Comics in Color Week 6: Horror in the Hood Editon

Once again it’s on Comics in Color. Week 6 is in full effect and this time I’m bringing you something from the darker side of the street. Here cosmic terror looms just beyond concrete in the ghetto of the mind, where killers come back to catch bodies from beyond the grave and madness lurks in every alleyway. Tonight, folks, we’re bringing you Comics in Color: Horror in the Hood Edition

Diskordia: Feels like Falling #1

(Andrew Blackman) 3.5 stars This story starts with our main character, Jackal — a strange youth with odd dreadlocks and a callous deanor — purchasing a prescription from his local street pharmacist. These meds will serve to quiet the “chicken voices” in his head which are playing like the music to the background of his thoughts. After the obligatory beat down from school bullies that comes with the dyed hair and plaid pants life, he alienates a young woman named Penelope who attpts to be a balm in his strange world of narcotics and routine bullying. After insulting his way up the school’s chain of command, Jackal takes a much-needed trip to the bathroom, where he is confronted by a strange young woman and becomes privy to a murder. After that a number of strange occurrences lead him to an island on a sea of blood ruled by a naked girl with an octopus on her head, thus concluding issue one.

I appreciate this comic’s attempt at psychological horror on a wide scale, where the audience is led to question the protagonist’s sanity but can’t discount the idea that the mindbending events he may have experienced have led him to his starting point in the story. I loved that Jackal was British among American teenagers but never seemed out of place. His “crazy guy” dialogue with his tormentors, as well as his narration of the scenario,  was priceless. While the art worked well enough for the story, it could have been better, or at least more polished in certain sections; for example, Jackal’s opening sequence with Squid Girl looked fine, but as the walls of reality began to crumble in the later portions, the art quality seed to wane a bit.

I’ll admit that the scariest portion of the story is imagining yourself in Jackal’s position, losing your sanity — something I myself have feared for a long time. The murder was less terrifying and the other scary tropes only seed to serve as a larger indicator for mental decay. I enjoyed  this comic and will enjoy seeing what becomes of our main characters and their minds in future stories. You can pick Diskordia up at Comixology.


Leave on the Light  #1 

(Bradley Golden / Tolen Tino /  Chris Allen) 3.5 stars I’ve been reading Second Sight Comics for several months, since I found out their main genre was horror. Some of their titles need work in the art department but they always se to craft pretty terrifying scenarios.

Leave on the Light #1 starts out with a little girl and her mother being butchered by a large man with tattoos, then jumps to Detective Marshall who has encountered this style of brutal murder before. The killer was executed months prior, so either there is a copycat killer or the original is killing from beyond the grave. The last panel of this issue is a cliffhanger, to be sure, and unlike in some horror stories where we know that several people are off the chopping block, everyone might be fair game here. This is the best installment I have read by Second Sight since I discovered them. The art is crisp, professional and scary, while the tone rinded me of True Detective meets Homicide: Life on the Street. That’s a tone which was set perfectly by the characters’ no-nonsense and on-edge dialogue.

The only problem I have with this comic is the pacing, I feel things could have been worked a little slower so we could get a feel for Marshall’s history and why a seemingly hardboiled cop would be so shaken by the type of murder he’s seen before. Our ghostly killer looks frightening enough but a little too much like what people would make up as the description for a serial killer of this kind instead of something new and innovative. That brings me to the last problem I have with this issue. If the killer’s face had not been shown, the horror element of the story could be drawn out further; therefore, it could be anyone and thus would be unknown. Using this technique, the story may have taken on a more sinister and frightening turn in a medium where it’s hard to frighten people.

The last page left me in a state of suspense since it’s not clear which characters are important to story progression, besides Marshall himself. Issue two of this needs to be out soon so I can find out who gets butchered next. Check out Second Sight Studios for more details on its release.

Comics in Color Week 6: Sword and Soul Edition

Welcome back to the world of vibrant hues, where comic books are strewn with a myriad of shades and gradients. Where our protagonist is more likely to have a fresh high top fade as opposed to flowing golden hair.

Welcome to a world where fur- and leather-clad warriors of the north are replaced with smooth southern soldiers wearing colorful flowing robes. This is comics in color fam and this week we explore the fantasy realms with a slightly darker shade in the Sword and Soul edition.

Dusu #1

(Sebastian A. Jones & Christopher Garner /  James C. Webster / Joshua Cozine)

4 stars

When I was a yougin I would wake up early on Sundays to catch Conan: The Adventurer, a cartoon chronicling the adventures of the Hyperborean hero as a young man. I loved watching hours of sword and sorcery action and adventure, so when I picked up Dusu it was as if someone had hit the reset button on my childhood love of fantastic realms.

Dusu is the story of a young man of the same name, who was found by the Galemren, an elven tribe that shares characteristics with various nomadic tribes in Africa. He is a human and as such isn’t really welcomed  by many of the fair folk. But the shepherd God Powisienne, deity of these particular elves, has marked our boy Dusu as a major player in the coming future. This doesn’t stop his adopted brother Waso from trying to embarrass or kill him every chance he gets. Things get interesting when Dusu claims the life of an attacking wolf, thus provoking the ire of the Lord of Wolves — who has long been insane. The end of this issue introduces a new direction to Dusu’s life, one that was inevitable but also unexpected and leaves his future uncertain.

I enjoyed quite a bit about this comic. I was finally seeing a high fantasy comic where the people of color weren’t disfigured and diseased orcs. Jones, Garner and Webster also took into account that the customs and traditions of various non-European cultures make for great mythbuilding.

