Indie Comics Spotlight: Wytches, Dead Squad, AvP: Fire and Strong

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By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)
Wytches #1

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“Pledged is pledged.”

Proving witchcraft can be done in a variety of ways. If they can cast magic, they may be a witch. If they’re dressed like a witch, they may be a witch. If you can build a bridge out of them (being made of wood and all), they may be a witch. If they tap into a deep connection with nature to get trees to come to life and pull people in? Really most likely a witch. Witch stories are always fascinating and Image Comics runs with that notion in Wytches #1. The issue is written by Scott Snyder, illustrated by Jock, colored by Matt Hollingsworth, and lettered by Clem Robins.

Across the globe, century after century, men and women were burned, drowned, hanged, tortured, imprisoned, persecuted, and murdered for witchcraft. None of them were witches. They died protecting a terrible and hidden truth: witches – real witches – are out there. They are ancient, elusive, and deadly creatures that are rarely seen and even more rarely survived. Yet somehow, despite all the opposition, they persevere and tend to make their way into modern society, prompting some like Sail Rooks to question her own sanity.

Snyder is certainly no stranger to writing fantastic books and Wytches #1 is certainly no exception. There’s a tautness to the script that feels exceptional and appropriate for the somewhat mysterious nature surrounding witchcraft. That tension comes through in the extremely deliberate pacing of the story, with Snyder giving the reader bread crumbs as to what the overarching presence of witches in society causes. Snyder imbues the book with plenty of eeriness through both a historic perspective and the eyes of Sail herself, as her confrontation with a bully ended inexplicably. Sail is positioned as almost an innocent bystander when it comes to potential witchcraft, as her parents clearly know a lot more than they let on to her when she’s nervous.

For a book like Wytches #1, the art has to fit and boy, does Jock do a brilliant job. Characters are extremely well-defined and expressive, masterfully capturing the emotion pervasive at that point in the story. Jock adds subtle touches to the look that showcases a certain depravity in every scene; even those in Sail’s school feel as if something bad could happen at any moment. The entire issue just feels angry for some reason, courtesy of Jock’s ability to present pages with intensity. That intensity is emboldened by Hollingsworth’s coloring, which feels scratchy in many parts of the book and fits with the narrative beautifully.

Wytches #1 is an amazing first issue that hits all the right notes. It’s got an abundance of fantastic things going for it and is definitively starting a bold series that doesn’t seem as if it will stay away from venturing into very dark places. Snyder’s story is haunting, offering a character in Sail who will resonate with readers in that both will largely stumble upon the truth of her world together. Jock’s work is worthy of being displayed outside of the comic, but within the context of the story it fits very well. Wytches #1 is a fantastic start to a chilling new series that taps into a cultural mythos surrounding witchcraft and spins a modern yarn out of it. Anyone who reads Wytches #1 will quickly admit that the book is phenomenal.

Wytches #1 is in stores now.


Dead Squad #1

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“I’m good if you’re good.”

A Delta Force team is very proficient at what they’ve been trained to do and that is to kill with impunity. Of course, the targets of those kills should be politically vetted in some sense, but regardless of the parameters of the operation, it requires the members of the organization to make a lot of enemies. Some enemies who may want them dead, not realizing they may be able to come back. That’s the situation in Dead Squad #1 from IDW/Darby Pop. The issue is written by Matthew Federman and Stephen Scaia, layouts by Kirk Van Wormer, penciled by Michael Montenat, colored by Douglas A. Sirois, and lettered by Troy Peteri.

Three highly-trained Delta Force Operators (Hooper, Blake, and Shane) embark on a high-stakes mission to obtain a mysterious serum. But when they are betrayed by one of their own, securing the drug immediately becomes a matter of life, death, and their own resurrection. Since Delta Force is involved, there’s also plenty of action and intrigue, all of it coming together for mayhem.

