VAULT COMICS Justin Richards – Val Halvorson – Rebecca Nalty – Taylor Esposito
Remember when you were anticipating pretty much every new series that IMAGE was putting out because they’d hit such a hot streak of quality (or Vertigo/Valiant’s relaunch for that matter)? Well this is where we stand with Vault Comics. While not every title they’ve released will appeal to everyone by virtue of subject matter there is an undeniable aspect to every Vault book. The quality is astounding. Next up for the publisher is Finger Guns and, just as all of its brothers and sisters in the Vault library have done, it brings quality comic booking to us readers.
The direction of Finger Guns follows suit with Vault’s approach of unabashedly forcing the comic medium to better in all fronts. Publishers, creators, and readers alike all need to be able to tackle true to life issues without being preachy, or afraid to address reality. This is what we’ve got with FG. The opening of the book does just this and does so with hardly a single line of dialogue. The ego (or lack of) of the teen ages is perfectly summized here. It’s actually a very nice juxtaposition with the more mature take that the book has as a whole. Emotional complexity is an inherent aspect of life. Our demeanor and actions carry the weight of this complexity. They also affect those around us. Simply put, this is the context of Finger Guns. What I love about the presentation of the idea is the childish (in both age and maturity meanings) symbolism of the finger gun itself. Harmless games and fun times by children generation after generation include some version of a finger gun. The ignorance of age (not stupidity) may not be better represented than with the finger gun motion/act. There is a wonderful innocence when the true implication of something simply isn’t known. Unfortunately time, age, and knowledge end up corrupting the pure being we all start out as. We see that in Wes. One of the two main characters, Wes doesn’t come from a good place. Emotionally deprived and generally neglected overall he finds that his finger gun has a bad side effect. What has to be from projection, the targets of his aim end up with an unexplainable rage for a truncated time. Point – Click – Pissed. Just like that. I say projection because he literally walks about town firing off his newfound piss people off bullets. Of course the complexity of human emotion wouldn’t let things be this easy for Wes. An outlet for his emotional trauma it may be his weapon of anger and frustration won’t be unchecked. Instead he encounters Sade. At least on the onset it’s a Yin – Yang situation. Like Wes she’s got fingers that fire. With her though people are subdued and washed over with calm.
Themes aplenty run through this book. Emotional manipulation, how we cope with emotional trauma, the inter and intrapersonal choices we make, and how we view the world through our emotional spectrum are just a few themes that jump off the page. The commonality Wes and Sade have can either endear themselves to one another or drive an unscalable wall between them. It’s that emotional complexity thing again. Wes’ situation has caused him to internalize everything and lash out. Sade has chosen to seek out what she can’t get with her situation. As this series develops I wouldn’t be surprised to see new levels of anger, jealousy, spitefulness and a few other emotions rear their heads.
Visually Finger Guns accentuates the premise it is fielding. Not literally black and white, the heavily two toned approach more than gets across the intent. It came off to me as a representation of Wes and Sade’s respective auras and the interaction between them and their interaction with the world. The lettering flows with the art and constructs as it needs to in a very flattering manner. As with all Vault titles this book is very well put together structurally. I’m looking forward to how the ever more complex nature of the relationships and understanding are played out and visually portrayed.
This is an absolute SOLID debut issue. IN STORES THIS NCBD FEB 26th!