The most noticeable success of this comic is the art. Stranger Comics as a company has prided itself on its beautifully painted fantasy work in the vein of Frazetta and Kelly. From the glowing rituals of the Galemren to the exhilarating hunt of Dusu and his brothers, this comic is something to behold. I will most definitely be doing a review of this series in the future so keep your eyes peeled and pick up a copy at Stranger Comics


The Untamed: A Sinner’s Prayer #1

(Sebastian A. Jones / Peter Bergting / Troy Peteri)

3.5 stars

Our second trip takes us to another section of Stranger Comics, where we accompany The Stranger on a boat ride from beyond the veil. As he travels to the town of Oasis, we learn that he was once not only a citizen but the town’s ruler, commanding Oasis with an iron fist at first, but his wife and daughter began to soften his heart. This did not stay the hand of those remembering his cruelty, nor stop them from butchering his family. Now back from a shallow grave, he travels to the town with only seven days left to finish his business and collect seven souls to grant his freedom, or be pursued by a mysterious warden.

Here we have another link in the chain of a world called Asunda. Sebastian Jones flies solo on this mystery, weaving what looks to be a blood-soaked tale of revenge – a story that may play into a wider world event.

The thing I like about this comic is the show of callousness of the main character. This isn’t some plucky hero with quick wit and a heart of gold. This is a bastard who has had the few good parts of him slaughtered. As soon as he enters the town, he sees a man is getting strung up simply for wanting to leave. Instead of helping him, our man ignores the ple’s of the man’s sister and asks the executioners for the location of his quarry, the Blacksmith, whom he then beheads.

The art, as with all Stranger Comics, is superb — with a perfect blend of shadow and silhouette that sets the tone. There is a also a cameo from another character, who seems to be either featured or mentioned in two other books in the world of Asunda, which was a nice treat.

My only problem with the book was that it seemed too brief. I felt like there was more that could have been shown without giving too much of the story away. I also would have liked to have seen a little bit more connection between the town of Oasis and any other outside territories — maybe a map to give us perspective. But as this seems to be the first book in the universe, that defect can be overlooked.  

This book seems to be the linchpin to the Asunda universe, as the Stranger is mentioned in Dusu as well. If that means that this signifies the beginning of crossovers and the like, well I do love good world-building.

You also can pick this comic up at Stranger Comics

 

Comics in Color week 5: Teenage Wasteland edition

Hey folks and welcome once again to the show that never ends. This week I have two comics which I hope will catch your eye and your sense of nostalgia wiith stories about super-secret teenage spies and bullied high schoolers with god like powers. Prepare for action, adventure and a whole lotta angst this week.

Ajala #1

(Robert Garrett / N. Steven Harris / Beni Olea / Brian McGee)

 3.5 stars

Ajala is the story of a teenage girl who was drafted into the CSC, or Community Spirit Center, after discovering her mother’s involvement in the organization.

The CSC trains special operatives to uphold the protection, prosperity and growth of low-income neighborhoods, mainly where people of color are concerned. After carelessness during a routine patrol leads her to get a black eye, Ajala attempts to convince her parents on the virtues of not going to school with a shiner. After losing that battle, she heads to school sporting a nice pair of Ray-Bans as rumors fly about what actually happened to her. We meet several of her friends just as they are all confronted by two young ladies who may prove to be major or minor foils, based on events that happen just before the issue ends.

The casual tone of this comic made it an easy and enjoyable read from Robert Garrett. Ajala’s thoughts,communicated as conversations with her parents and as her narration during the fight were smooth and organic. Our girl has personality in spades,  which I why I was a bit let down that very little happened in this issue. It feels more like a primer than a full first issue. I would have loved to see more of Ajala’s skills and possibly some of the larger threats that the CSC as a whole might face. If there had been more of that,  this would’ve felt like a fuller issue.

N. Steven Harris’ art, as always, is superb — with great, polished linework befitting of this veteran artist. Olea and McGee do a great job of creating beautiful color tones, which add a bright quality without being loud and off putting. I really appreciated the organic quality of storytelling and dialogue in this issue, I believed that Ajala was a teenage girl going through the stages of life while attempting to honor her mother’s legacy.

I’m looking forward to seeing more of our plucky heroine. You can pick up this comic in digital format here or in print here.


Route 3

(Robert Jeffery II /  Sean Damien Hill / Ann Siri / Khari J. Samson)

 3.5

Being a nerd in high school is never looked well upon, especially if you’re a black teenager who is expected to be cool, stylish and charming. Sean Anderson is one such teen. Along with being mocked, Sean also has to deal with recent passing of his mother, who was the only person who actually embraced his love of nerd culture. Now living with his stern father and confrontational older brother, Sean has adopted apathy as a defense mechanism. This threatens to alienate him from even his best friend Ricardo, but also seems to afford him a date with the equally nerdy Samantha.

Sean, however, has a strange destiny — one illustrated in the opening pages of Route 3 — a destiny to be wrought with power and violence. All of this starts when a hit is placed on his head for reasons unknown — at least for the moment — but those reasons will nonetheless change the face of his world indefinitely.

I enjoyed a number of things about this comic, mainly the issue of nerdiness or awkwardness and its opposition to the idea of what is considered black behavior. It also resonates with me on the issues of losing a parent early as I myself recently lost my father, and can relate to Sean’s apathy toward the world and anger at his own feelings towards the event.

The art, while leaving something to be desired, captures expression expertly. I can see the anger and anguish in Sean’s face when he talks to Ricardo about losing his mother, I believe it. So even though this is not Marvel Now level art but it does a good job of storytelling.

What I would have like to see more of is how Sean’s peers react to him directly as opposed to indirectly as concerns his personality. I want more of this Sean Anderson who seems like a better version of Miles Morales — in that his personality seems more developed in one issue that Miles’ is in three years–  and heir to Virgil Hawkins aka Static in terms of mannerism.

You can pick up your copy here.