This is the second issue of Innovation, an indie sci-fi anthology that presents four different stories that are all connected through the future tech company Radical Development Scientific Laboratories Inc., or R.D.S.L as it is more commonly called. Wes Locher, who created Innovation, writes each of the four short stories, as well as letters the book, and he is joined by four unique and very different artists. The whole concept is an intriguing one, and the interlocking motif of the machinations of R.D.S.L. ties even the most seemingly disparate stories together in a mysterious, almost unsettling way. Issue #2 has an especially cohesive feel to it due to the fact that all of the stories take place in the R.D.S.L. compound, on various levels of this elaborate, high tech facility. There is a sense that all of these stories could be happening simultaneously and that the repercussions of one story may affect the outcome of another story later on in the series, or that mistakes or problems may not even be realized or discovered until much later, because the facility is so heavily compartmentalized. These are the exciting thoughts and ideas that Locher sparks as he continues to develop this complex, highly technological, and morally ambiguous futurescape.
Jack Kraken is a creation from the mind of Tim Seeley, who is known for a variety of series and styles, though possibly most well known for the long-running, boundary-pushing series Hack/Slash and the Midwestern supernatural mystery Revival, created with artist Mike Norton, and both of which are published by Image. Up to this point, I have only had the pleasure of reading Seeley’s Ex Sanguine, for which he also did the art, and that book’s macabre nature and unflinching look at the dark side, juxtaposed with an offbeat romantic element, sold me on Seeley and his various collaborators. This Jack Kraken one-shot from Dark Horse intrigued me, and, as I read it, I found myself equal parts interested and perplexed, with more than a few questions: Who is Jack Kraken? What type of world does he exist in? Where are the other comics that led up to this one, because I feel like I’m missing something. It turns out that’s just the way Seeley intended people to be introduced to Jack Kraken, more or less in the middle of his adventures as the only secret agent with supernatural abilities working for Humanoid Interaction Management, referred to as H.I.M., a most comedic acronym, especially when used in a sentence, since it effortlessly works as a personal pronoun.
IDW brings us back to the late eighties and into a desolate, frozen future with legendary writer Chuck Dixon and artist Jorge Zaffino’s Winterworld hardcover collection. Originally published as a three-issue miniseries by Marvel Comics' Epic imprint in 1988, Dixon and Jorge paint a bleak, terrifying future where the world is covered in ice and civilization is hanging on by a desperate thread, scrounging for supplies and struggling to survive. The hero of Winterworld is Scully, a man with no real conscience or qualms, who travels the ice as a trade rider, exchanging goods at various settlements for necessary supplies, one of the main ones which is fuel. Scully worries and cares about nothing and no one except himself and his pet badger Rah Rah, and that’s the way he likes it. Scully's life is upended when he unexpectedly finds himself the charge of a young girl named Wynn, and his sense of responsibility and human emotions long since frozen by the hardness of life begin to thaw.
Burn the Orphanage is back, and this time it's an ongoing monthly book, kicking off with part one of the five-part Reign of Terror miniseries. The story picks up where the last issue, Wise Blood, left off, where Rock was transported back home after an interplanetary adventure and straight into harm's way. But, the world that Rock knew only two months ago is gone, and he finds himself in a dystopian, dangerous futurescape that he doesn't understand. Luckily, some familiar faces are there to help introduce him to this new world, including his best friends Lex and Bear, and his girlfriend Jess. One thing that never changes, though, is the need for butt kicking, and Rock and company are still as awesome at that as ever, no matter the enemy or the circumstances.
Just over a month ago, I plunged into the world of Fear Agent and reviewed the first re-issued volume from Dark Horse. At the end of that review, I said I could not wait for the next volume to make its way before my eager eyes. That time has finally come, so prepare to be bombarded with ecstatic praise for the continued misadventures and burgeoning mythology of Rick Remender and Tony Moore’s intergalactic pulp creation. This second volume is full of so much crazy, downright insane stuff, from plot twists to character developments and reveals to mass destruction on an unfathomable level that you can barely wrap your head around it, and it works because Huston can barely wrap his head around it himself. There are so many scenes of Heath completely baffled, dumbfounded, and hilariously and unexpectedly enraged at his circumstances that Remender is somehow able to keep his mind-bogglingly awesome story relatable.