After a highly successful launch with their wave one books, TKO is back with their second batch of titles. As with the first go ’round the second ride around the block features their innovative approach to releasing their titles. Recognizing the mixed readership and the layered approach to both reading and collecting TKO decided to address and engage comic fans by giving them options in their purchases. Are you an old school collector or like to digest your stories a chapter at a time (or when you can)? Too easy, they’ve got a nifty box that houses the entirety of a title in single issue format. Do you just want the goods? Cool, nab the oversized trade and get it all at once. Are you a bit of both or a completist? Nab them both! If you’re worried about the creative teams you can rest assured that these books have some of the best creators working in comics today. Garth Ennis, Joshua Dysart, Dan Mcdaid, and Artyom Trakhanov are just some of the names that worked on the first wave of books. This second wave features creatives such as Ming Doyle, Jeff Lemire, Natalie Chaidez, Nik Virella, and Jordie Bellaire. There’s no shortage of “name” talent if you’re worried about looking into a new publisher and who is pumping out their stories. Worry not. If you’re paying attention as you read the books you’ll notice something VERY distinct about the lead/main characters. This isn’t a typical set of books getting released together/all at once. I’m not sure if it just happened to turn out this way or if it was on purpose. Either way it was refreshing to have TKO’s 2nd Wave of books all feature female leads. So let’s dive in …
Pound for Pound is up first. The team of Natalie Chaidez, Andy Belanger, Daniela Miwa, and Serge Lapointe deliver an aggressive and in your face revenge story. Boasting a very Tarantino-esque film vibe Pound for Pound sits firmly in the “Drive In” movie category for comics. There’s tons of action, over the top situations, and unapologetic violence that manages to tell a story along the way. As with the “grindhouse” type of flicks, this comic tosses quite a bit at readers and does so with the gas pedal to the floorboard the whole time. Were’ talking MMA fighting, cults, a drug infused orgy, cultural mythology, and of course the sweet car shots. It’s everything you’d expect from a USA “Up All Night” action movie. I do feel that the series would have been better served with a few more issues though. That cultural mythology I mentioned would have been much better served and much more effective had it not been an element tossed in like many of the others. A good chunk (if not the majority of) readers likely won’t get anything out of it other than what’s given in the dialogue of the book. With the setting and characters being where the mythology resides in real life, a real depth could have been given to the book here. That aside I don’t have any major gripes with Pound for Pound. I love that the lead is female but everything else about the story and style is just as it would be with a male lead. Very effective character building (for the style/approach chosen) and utilization leads the book to being more than just a page turning punch fest. As the story is closed out you get a very satisfying reveal that drives home the story that this book is telling underneath the eye catching action. That said, in the best ways the art does make you want to flip pages to see what’s next. What’s more is the art and overall look of things fits what this is very well. Given the setting and themes the color work is excellent. The lettering helps to accentuate narrative bits as well as lends to the action with some great SFX.
Pound for Pound entertains and delivers on both the action and storyline fronts. Overall 3.75*
The Banks from Roxane Gay, Ming Doyle, Jordie Bellaire, Ariana Maher, and Sebastian Girner is a multi-generational heist story that doesn’t follow traditional crime tropes. Yes, there’s some of what you’re used to but the veins running through and pumping the life into this family drama aren’t a paint by number recipe you find in way to many books in this genre. We’re given family drama and the kind of situations that (yes, a bit “comic’d” up) drive very real and divisive lines between us. Centered around a trio of African-American women (grandmother, mother, and daughter) The Banks plays out like a 1970s film in all the right ways. From the get go it is clear that the thieving livelihood is just the surface water of a much deeper well. Both the thick of the current day and the past that set it up are given equal due as things unfold into what is truly the heist of a lifetime. All grown up, successful, and powerful in her own right Celia (the daughter), ironically and completely lost on her, has wound up doing something that can do so much more damage than the thieving her grandmother and mother have done for their profession. Sitting atop an investment banking firm she’s a bit lost on reality and hypocritically alienates her family. As with all good crime tales though it all comes out in the wash. The family tragedy isn’t exactly what Celia has believed it to be and the truth sends her on a mission of revenge and reconciliation with her past. Facing the truth of just how much she’s like the women she’s from, Celia learns the hard lessons of understanding just how much of the same fabric runs through her despite how different her experiences have been. While the interaction between Celia and her mother steal the show in an overwhelmingly positive way I can’t help but feel grandma being pushed aside. Not only is there so much more to her but there’s so much more to both Celia and her mother that resides in the matriarch of the Banks family. It’s a minor nag due to the fact that The Banks delivers on the family drama and the criminal level. Getting a family/crime drama isn’t something new but The Banks has found a way to carve out its own place and firmly set itself apart from the rest of the genre. You’ll be in love with each flip of the page thanks to the gorgeous art and color work.
