Indie Comics Spotlight: Wild Rover, Black of Heart, Shadowland
by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)
Wild Rover Featuring the Sacrifice (One-Shot)
Dark Horse Presents is quickly becoming a great showcase of equally great new works. Michael Avon Oeming has cut his teeth once or twice in the anthology, with his short story debuting a while back. Now, Dark Horse is giving Oeming a bit more leeway in publishing Wild Rover Featuring the Sacrifice (One-Shot). “Wild Rover” is written and illustrated by Oeming and lettered by Aaron Walker, while “The Sacrifice” is written by Oeming, with art and lettering by Victor Santos.
Like his mother before him, Shane’s an alcoholic. But his family curse goes deeper than that–Shane needs to overcome the black magic at the heart of his addiction by killing a liquor demon if he hopes to reclaim his soul. It’s a black magic that has the power to dictate his actions and send him in directions that he shouldn’t be going. What follows in the remainder of the story is a battle with personal demons; a theme that’s carried over to the second story.
Oeming is clearly tapping into some of his own demons, something he mentioned in an interview last year. Shane’s woes are deeply rooted in an addiction to alcohol, something he’s a slave to at the behest of his mother. It manifests itself as a dark creature that controls his decision-making. He runs the gamut of self-destructive behaviors, wallowing in defeat and refusing to take steps to better himself. “Wild Rover” is a powerful story of addiction that conveys the depths of despair someone like Shane often falls into. He knowingly drinks and visits less than reputable locations and furthers himself into a downward spiral of self-loathing.
“The Sacrifice” is a bit more medieval than “Wild Rover.” It draws on some of the similar metaphors as the first story, with a young warrior braving a sea of blades in an attempt to draw the correct one. The trick is that he finds out doing good doesn’t always end well for the do-gooder. Sometimes people are urged to do something that is spun as being for a greater good, yet ends up less than so.
Oeming’s art in “Wild Rover” is dark and unnerving. There are sharp angles slicing through the pages and the visual representation of the monster is sufficiently terrifying, helping the reader better understand what Shane is actually going through. The art is as unforgiving as the subject matter, depicting a hateful being who despises both himself and those around him. Santos’ art on “The Sacrifice” is a lot different than Oeming’s on “Wild Rover,” but it fits the narrative very well. It’s fantasy oriented and just looks great, thrusting the reader in front of the tree of swords.
There’s honestly nothing not to like about Wild Rover Featuring the Sacrifice (One-Shot). Well, you could probably not like the fact that it’s a one-shot, but boy, what a one-shot. Oeming really taps into his life for the work and his pain bleeds through. Shane is both a detestable and sympathetic character, slave to his emotions and rash decisions. It’s a strong ride through one man’s personal battle against his inner demons.
Wild Rover Featuring the Sacrifice (One-Shot) is available now.
Black of Heart #1
Since its inception, New York City has always been a hotbed of criminal activity. The bad guys do whatever they want and the good guys do whatever they can to stop them. In Black of Heart #1 from Assailant Comics, the endless dance between the good and bad sides of the law takes another twist. The title is written by Chris Charlton, with art by David Hollenbach and letters by Brant W. Fowler.
The first chapter of the five-part miniseries sets the book in New York City, 1949. Detective Drake Harper is searching for a tortuous serial killer known as The Vulture, a monster with a penchant for abducting women for rather nefarious reasons. Meanwhile, Detective Harper has his own battles to deal with, including the press and a crumbling marriage.
Charlton’s work has criminal noir all over it. Detective Harper is a man who’s trying to do good, but it seems like everything in the city is conspiring against him. Despite his best efforts, the Vulture manages to continue racking up victims, instilling terror and fear in the citizens. The dialogue is pretty good at conveying the story. Harper’s life is about as harrowing as the case he’s investigating and it helps to humanize him as someone who believes in the law and will do what he can to uphold and defend it.
Hollenbach’s art is very stark and smoky. It’s all black and white, with a few splashes of red here and there for emphasis on certain aspects. Some of the hashing makes a few of the panels a little difficult to see exactly what’s going on, but the vagueness fits well with the tone of the case. The Vulture is sufficiently frightening and there’s two panels that show who it could possibly be in a very nice symmetrical way. If you like the pulp detective stories, then Black of Heart #1 will be exactly what you’re looking for. It may be set in 1949, but it feels a bit more modern than that for whatever reason. The story is paired well with the art and offers a rather stark look at serial crimes. It’s a five-parter and so far seems to be gearing up for something interesting and paced well.
Black of Heart #1 is available digitally now.
Waking up with a hangover comes with its own challenges. Usually a splitting headache, intense thirst and an inability to full remember what happened the night before. For most in that situation, the night was simply one of reverie disguised as a haze. In the case of Detective Ian Gates in Shadowland, things are a little more devilish. The title is written by Tobias Elmore and illustrated by Ken Bastard.
When Detective Ian Gates wakes up in the hospital he has a head wound and no memory of what’s happened to him. Despite that he wakes up a hero, the admiration of a terrified city raining down on him for apparently ending the lives of a pair of dangerous killers in the process of saving a young woman’s life. However, as the haze clears, bits and pieces of the night he landed in the hospital beginning to return, two things become frighteningly clear. He may not have been as much the rescuer as the one being rescued. And, whoever or whatever he was being rescued from was likely not human.
Elmore’s story is something of a mix between that of Flight and a Stephen King work. Detective Gates is a man who’s struggling with alcoholism, a pending divorce and an investigation that he just can quite resolve. It’s a tried and true formula when it comes to detectives and Gates fits the description pretty well. The bulk of the book is something of a whodunnit with a supernatural twist at the end, providing a reason for why Gates may have trouble remembering the night. The twist at the end feels a little unnecessary, despite it’s positioning as something grander that seems will dictate the direction of the narrative in future works.
Bastard’s art is all black and white with an emphasis on the blacks. Some of the facial close-ups look very detailed, whereas others look a little murkier. The art handles the fight sequences well, making sure the reader can keep up with everything going on. The lettering is a little tough to decipher though, mostly because of the font chosen and how much dialogue is there. There’s a lot of dialogue in the book crammed into the thought bubbles and there is some squinting necessary to make out what’s going on.
Shadowland is a cop book with a man trying to piece together both his previous night and a case. He’s sacrificed a lot for his trade and the results aren’t quite what he was expecting. It’s an interesting book that blends black and white illustrations with a ton of dialogue. There’s a foundation for further exploring the universe and future issues would do well to reduce the dialogue to unclutter the pages of lettering.
Shadowland is available now.