Indie Comics Spotlight: Tooth and Claw, Cinderella, Bulletproof Chicken

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By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)



Tooth and Claw #1

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“Magic is failing.”

Even if you’re lucky enough to live in a society advanced to the point where there’s some form of government and civility, if your world is based on magic, you might be in trouble when it runs out. Doing whatever you can to recapture that magic then becomes paramount. Sometimes, though, the risks may outweigh the benefits, as in Tooth and Claw #1 from Image Comics. The issue is written by Kurt Busiek, illustrated by Benjamin Dewey, colored by Jordie Bellaire, and lettered by John Roshell and Jimmy Betancourt of Comicraft.

Keneil is one of the Seventeen Cities above the plane. It’s a city teeming with wonder, talking animals, and flying ships. It’s here that the city’s inhabitants are coming to a startling conclusion: the magic they’ve long depended on to live is rapidly failing. This incites Gharta the Seeker to bring a champion back through time via opening the Gates of Magic, which will replenish the aforementioned fading magic. It’s not until the plan is deemed blasphemous do Gharta and a secret conclave of wizards bring the champion back through time to save the world, with disastrous consequences.

With the astounding popularity of Game of Thrones (that doesn’t seem likely to relent anytime soon), there’s a fervor for fantasy tales and Tooth and Claw #1 is certainly no exception. Such tales that hinge on the return of a long lost magic are certainly out there, but Busiek’s decision to make all the characters animals is what gives the book that extra magical oomph. They have a way of life they’re clinging to, despite the fact that their reliance on magic could very well be their downfall. Busiek’s conveying of that message through an almost “damned if they do, damned if they don’t” ultimatum of sorts further underscores their predicament. In this sense, they can do nothing and likely die or they can risk everything, use what magic they have left, and try to stave off death a little longer.

Presenting anthropomorphized characters is always a tall order, yet Dewey handles it well. His interpretations of dogs, warthogs, and wild cats, for instance, all maintain some semblance of their natural appearance. Dewey’s ability to not let familiar human emotions overtake is commendable, as it keeps the work very much grounded in fantasy. His attention to detail throughout is equally impressive, as he’s created a very robust world rife with very articulate finishes in the architecture and clothing of the characters. Bellaire’s work on colors keeps in line with her reputation as one of the best, as she relies on a wide swath of hues to emphasize various events in the issue.

Tooth and Claw #1 is a very fascinating, double-sized first issue that is steeped in its own history. The concept of risking much to save the world isn’t exactly new, but featuring animals as the sorcerers making the decisions to risk that is compelling. Busiek’s work is very meticulous and shows a great commitment to making the world in Tooth and Claw #1 as filled out as possible. Realizing the breadth of the world is furthered by Dewey’s stunning visuals, showcasing an incredible level of care in his work that really makes the characters feel like more than just cats and dogs. Tooth and Claw #1 is a very good first issue that promises a lot of fantasy exploration in future issues and movement on the storyline introduced at the end of the first issue with quite the bang.

Tooth and Claw #1 is in stores now.



Cinderella #1

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“Okay, I know I look crazy here, but I pinky swear…I know what I’m doing.”

It’s a good bet that even if you don’t have one, you know that a glass slipper probably isn’t the most comfortable footwear to make your way around in. Cinderella used it as a means of finding her soul mate, but that’s really about all it’s good for. Cinderella herself still shows some resolve in wearing it, even if she doesn’t wear it in Cinderella #1 from Zenescope and instead, shows resolve of a different sort. The issue is written by Pat Shand, illustrated by Ryan Best, colored by Renato Guerra, and lettered by Jim Campbell.

In the aftermath of Realm War, Earth has been devastated by the convergence of Oz, Wonderland, Neverland, and Myst. That event wiped out every god save for Hades, who’s now a target for the Dark Queen. She tasks that assassination with Cinderella (Cindy as her friends call her), a somewhat sociopathic sorority girl who isn’t really liked by those around her. Using three special items, she’s out to prove that she can be the killer the Dark Queen needs, proving everyone else wrong in the process.

Zenescope has put a lot of faith in Shand, entrusting him to be the prevailing architect of the entire universe. That offers the works a lot in the way of continuity and makes him a pretty good choice to introduce Cinderella to readers. Shand pitches her as unhinged, imbuing her with a lot of Harley Quinn and capitalizing on that recklessness to make the book feel lighter in tone. Most of the Zenescope universe has been hurtling towards mass destruction, so offering a take in the aftermath that’s a lot more comedic is a welcome change that reminds readers of the levity in the universe. Cinderella needs to be validated by those around her, even though she’s very high up in Dark Queen’s food chain, which is refreshing as she’s clearly a flawed protagonist.

