Indie Comics Spotlight – Furious, Deadly Class and A Frozen World

indiecomic2414 Separator

By Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Furious #1

 

“Because her story is my story. And she’s made me furious!”

If you had a superpower, would you use it for good? Evil? Regardless, would you want the credit and fame that comes with it? Those are questions we really don’t have to answer ourselves, but Furious is a character who deals with those questions constantly. She’s also the title character of Furious #1 from Dark Horse Entertainment. The first issue is written by Bryan J. L. Glass, illustrated by Victor Santos and lettered by Nate Piekos of Blambot.

If you’ve ever seen reality television, you know that human nature has a tendency to gravitate towards the extreme ends of the emotional spectrum. Staring into a fractured mirror of her life, the world’s first superhero, Furious, seeks to atone for her past sins by doling out rage-fueled justice. But the spotlight of our celebrity-obsessed media threatens to undo her noblest efforts and expose her true identity before she can achieve redemption. Add in some high-speed car chases, comic book shops and a 24-hour news cycle and the result is quite an interesting cocktail.

Furious #1 excels largely in part to Glass’ ability to effectively capture society’s obsession with creating stories out of nothing. Furious is a very powerful individual who desperately wants to do the right thing with her power, but because she has the power she’s under a microscope. That means every action she takes is under scrutiny and news networks have a tendency to exploit even the most minute actions into stories for the sake of ratings. If Furious saves the day, she gets faulted for how she does it. That’s a very powerful motivator for Furious to not help, even though she’s more than capable of helping thanks to her power. Glass really taps into that societal emotion that if it bleeds it leads and networks capitalize on her actions as a means of ratings.

Santos does a fantastic job with the art, offering characters similar to that of The Incredibles. Furious is illustrated as a normal woman with superpowers, albeit with a slightly more voluptuous body. There are a wide array of panel layouts that keep things fresh throughout; there’s even some great photograph-like panels as well. It’s an action-packed book and Santos keeps the action frenetic through kinetic illustrations, offering up art that moves along with the script. There’s a great mix between full-color and silhouettes, all playing into the identity crisis that Furious is currently going through.

As mentioned above, Furious #1 could easily be a sequel of sorts to The Incredibles. It taps into another side of superheroes not often touched upon in stories, where society makes the hero the villain. Furious is an extremely powerful woman who has to deal with the criticism of everyone for just about everything. Her looks, her choices and her means of saving the day all generate ratings for the news coverage, which means that Furious is always under the microscope. Glass and Santos make a great team and the series could definitely be something to keep an eye on as it unfolds. Furious is a very interesting character with a gamut of issues she’s forced to contend with and that always makes for a good read.

Furious #1 is in stores now.

Deadly Class #1

 

“A positive mental attitude is essential to surviving out here.”

To be an assassin means you have to undergo lots of training. Martial arts training, stalking training…even training in how not to freak out in high-pressure situations. In theory, just about anyone can become an assassin, assuming they want to put the time into it. Deadly Class #1 offers a curriculum that will test if even the homeless can channel their anger into something more productive in terms of assassinating targets. The issue is written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Wes Craig, colored by Lee Loughridge and lettered by Rus Wooton.

Marcus Lopez is homeless, drifting aimlessly through the streets of San Francisco at the tail end of the 1980s. The city is chock full of others like him, pitting Marcus against others for things as trivial as shoes. Marcus is struggling to find an identity–much less a place to sleep–amidst a world roiled by punk aspirations. He can’t focus in class, thanks to his mind constantly drifting to the stunning girl in the front row and the Dag Nasty show he has tickets to. But the jocks are the children of Joseph Stalin’s top assassin, the teachers are members of an ancient league of assassins, the class he’s failing is “Dismemberment 101,” and his crush, a member of the most notorious crime syndicate in Japan, has a double-digit body count.

If there was any doubt surrounding Remender’s abilities, they should just be extinguished. Deadly Class #1 is an incredibly tightly written story that feels a little like Wanted at times, but ventures into much headier territory. Marcus has a lot of anger with the world he lives in and vents through his journal, something that is so important to him he would rather have it than clothing. Remender captures the zeitgeist of the 80s exceptionally well, tapping into the counter-culture sensibilities of many youths of the decade. Marcus is revealed to the reader slowly and methodically, making his decision to join King’s Dominion School of the Deadly Arts more sensible in the grand scheme of things. Marcus constantly questions his place in the larger picture and his choices make sense in that regard.

