Indie Comics Spotlight: Vikings vs. Unicorns #1, Bruce Lee: The Dragon Rises #1, and Princeless Book 5: Make Yourself #1

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By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Vikings vs. Unicorns #1


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“Long ago, in a land far to the north, a horse sweetly grazes in a snow-covered field.”

The thing about mythical creatures is that they’re so ensconced in the legends surrounding them that they carry preconceived characteristics that may or may not be true. Vampires may or may not hate garlic. Leprechauns may or may not have a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Unicorns are typically viewed as majestic creatures full of hope and love, but Vikings vs. Unicorns #1 has a different take on them. The issue is written by Jim Tramontana and illustrated by KC Anderson.

You’ve heard of alternate histories? Well Vikings vs. Unicorns is an alternate mythology, recasting everyone’s favorite one-horned mythical icon of cuteness as a feral nightmare, endowed with immense powers and bent on destroying humanity. They are pitted against one of history’s traditional villains, the Vikings, who are recast as humanity’s grimly determined saviors. A whole lot of rainbow-colored blood is spattered across its opening pages and the fun just keeps raging on from there!

There’s always been a simmering fascination with unicorns and Vikings vs. Unicorns #1 taps into that fascination with a vengeance. Tramontana pits them against Vikings in a match that seems outlandish on paper (and it is), but it works within the scope of the series. The Vikings boast all the relevant characteristics that define them historically, as Tramontana doesn’t shy away from giving them plenty of anger and violent takes on situations. The issue is paced in a way that the reader gets to know the Vikings the most intimately while the unicorns are focused on just enough to set them up as a viable opponent. And Tramontana also ensures that there will be plenty of fireworks between the factions, as the ending of the issue is quite ominous in many regards.

The illustrations by Anderson are somewhat bare-bones, but they work really well for the story. His characters sport a sketched approach that grounds the book in a simplicity befitting of the Vikings at the center of the action. Even Anderson’s unicorns get in on the action, as they’re illustrated with as much ferocity as the Vikings themselves. Each page is outlined by a border replete with runes that further immerses the reader in the impending battle brewing between the two sides. The colors are also a great contrast between Vikings and unicorns, as Anderson illustrates the Vikings with expected reds and oranges in their beards while unicorns get the full sparkly rainbow treatment.

Vikings vs. Unicorns #1 seems like a superfluous pairing of two relics of the past, but it’s anything but that. The Vikings’ self-proclaimed place as kings of the world is about to get a big hit in the form of impending doom. Tramontana writes the issue with a very cavalier approach that ensure no part of the story will be confused as being anything more than frivolity. Anderson’s illustrations are clean and simple, effectively capturing the action well and throwing the two sides into the mix heartily. Vikings vs. Unicorns #1 is really a lot of fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Vikings vs. Unicorns #1 is available now via comiXology.

Bruce Lee: The Dragon Rises #1


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“You have got to be kidding me! I knew they couldn’t kill the dragon!”

Bruce Lee is a legendary fighter and star whose light went out way too soon. Many people still look to him and his style as something of an inspiration, but what if he were still around today? That’s a question that Bruce Lee: The Dragon Rises from Darby Pop Publishing seeks to answer. The issue is written by Shannon Lee and Jeff Kline, illustrated by Brandon McKinney, colored by Zac Atkinson, and lettered by Troy Peteri.

Bruce Lee never died. And he hasn’t aged. But, Bruce has no idea who he is or why so many “thugs” want a piece of him.

Readers going into Bruce Lee: The Dragon Rises will probably have no idea what they’re getting into, but fortunately Lee and Kline make things obvious from the start. The concept of Bruce Lee being cryogenically frozen and then awoken by a seemingly inept guard is somewhat comedic in its own right while also setting the lighthearted nature of the book. There’s a buddy cop aspect in pairing Bruce Lee up with Joe Toomey as well that Lee and Kline rely on to give Bruce Lee’s amnesia some more entertainment value. Lee and Kline further infuse the story with an all-ages appeal through the addition of the young students are helping him to find his way in a much different world. The dialogue adds plenty of levity to the story and keeps the pace moving along as well.

