motivations in life as they’re influenced by those around him. The tale plays out with an air of familiarity, but Adams manages to make it feel terrifying because of the sheer depths of humanity plumbed en route to its ending. Diablo House #1 could pretty easily have devolved into just another apocalypse type story, but Adams refrains from doing that and stresses that there are terrors within individuals that are just as bad as anything that can affect the masses. Adams races through the issue to get to his point as well, bringing the reader along for the ride whether they like the whiplash or not.
Santiperez’s artwork underscores the evil that can be found in people. The opening of the issue seems innocuous enough, but Santiperez dispels any notion of calm by offering a coast on fire that acts as a metaphor for the people living there. His characters also bear an uneasy look about them that feels as if they’re contorting themselves unnaturally – perhaps it’s another way to express the inner-workings of why people make the decisions they do. And Santiperez instills plenty of raw emotion in his characters through facial expressions that are also somewhat grotesque. Fotos’ colors do a great job of highlighting those emotional contortions by offering what is effectively mood-lighting for the pages that match the characters’ relevant moods.
Diablo House #1 is a nice throwback to horror stories that draw their inspiration from reality. Riley isn’t above telling stories that boast influences from works such as The Twilight Zone as the players don’t realize the stakes of their decisions in the larger game. Adams is laying the groundwork for what could potentially be a great series that offers some form of societal introspection with a horrible twist. The artwork by Santiperez feels grimy and makes the reader feel equally as dirty in a way that reflects the caliber of the characters involved. Diablo House #1 is pretty slick issue that’s honestly a lot of fun.
Diablo House #1 is available now.
Divinity III: Escape from the Gulag #1
“My name is Obediah Archer. And…I am a criminal.”
You’d be hard-pressed to find an odder couple than Archer and Armstrong throughout all of comics. The two couldn’t be any more different from one another, but they share an almost unbreakable bond that makes any situation manageable. That bond is even stronger in Divinity III: Escape from the Gulag #1 from Valiant Comics. The issue is written by Eliot Rahal, illustrated by Francis Portela, colored by Andrew Dalhouse, and lettered by Dave Sharpe.
In the Soviet-controlled world of the Stalinverse, there is a place where liberty is sentenced to die…and it’s Gulag 396. A maximum-security prison where the only escape is through death, the gulag is the final stop for all enemies and detractors of the world’s oppressive authority. But when public enemy Obadiah Archer is admitted as the latest inmate, could his gospel of goodwill and optimism be the spark that ignites a new faith in the prison’s population…including the immortal undesirable known as Aram Addi-Padda?
The relationship between Archer and Armstrong is one of the most enduring things about their adventures and it’s something that Rahal taps into well for Divinity III: Escape from the Gulag #1. The majority of the issue explains a backstory for Archer and how he’s become the man he currently is – unflinching in his beliefs and fiercely loyal. Rahal parlays that into building his relationship with Armstrong, offering the two as kindred spirits of sorts. Much of the rest of the issue allows Rahal to explore the harsh conditions of a gulag prison and how characters like Archer and Armstrong are equipped to handle its debilitating effects on individuals. The dialogue is pretty snappy and effective in informing the reader throughout as well.
Portela’s artwork is clean and beautiful in its reimagining of Archer and Armstrong in a Soviet-controlled society. His version of Archer eschews the typical boyish appearance for one that is grizzled and hardened – an accurate portrayal of his life in the alternate reality. The Soviet characters are illustrated with an emphasis on bulky bodies and chiseled faces as Portela hearkens back to just about any bad guy in an 80s Sylvester Stallone movie. The panel construction on each page affords Portela another opportunity to reinforce the strict conditions of Gulag 396 in the Stalinverse. Dalhouse excels in his use of colors as well, primarily in showcasing the conversations between Archer and Armstrong that emphasize each side with sharply contrasting reds and blues.
Divinity III: Escape from the Gulag #1 is a boss standalone issue that really taps into what makes Archer and Armstrong tick. The two characters are unlikely best friends and that relationship is on display in the book. Rahal succinctly captures everything that makes their bond so strong and manages to condense their entire history effectively into an alternate reality. Portela’s artwork is clean and presents the duo in a way that makes the reader believe that despite their physical wear from the gulag their mental states are as sharp as ever. Divinity III: Escape from the Gulag #1 is just a solid book all-around and a welcome read for fans of Archer and Armstrong.
Divinity III: Escape from the Gulag #1 is available now.