Indie Spotlight: March 2005

[From the ridiculous to the random to the superb, a quick roundup of notable indie comics (aka, not Marvel or DC proper, though Vertigo, Icon, Image, et al, do qualify) I picked up in the past month. Release dates may vary.]

Lullaby #1 (Written by Mike S. Miller and Ben Avery, Created/Art by Hector Sevilla, Colors by Simon Bork, David Curiel and Ulises Arreola; Image Comics, $2.95) is an intriguing, visually appealing, all ages romp through a fairy tale land that is simultaneously fresh and familiar. Writers Miller and Avery do a relatively nice job bringing Sevilla’s concept to life, introducing the two main characters, Alice and Jim Hawkins, but badly botching the transition between their stories while establishing a vague, confusing timeline of events. Alice is up first, a young girl mysteriously thrown into a fantastic kingdom where she’s forced to fend for herself, rising to the esteemed position of “Hand of the Queen.” The Queen of Hearts, specifically. Memories of her previous life torment her, however, and she sets off on a quest to figure it all out. Meanwhile, young Jim Hawkins is a pirate without a ship, but with “a one-legged parrot and a little wooden boy” as partners, not to mention a bizarre shark-headed sword. At Pinocchio’s behest, Jim and company set off to see the Wizard, hoping to help his wooden friend become human again. Separately, each story is fun and well-told, but the crucial segue that connects them is awkwardly handled, as if two issues were edited into one at the last minute. Nevertheless, the individual parts are appealing enough to overlook the minor flaws in the whole. I’ll definitely be picking up #2 whenever it comes out.

The Grimoire #1 (Written by Sebastian Caisse, Penciled by Djief, Colors by Kneff, Lettered by Hawke Studios; Speakeasy Comics, $2.99) is sort of the Marcia Brady of the new Speakeasy Comics lineup. While Atomika got the big promotional push and Alex Ross cover, The Grimoire hit comics shops the same week, flying in under the radar. Perhaps recognizing the exaggerated need for an indie title to grab readers immediately, Caisse eschews the standard origin story and jumps right into the action as his protagonist, Amandine, and her raccoon partner, Chai, are on the run. Magic, minotaurs and harpies fly across the page and we’re halfway into the issue before an explanation is even attempted, and when it finally is, it’s an intriguing setup that piqued my interest. Djief has a nice clean style and uses varied layouts, while Kness’ colors work well with the shifting locations. The lettering is problematic, though, smaller than necessary at times for no apparent reason. Overall, a promising debut that manages to outshine its more heavily promoted sister title.

damn nation #2 (Created/Written by Andrew Cosby, Art by J. Alexander, Letters by Clem Robins; Dark Horse Comics, $2.99) packs a lot of action and plot development into its 26 pages of story, including a few effective splash pages that artist J. Alexander makes excellent use of. He’s also lightened the overall tone a bit, a problem in the first issue, making his characters and their surroundings a bit clearer and easier to discern. Writer Andrew Cosby amps up the tension and intrigue, teasing the true nature of the plague that has left America abandoned, its borders sealed to keep anyone, or thing, from escaping, while throwing in a couple of plot twists that still have me wondering how he’ll be able to wrap things up with only one more issue. If this is simply a prelude to a larger story, I’m hoping they get the chance to tell more of it. If not, I’ll be more than happy with the summer blockbuster ending this issue hints at.

Elk’s Run #1 (Created/Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov, Art by Noel Tuazon, Colors by Scott A. Keating; Hoarse and Buggy Productions, $3.00), if you haven’t been following along the past couple of weeks, is a great debut issue of a promising series with a simple premise: something’s not right in the town of Elk’s Ridge, VA. Simultaneously evoking aspects of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and Stephen King’s “The Body,” with a slight touch of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, writer Joshua Hale Fialkov sets an ominous tone as we’re introduced to the town through the eyes of one of its teenaged residents, a town no one seems able to leave, whether they want to or not. When someone does try to escape, his actions have dire consequences and things take a turn for the worst. While it’s mostly setup, it’s effectively done as Fialkov focuses on developing his characters with subtle touches, letting the plot lurk in the background where it belongs. I’ve previously compared Noel Tuazon’s art here to Michael Lark’s but, now having seen the issue in print, I’d say he’s more of a Craig Thompson, excelling at making the ordinary interesting and distinctive. Combined with Scott A. Keating’s muted coloring, it perfectly complements Fialkov’s story. If you’re looking for something different, look no further. (And, if you haven’t picked it up yet, enter our contest to win one of two free copies!)

Alan Moore’s Hypothetical Lizard #2 (Created/Story by Alan Moore, Sequential Adaptation by Antony Johnson, Artwork by Sebastian Fiumara; Avatar Press, $3.50) is the second installment in the “sequential adaptation” of Moore’s novella, an eccentric tale of wizards and magic that takes place in the City of Luck in the House Without Clocks. “Eccentric” meaning weird, but oddly compelling. Honestly, two issues in and I still don’t know what I think about it as it reads more like an illustrated story as opposed to a traditional comic book; a graphic novel in the most literal sense that is probably not best served by the serial format. WARNING: Reading this immediately after a spandex and capes book might make you feel really dumb!

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