An all-ages book doesn’t work if the artwork is too grim and McKinney’s efforts are pretty perfect in terms of keeping things light. His style lends the issue a Saturday morning cartoon feel that further buoys the general good-nature of the characters and their interactions. Characters are the focus in all the panels as McKinney gives them plenty of attention as they stand out against relatively sparse backgrounds that are detailed enough to convey the setting. The panels range in terms of their layout, with McKinney going back and forth between more standard grids and some overlays/insets. Atkinson’s colors are bright and vivid, again contributing to the notion that the book is geared for readers of all-ages.

The premise behind Bruce Lee: The Dragon Rises is a little hokey, but it works. Bruce Lee is forced to learn more about his surroundings and the new world while also coming to terms with his reputation as one of the foremost martial arts experts in history. The premise of the story by Lee and Kline is sort of a buddy cop take that’s given a fun twist by mixing in someone like Bruce Lee. The illustrations by McKinney are clean and airy, reinforcing the notion that the story is meant to be enjoyed and not really overanalyzed. Bruce Lee: The Dragon Rises will appeal to readers of all ages and draws upon a pretty enjoyable twist on a legend.

Bruce Lee: The Dragon Rises is in stores now.

Princeless Book 5: Make Yourself #1


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“Boys. Why don’t boys ever listen?”

The damsel in distress trope is rapidly becoming less of such a trope these days. There are plenty of strong, female characters – many of whom aren’t shy about their ability to defend themselves. Adrienne from the Princeless series is one such character and her latest installment, Princeless Book 5: Make Yourself #1, is out from Action Lab Entertainment. The issue is written by Jeremy Whitley, illustrated by Emily Martin, and colored/lettered by Brett Grunig.

In the mountains of the outer rim of Ashland, there exists an elite group of female dwarves whose only purpose is to protect the dwarves from an attack by dragons. They are called the Dragon Slayers. And they just got word that there’s a dragon headed their way: a pink dragon with striped horns. They aim to bring it down.

Whitley decided to open up Princeless Book 5: Make Yourself #1 by focusing on Adrienne’s twin brother who’s trying to get home. Throwing Kira the werewolf into the mix to help him is interesting and things get even more interesting when Whitley mixes in a rival prince on a similar quest. Princeless has primarily been about the princesses of the kingdom so Whitley mixing those princes in for a more predominant role is effective at cleaning things up a bit in terms of plot. Adrienne and Bedelia definitely get their time to shine as well in a scenario that also gives Spark the dragon a new opponent to contend with in terms of the Dragon Slayers. There are two primary plot lines that are flowing throughout the issue and Whitley’s pacing gives each plenty of room to breathe.

Probably more than any other Princeless, the art style in Princeless Book 5: Make Yourself #1 feels the most fantastical. Martin gets a lot of room to play around with dwarves and their mountain abode, rendering a setting there that’s rife with dark chambers and plenty of rocky environs. It’s a pretty stark contrast to the scenes with the princes as Martin presents those scenes as much more open (and less claustrophobic) but with decidedly less detail. Generally speaking though, the characters maintain enough individual characteristics that they’re easily distinguishable from one another as Martin relies on bold lines to characterize each one. Grunig’s colors are a good fit for the book with the disparate groups sporting a variety of hues that range from bright pinks to darker browns.

Princeless Book 5: Make Yourself #1 is another entry in what continues to be a fun ongoing series. Adrienne and Bedelia are faced with another tough situation to work their way out of, but there is also a duo of princes who also need some help navigating their way. Whitley continues to explore the universe through a wide variety of characters, all of whom are fascinating in their own right. Martin’s illustrations are clean and simple, giving the reader a great look at the action in a way that maintains its all-ages appeal. Princeless Book 5: Make Yourself #1 features the same.

Princeless Book 5: Make Yourself #1 is in stores now.


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