The Banks is an excellent book that serves familiar tropes with a welcomed fresh take. Overall 4.25*
Eve of Extinction from Sal Simeone, Steve Simeone, Nik Virella, Isaac Goodheart, Nik Virella, Ruth Redmond, Ariana Maher, and Maria Nguyen is third in line and for me and winds up as the weakest of the bunch. Don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty of good and some unique/lightly used elements that create the framework for something much better than what was delivered. That’s the issue here. The execution of it all was just underwhelming. What could have been a huge deal for representation was simply ignored. The reason it gets me as much as it does is because this has already been played out in the world of comics and pretty visibly to boot. On the surface it is innocent enough. A plague/virus rains down and affects men. There is zero mention and zero attempt to deal with transgendered men (or women for that matter). It simply isn’t addressed and presumably doesn’t exist in the world of Eve of Extinction. Making it worse is that you’ve got a scene taking place in a zoo (where we get a transformed animal) as well as some theorizing about it being the testosterone in men as the reason for them being targeted. Even with alarm bells signaling the creative team in their very own work they don’t do what needs to be done. That’s just not doable in today’s society. I hate that this is the case because outside of this sits a very nice, and for once realistic in its break neck pace, survival story. Stepping outside of things you’ll find a modge podge of different survival elements and safe tropes that are actually put together pretty well. The art is fantastic and really displays the “Thing” vibe of the monsters. There’s some anime inspiration with some of the action and depiction of the monsters too. Most of all it isn’t just a zombie redux but an actual transformation into a monster that takes place. Usage of the elements and SFX really help the atmosphere and help drive the mood in several places. There are times throughout where the art takes over (positively) and drives things. It’s almost enough to make you forget the big miss. Almost. I’m not going to ride the overbearing tone and act like there’s nothing in Eve of Extinction worth checking out. There is.
It’s too bad this book fails to grab hold of the promise that its premise has. There’s a pretty good survival/horror comic underneath the missed opportunity. Overall 2.75*
Sentient by Jeff Lemire, Gabriel Walta, Steve Wands, and Sebastian Girner closes out Wave 2 for TKO and it is the absolute class of the second set of books. This is a fantastic damn book. Sentient wads up a few of the time tested sci-fi tropes and fires a fastball right down the pipe for a perfect strike to kick off the series. Climate change making Earth uninhabitable? Check. Huge colonization spacecraft as a setting? Check. Tragedy due to radical? Check. Dire situation and the most vulnerable of us left alone? Check. Cut off from any and all help? Check. Only hope of survival from the least expected place? Check. It’s all there and yet we still get a completely new take on things. By the time the first issue ends we’re left with a “crew” of children 13 and under, all of the adults dead, a spacecraft in the Black Zone (zone in space with communication cut off from Earth and new home), and the ship’s AI left to care for everyone left onboard. Woven into this sci-fi tale is the story of family; where we find it and how we define it are at the core of Sentient. Left to themselves (and Mother, the ship’s AI) to survive the book focuses on three characters. We get wonderful character growth as the children all have to learn hard lessons about how tragedy and the actions of others shape us and those around us. It is a gripping look at both the intra and interpersonal perspective we all have to learn as people. I do feel that this could have been bolstered by giving more about the radical group behind the event that left the children space drifting on their own. Other than that there isn’t much more that this book could have put in. Visually it is very fitting of a Lemire written tale. It is aptly sci-fi and futuristic but is more tuned to depict the human story that unfolds. The entirety of the book is just so well done. It’s hard to find a new way to illustrate problems we face in real time. Sentient is an absolute new take on the irreverence through which generational action/inaction sets up the next set of problems for society and tosses the young into the deep end before the swimming lesson.
Masterful work of human struggle crafted with the tools of sci-fi. Overall 4.75*
And here’s the thing folks, you don’t have to take my word for it. TKO is proudly standing behind their work and offering you FREE FIRST ISSUES: https://tkopresents.com/pages/free-first-issue … yup! Click the link and you can get the first issue of EVERY TKO series FOR FREE so you can see for yourself just what I’ve been talking about. Treat yo’self and find your new favorite book.
Zion #1 begins with a look at Desta’s life and the struggles he’s experiencing. He’s the son of Ethiopian immigrants who have extremely high expectations for his success. Having cracked under this pressure he dropped out of the engineering program he was in, strained his relationship with his parents in the process, and lost his sense of direction in life. Being a cashier at a grocery store is keeping him afloat financially but it’s not helping him figure out where he wants to go or what he wants to do. He’s adrift in a confusing and hostile world, even before he learns of the ancient conflict his bloodline ties him to.
This story makes full use of the urban fantasy genre, seamlessly combining magical elements with Desta’s everyday life. The narrative switches between the present day and the past to explain the true significance of the lion-shaped “good luck charm” Desta got from his father. The charm has been in their family for generations, but until Desta, no one was able to use it for it’s true purpose; as a key that allows them to unlock the history of the Zion Gem.
With its simple art style and minimalistic backgrounds, the characters really stand out and become the focus of the story which is a plus because it’s very character driven.