The Atomic Legion is a tale from a bygone era, and that is exactly what its creators, writer Mike Richardson and artist Bruce Zick, are going for; a tale from yesterday transported to the world of today, and to the readers of now. Told from the perspective of Robby, a young orphan who wishes superheroes still existed like they did in the thirties and forties, we are propelled on a journey through space and time, as Robby suddenly finds himself in a secret, scientific compound, under the care of The Professor and his Atomic Legion, a gathering of the most brilliant, powerful, misunderstood, and forgotten heroes culled and preserved from the past. The Professor, who is a loose representation of Albert Einstein, has provided a sanctuary for these heroic anomalies, so that they can continue serving humanity and exist in peace, without fear of prejudice or judgment from the outside world. One of the strongest jokes in the book is how so many of these heroes were born out of freak accidents, much like the majority of the superheroes from the thirties and forties, along with the running joke of Tomorrow Man trying to find the right words to use as his call to action.
Rafael Grampá has a very distinct artistic style. Mesmo Delivery, which Grampá wrote, drew, and co-colored with Marcus Penna, is the first I have seen of his work, but it relays a deeply established style and skill that I am sure will develop even more over time. Mesmo Delivery is a simple, mysterious story, violent but with a kind of gritty, almost ugly, beauty that threatens to overwhelm you at first, only to grow on you as the story progresses. Appearing deceptively straightforward on the surface, the tale of two truckers delivering an unknown cargo to an undisclosed destination, Grampá slowly reveals through short flashbacks the underpinnings of the characters and the true, but still very enigmatic, nature of their task. Most intriguing, you begin to realize that the person you think is the main character actually is not, but merely a pawn. The real fun, though, is in imagining what happens after the story ends. Once we grasp the rundown of the story, the gravity of the endgame hits you, and you find yourself excitedly asking, "But, what if things don't go according to plan like they were thinking?" That vastness of possibility is incredibly entertaining, because your imagination takes that thought and just runs with it, making Mesmo Delivery much larger than its original conceit.
Someplace Strange is truly that, especially to our post-2010 sensibilities. It is of a time and place that existed for many of us as the backdrop of childhood, far behind the concerns of toys, cartoons, friends, and learning basic educational fundamentals. For the two young brothers at the center of the story, Spike and Zebra (called James and Edward by their parents), like many children, imagination fuels their every waking moment and their subconscious nightmares – to imagine and dream is why they exist. But, writer Ann Nocenti, who created the Marvel characters of Longshot, Mojo, Typhoid Mary, and Blackheart and has written a variety of comics ranging from Daredevil to Kid Eternity, just to mention two titles, creates a fantasy with dark-tinged edges, as Spike and Zebra strike out one night to kill the Bogeyman, once and for all.
Earth Dream is an ambitious, new indie anthology published by artist Miguel Guerra and writer and editor Suzy Dias’ 7 Robots and is available as a free download on Earth Day and afterwards at www.7robots.com/earthdream. Dias lays out the idea for the project in a wonderful introduction, relaying her and Guerra’s belief in the importance of social awareness and in exposing indie comics writers and artists to a wider audience. This first volume contains eleven stories, some shorter than others and all very different from one another, but all dealing with the specific theme of the environment.
Alabaster: Grimmer Tales is part of a much larger, richer mythology than I realized, and coming into that mythology at the tail end, I was in the dark regarding much of the story’s machinations, but still found myself enthralled by the intimate cast of characters and the heavy, gothic tone of the telling. Jumping into the deep end of fantasy and horror writer Caitlín R. Kiernan’s damaged and terrifying world, I reeled at the intensity with which it recalled the earlier volumes of her Dark Horse's Alabaster series, Wolves and Pale Horse, how intrinsically they all tied together, and how the trials and troubles of the characters built on top of each other, creating a solid, memorable history and strong emotional context.