Cinderella #1 bears a look by Best that fits right in with the Zenescope universe. Characters like the Dark Queen and Malec are already familiar to readers and Best maintains that recognizable look well and preserves a level of continuity. Cinderella’s fabled blonde hair is on full display, accompanied by the typically vivacious and over-exaggerated physique that readers expect from Zenescope books. The finish of the illustrations feels shiny and Guerra’s colors are fairly even and showcase some sense of being washed out at points (in a way that works). There are some solid, full-panel illustrations peppered throughout the book as well that give readers a glimpse into the more sadistic aspects of Cinderella’s mind.

Cinderella #1 is an entertaining entry in Zenescope’s massive crossover that actually holds its own as a standalone issue. Sure, it helps to be aware of the Realm War event and its consequences, as it will give Cinderella’s decisions more context, but it’s not required reading at all. Shand’s got a very good feel for characters and events in the Zenescope universe, embodying Cinderella with a lot of flair for the dramatic and a wild unpredictability. Best’s illustrations fit the Zenescope style, yet still manage to feel unique and further liven up the already zany story. Cinderella #1 is actually a lot of fun and worth checking out for a slightly demented take on a very familiar character.

Cinderella #1 is in stores now.



Bulletproof Chicken: Chicken Nuggets

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“Half of his arrests are dead bodies.”

Among all the inevitable uprisings slated to subvert humanity, animals doing it is pretty low on the list. If (and when?) they do rise up and enslave humanity, it’s hoped that they’ll manage some form of civility in society with crimes punished and enforced. In that case, you’ll need a character like Bulletproof Chicken, whose latest exploits are on display in Bulletproof Chicken: Chicken Nuggets from King Bone Press.

Bulletproof Chicken: Chicken Nuggets is comprised of five short stories. “Bulletproof Chicken 2” is written by Mat Nixon and Jon Westhoff, illustrated by Nixon, colored by Bobgar Ornelas, Timothy O’Briant, and Sean Fagan, and lettered by Westhoff; “Before Bulletproof” is written and lettered by Jon Westhoff and illustrated by Bobgar Ornelas; “BPC: XXX” is written and lettered by Westhoff and illustrated by John M. Lennon; “Bulletproof Chicken in Space” is written and lettered by Westhoff and illustrated by Ray Wegner; and “Previously, in History” is written, illustrated, and lettered by Ornelas.

“Before Bulletproof 2” is essentially Robocop with a chicken, fighting corruption within his organization. “Before Bulletproof” is a throwback of sorts to his life before fighting crime, when he was a tough-as-nails ring fighter. “Chicken XXX” is a pretty short look at why prostitution isn’t exactly the best profession in the world. “Bulletproof Chicken in Space” takes a look at a galactic civilization’s nearness to downfall. Finally, “Previously, in History” is a look way, way back to what is presumably Bulletproof Chicken’s ancestors exhibiting the same grittiness the modern day version exudes.

If there’s a common thread across all stories, it’s Bulletproof Chicken. The character is equal parts Lethal Weapon Mel Gibson and Rambo Sylvester Stallone, clearly evoking that era of action-adventure films. Those characteristics are pervasive throughout each of the stories, even if they transcend time (and space) and present the character in many various lights. The dialogue in each taps into that machismo very bluntly, presenting the reader with stories that are anything but friendly. “BPC: XXX” probably sums up the character most succinctly, as he inhabits a world rife with crime, yet he manages to maintain something that resembles a legal precedent.

Much of the artwork in Bulletproof Chicken: Chicken Nuggets relies on a certain crudeness. The relatively simple illustrations maintain the grittiness of the character and his world, but there does seem to be something an incomplete feeling to the look. Many of the characters seem to have been illustrated rather quickly and come across as more preliminary sketches than anything else. Additionally, there’s little in the way of background detail, with characters essentially acting amidst rather empty backdrops. The pulpy finish of the work lends itself well to the hard-boiled aspect of the character and work.

Bulletproof Chicken: Chicken Nuggets is an anthology that dabbles more in ridiculousness than anything else. Bulletproof Chicken is an amalgamation of multiple 80s action-adventure films where the main character is so macho that crying is punishable by death. All of the stories maintain Bulletproof Chicken’s persona despite the varied situations he’s thrown in the middle of. From an art standpoint, the work is largely simple and lacking much in the way of detail, while still maintaining some consistency across stories. Bulletproof Chicken: Chicken Nuggets reads pretty quickly and features more stories from a character who upholds the law no matter the cost to himself or those around him.

Bulletproof Chicken: Chicken Nuggets is available now


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