Desta is able to use the Zion Gem because he’s descended from With this discovery, Desta’s life is about to get more complicated than he ever expected because the Zion Gem doesn’t just unlock his own history, it also unlocks the ancient conflict between his ancestor, King Iyassu V, and the villainous Dark Hyena. And the Dark Hyena wants nothing more than to own the Zion Gem. With King Iyassu asking for his help to defeat an ancient evil and his parents expecting him to get his life in order, Desta is torn between what is expected of him as a hero and what is expected of him as his parents child.
Zion #1 is a superhero origin story unlike any other on the market and you don’t want to miss it!
Silver Fox #1 Written by Darren Dare Art by Carlos Trigo Colors by Hannah Templer Letters by Taylor Esposito
Disclaimer: Silver Fox contains sexual content, and some violence; so it’s not for readers under 18.
Silver Fox issue 1 follows James and Leo from their first meet-cute on the boardwalk, to the realization that Leo is a monster hunter that targets supernatural creatures like James- but every relationship has its issues. But some issues are harder to overcome than others. As Leo grows closer to James he struggles with his assignment and realizes that he’s falling in love with James. This realization puts him in direct conflict with the rest of his “family” who have been sent to make sure he completes the mission. Leo has to decide if his budding relationship is worth leaving behind everything he knows, while James has to grapple with his feelings surrounding Leo now that he knows the truth; their relationship is based on a lie.
In addition to its unique plot- it’s kind of a contemporary romance meets supernatural mystery- Silver Fox has a beautiful, bold art style that relies on strong lines and intense colors. And all of the characters have their own unique and distinct looks. This really adds visual interest and personality to the story.
The story wonderfully combines the mundane moments of daily life with sweet moments, and intense action. The same level of care and detail is put into each scene and this really visually solidifies how important all of these aspects are to the story. Silver Fox is just as much a story of supernatural thrills and elite monster hunters, as it is a story of new love and found family. One page consists of a compilation of Leo’s memories with James as he chooses between the only “family” he’s ever known, or the possibility of creating a new family with James. The art on this page is so well done and very emotional; there’s a panel where you can see exactly when James makes his choice, and how even if it’s the right choice, it’s still a very hard one to make.
Even though James chose to save him, Leo (understandably), feels hurt and betrayed. Despite James developing legitimate feelings for him, it doesn’t change the fact that the trust in their relationship has been fractured. And a healthy relationship can’t exist without trust. However, because James did start to genuinely fall for Leo, hopefully with time (and lots of hard work by both parties), Leo will be able to rebuild the trust he had and their relationship will recover.
The official Silver Fox website describes the book as “An action-packed, supernatural tale about assassins and monsters and a queer relationship just trying to survive the end of the honeymoon period.” How can you not want to jump right into the story after reading that? Plus, you can support the independent creators behind the comic.
Silver Fox #1 is available on gumroad for a “Pay What You Will” system making it accessible for all budgets; and if you’re a fan of queer stories, mysteries, action, the supernatural, (or all of the above!), you won’t regret purchasing this book.
A young high-flyer named Jason Lynn goes off-script in a match to win the world title and sets the southern territory on fire as the face-painted wrestler, Phoenix. Jason’s battles between the ropes are only outperformed by his struggles outside the ring. First dates. Crooked promoters. Cage matches. Factions and families. No matter what problems smack him with a steel chair, Jason lives by his catchphrase: I. Will. Rise.
Solicitation for OTT #1
STORY – Jay Sandlin ART – Antonello Cosentino COLORS – Francesco Segala LETTERS – Justin Birch
Full disclosure: I’m a wrestle-head. I grew up on 6:05pm EST on TBS watching World Championship Wrestling. The NWA and later WCW featured megastars like Sting, Flair, The Horsemen, Road Warriors, The Russians, The Rock N Roll Express, Dusty Rhodes and so many more. I was a kiddo during the heyday of the 80’s wrestling boom and then was the perfect age for the 90’s explosion. I was ecstatic upon hearing the announcement of this book.