While Remener’s script is fantastic, Craig’s art is extraordinarily frenetic and fits with the frenzied pace of the era. There’s a lot of chasing in the book and Craig handles it with great ease, showing the reader action in fragmented panels that keep the action flowing. He and Loughridge make a great tandem and the color palettes change with the emotion of the story being told on the relevant page. Craig moves between gorgeously detailed panels teeming with background action to more sparsely illustrated ones where the main character gets all the attention. It’s a very impressive style that really keeps the reader engaged regardless of whether or not they’re reading about a car chase or Marcus visiting a street celebration.

Deadly Class #1 is all about disenfranchisement and Remender hits the nail on the head squarely. While it’s all primarily set-up, the beauty of Deadly Class #1 is that it firmly plants the reader in a position to really appreciate the unfolding story ahead. Remender’s dialogue is very concise and Craig’s art is staggering, offering a combination that makes Deadly Class #1 just another feather in the Image Comics’ cap. There’s a lot of emotion packed into the issue that readers will resonate with, stressing that Deadly Class #1 is a book that should have a very wide appeal. Where Marcus goes as far as his training remains to be seen, but it’s expected that the story will really explore some really dark avenues of the psyche.

Deadly Class #1 is in stores now.

A Frozen World

 

“It’s an unnatural world. A concrete and iron lake of fire…a vast urban hell known to those who live there as Irongates.”

If literature is any indication, the future of humanity involves any combination of zombies, vampires or robot uprisings. The common theme among all three is the concept of a mega-city, culling all the remaining survivors into one location that is typically ruled with a dystopian bent. While that concept isn’t exactly new, it does offer a great setting for a book like A Frozen World to explore the daily lives of some of the citizens in that world. A Frozen World is written and illustrated by Nick Andors.

Irongates is a lovely city…if by lovely city you mean an almost endless expanse of concrete and iron. The inhabitants go into lockdown every night and corpse collectors traverse the city every morning to clean up the previous day’s activities. Four citizens get all the attention here though. The first is a scavenger with a penchant for cigarettes, the second is Geoffrey, an 86-year-old Body Patrol worker, the third is Anneka, a young girl with a drug-addicted mom and abusive father and the fourth is Ivan, a man with a strange secret. The four characters comprise the heart and soul of Irongates and each have their own trials and tribulations to contend with.

A Frozen World is nothing if not both ambitious and deeply disturbing in its own right. Andors has taken the dystopian city concept and delved into its inhabitants and their plights. The four characters focused on represent microcosms of the city’s senses as a whole and–in that regard–Andors personifies Irongates as one large, living being. That being is a cold, bitter individual with little regard for those within and, in fact, the citizens themselves are fighting to break free of the city’s clutches. The writing itself is a little direct in that there are some cases where Andors narrates the action as opposed to letting the illustrations carry the action and some of the dialogue is a little forced. The themes of the story though are very deep and explore the human psyche from multiple angles.

Andors also handles the art and he infuses A Frozen World with illustrations evocative of MC Escher. There are a few illustrations where different facets of Irongates seem to blend into one another to make a larger picture, which achieves a sufficiently eerie effect of making the city feel alive. This is further emboldened by Andors’ reliance on black and white to further convey the isolation and destitute conditions inhabitants of Irongates suffer on a daily basis. He also offers a variety of different panel layouts to keep things fresh, including some rather haunting full-page panels that really suck the reader into the city itself.

If there’s one thing that A Frozen World does very well, it’s that it really engages the reader to challenge some of their views of society, both in the present and in a larger, more hypothetical sense. The citizens of Irongates are not living very good lives, yet you’d be hard-pressed to compare the woes of one to another. The point is that they’re all suffering and the city seemingly offers no means of escape from their dire situations. Andors’ story is very chilling and even existential to some extent, as most of the main characters question and challenge their existence in a dystopia such as Irongates. And that’s where A Frozen World excels: it requires the reader check their optimism at the door in exchange for a grim realism of what life is really like for many others.

A Frozen World is available now.


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