Convincing a reader to believe the characters involved in a story is always a tall order, but Federman and Scaia present the main trio in the middle of a mission. It’s clear to the reader that this isn’t their first mission, which automatically instills in the reader some sense of grounding as far as the abilities of the operatives go. The action for most of the book is fast and furious, enhancing their reputation as players who can get dangerous missions done. Because there’s so much action up front, the pacing flies along, rushing the reader to the ending for what’s the set-up for the rest of the series. There’s a hint of supernatural in the book (which the title should have alerted you to) and it’ll be interesting to see how Federman and Scaia explain that twist.

Considering how much of the issue the “action” scene takes up, Montenat does a great job penciling all aspects of it. Van Wormer laid out a pretty intricate scene rife with motorcycles, highway chases, car explosions, and some gunplay for good measure. Characters are easily distinguishable despite all the chaos, even if there is relatively little in the way of detail in the expressions. Sirois’ colors skew a little dark, making some of the action a little difficult to follow because of the choice. Overall though, the art matches the action very well, keeping up and giving the reader plenty to grab hold of visually.

Dead Squad #1 is pretty much exactly what the title sounds like: a group of soldiers find themselves on the other side of life and are brought back to life through some strange quirk in science. That’s the real plot behind the comic, but the first issue spends a lot of time riding along with the carnage to give the readers a glimpse into their lives. Federman and Scaia have grand ambitions for the main characters and that’s very clear by the end of the issue. Montenat’s illustrations capture all of the action effectively and concisely, ensuring the reader doesn’t really miss a beat. Dead Squad #1 takes some interesting liberties with the tried and true military themes, giving readers a glimpse into the undead.

Dead Squad #1 is in stores now.


Alien Vs. Predator: Fire and Stone #1

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“Please don’t be difficult. As much as I’d like to hurt you, I need you alive.”

If Predator has taught us anything, it’s that if it bleeds you can kill it. The difficult part is getting close enough to one of the hunters in order to even injure them. The Xenomorphs have a way about them that makes them more than capable of dealing such blows, but humans tend to get in the way. Dark Horse throws all three into the mix in Alien Vs. Predator: Fire and Stone #1. The issue is written by Christopher Sebela, illustrated by Ariel Olivetti, and lettered by Nate Piekos.

Dozens of light years from Earth in the outer rings of the Zeta 2 Reticuli System, the fractured Geryon Armada (featuring Perses) limps away from the horrific events on the mysterious LV-223 – the resting place of the ruined Prometheus and home to a vicious Xenomorph horde. Meanwhile, in a neighboring star system, a brutal race of alien hunters participates in an ancient and primal tradition, but their endless search for new and deadlier prey could result in chaos beyond measure.

Galgo and Francis are the two central characters in Alien Vs. Predator: Fire and Stone #1, with the latter the object of many affections so to speak. Sebela relies on that dynamic to carry the issue, using both characters as effective catalysts for the events to unfold very cleanly. And Sebela’s pacing is spot on, with the slower parts of the stories effectively getting the plot across, while the faster paced points get frenetic in a hurry. Blending the worlds of Alien and Predator together is something that makes a lot of sense and Sebela brings it all together pretty solidly, with the Predators biding their time amidst the chaos. It’s a smart plot device that really gets the action simmering.

Olivetti gives Alien Vs. Predator: Fire and Stone #1 a painted feel to it. This gives the proceedings a rather simple look that still manages to pack a lot of emotion into the characters and their reactions. The perverted android Elden looks pretty sinister; Galgo and Francis play their parts and the Predators look appropriately calculating. Olivetti relies on a slew of panel arrangements and insets that keeps with the crazy pace of the action, but at times it does feel a little overwhelming. There’s also an interesting contrast between empty gutters and using the page to fill them in, which keeps the issue looking fresh.

Alien Vs. Predator: Fire and Stone #1 has everything you’d want from a book blending together the two franchises. While the Predators don’t exactly get top-billing, that’s because their nature is to hide in the shadows until it’s time to strike. Sebela’s script features a steady plot that draws upon familiarities with the universe and is positioning the characters for some tough decisions. Artistically, Olivetti uses a somewhat non-traditional style that feels very fitting for the content of the book. Alien Vs. Predator: Fire and Stone #1 has got something that fans of both franchises will like and is another strong entry in the Fire and Stone saga.

Alien Vs. Predator: Fire and Stone #1 is in stores now.


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