Sure, there have been several comics featuring pro wrestling and there are ones currently on the shelves. This one though, is different. Over the Ropes from Mad Cave is written by Jay Sandlin. I’ve been fortunate enough to have gotten to know him a bit through social media over the last 18 months or so. In this time we’ve had several conversations about pro wrestling. Jay is a fan. This is huge in regard to the fact that he’s writing this comic about pro wrestling. He understands what makes pro wrestling entertaining … and what makes it magical. In the press release through Newsarama Jay stated “The characters grew out of my desire to write the kind of wrestling story I gravitated to the most; where the predetermined nature of in-ring action and backstage drama blends with shades of reality until the two are indistinguishable.” The main story line of OTT follows Jason Lynn (a play on a highly popular 90s wrestler) who is a curtain jerking jobber (guy that opens shows and loses to the big names). The in ring and real life persons start to merge as the chosen one of the promotion Lynn works for gets himself beaten out of the title picture, literally.
In a perfect marriage of Kayfabe (the portrayal of both real and staged events as being real) and real life, our underdog hero gets the opportunity of a life time. There’s a big issue though. See, the owner of the promotion is the reigning champion and he’s been grooming his son as the hotshot boiling over to challenge and eventually take him down. The whole plot line borrows from real instances that played out during the 80s and 90s pro wrestling scene. For wrestling fans it is an absolute treat. Comic fans will appreciate the person behind the persona story line. Jason is the low man on the totem pole and doesn’t gain from the nepotism coursing through his biggest personal (but not professional) rival. As the persona becomes too much for Billy Raddison (the champ’s son and next in line) to handle outside of the confines of the wrestling ring he finds himself on the end of a real life ass kicking. This tosses a huge wrench in the plans. Jason Lynn finds himself being given the silver platter but with a huge catch.
Being told that you’re going to be the champion is undoubtedly the pinnacle of a pro wrestler’s career. Everything you’ve done has been noticed and the promotion feels that not only have you earned the chance, but that the business will be better with you as the face. It’s got to be just as big of a gut punch though if you’re told you’ll be champion … but not as you. This is exactly what happens to Jason. See, our hero isn’t the only one with a huge opportunity. The SFW (the wrestling promotion in Over the Ropes) is sitting on the cusp of a huge deal with a major TV Network. Just as Jason’s opportunity comes with a catch, so does the SFW’s. The network wants a new face as champion. It’s a situation that has to be acted on for the promotion to step into the limelight. With this knowledge the plan is hatched and Jason looks to make his move. Going off-script he jumps on the opportunity and takes flight.
With the inner workings of pro wrestling serving as the backdrop for this book to draw from I can’t wait to see just which dusty road we go down. Both Jason and the promotion are set up and in precarious positions. The entirety of the situation is tenuous at best and danger is now lurking around every corner. Hidden behind the references and nods to pro wrestling tradition (such as a Luchadore that wears his mask at all times) is a carefully curated personal story. As a wrestle-head I am well served with this book and get plenty of feel good moments/bits. What I do feel though, is that the casual, merely familiar, or not hip at all to wrestling comic reader won’t be able to connect as much to this book. There is a decent amount of nuance that they’ll blank on because they simply don’t know. The perfect example of this is Jason’s outfit on his date. This book is done well and the real life subject matter it borrows from is wonderfully infused and alluded too. However, there’s going to be a good chunk of folks that simply miss out on that and don’t know how well this is done. The effectiveness and execution of this title simply won’t be recognized by many comic readers, and that’s a shame.
Beyond Sandlin’s scripting, Cosetino delivers fantastic visuals. The artwork is excellent and captures the look and feel of what the title is portraying. Segala’s coloring matches the lines. Only thing I’d have liked more would have been a little more dynamic approach to the wrestling personas and scenes. Part of the appeal of pro wrestling is that it is larger than life. I’m not digging on the colors from Segala mind you. I just feel that there is a missed opportunity to enhance the book here. The same goes for the lettering. Birch is very good. You don’t get in the Ringo convo and letter books for literally more than a handful of publishers if you aren’t. As with the colors though, I feel there was some missed opportunity given the subject matter. Bottom line is that this is a very good debut that does more than a little justice to its source matter. There is a solid premise set up and I’m eagerly awaiting what this series brings. I just wish that everyone picking it up would “get it” as much as I have.
IN SHOPS NCBD DEC 4th!
Driving Creators grade for Over the Ropes #1:9.2
The heart and soul of pro wrestling is evident in this book. Jay knows what makes it tick and what makes it relatable. Being a fan of the sport gives Jay the ability to create things within the comic that other writers couldn’t but it is also a slight alienating factor as well. The book’s effectiveness does rely on a certain level of interest/understanding of the reader. While slightly limiting, if it is the biggest thing working against the title then this will be a great series.