Indie Comics Spotlight: Halo Initiation, Bloody Dreadful, Uninvasion

820indiecomics Separator

by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)



Halo: Initiation #1
“Are you familiar with the Spartans?”

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who couldn’t tell you that a Spartan is a fierce warrior. They’re known for their battle prowess, proficiency with weapons and monsters on the battlefield. They also carry plasma grenades, Battle Rifles and are proficient with Plasma Swords. Wait. What? That’s right, Spartans are also in the Halo universe and they’re making an appearance in a brand new series from Dark Horse Comics called Halo: Initiation #1. The issue is written by Brian Reed, illustrated by Marco Castiello, colored by Michael Atiyeh and lettered by Michael Heisler.

Halo: Initiation #1 follows Lance Corporal Sarah Palmer, an ODST: Orbital Drop Shock Trooper. She’s a bruiser, not afraid to get in the thick of things and the next level up from the standard ground troops. By either fate or coincidence, she manages to save Admiral Kovalic from the brutalities of battle and, in doing so, manages to gain the attention of some higher-ups who want to enroll her in a special program.

It’s clear that Reed is familiar with the Halo universe, as Halo: Initiation #1 features everything that fans of the series will love to see in a comic book. Writing a book that exists in the Halo universe is tricky, because there is a certain set of rules that must be followed to stay within canon. Reed does a great job adhering to the source material, ensuring that nothing is out of place and everything makes sense. And this book has grunts, Brutes, plasma pistols, gravity hammers…even flipping a Warthog with a grenade.

While the work pays respect to the source material, it’s steeped in it. And that will make it a little tough for new readers to pick up and get into the swing of things. On its own, the story is pretty good, but a lot of it relies on the reader knowing how the ranks in the UNSC shake out. Spartans are treated with the utmost respect…they’re even revered in the military circles. A lot of that knowledge comes from playing the games though, which will detract from the enjoyment of new readers.

Castiello’s art is very careful and pays great respect to what Halo fans know the universe to look like. There’s a Brute who is featured in a good chunk of the issue and that Brute is illustrated perfectly. Scenes featuring combat are done appropriately and move along rather quickly, right alongside the unfolding story. A Spartan is featured briefly in the issue, but when more make an appearance it’ll definitely be exciting. Seeing a Warthog both flip over and run over some Covenant is just as satisfying on the page as it is on the screen.

There are two audiences for Halo: Initiation #1. The first is the die-hards; the ones who live and breathe the Halo universe and will consume anything and everything Master Chief is involved in. The other audience is comprised of readers who are into sci-fi and have a passing knowledge of the universe. The latter audience may have a little difficulty getting into the book, but it’s expected that future issues will help alleviate any reader growing pains that come with the book. It’s a strong, plasma-grenaded jump into a new Halo series, one that promises to offer the epic battles we’ve come to expect from the Covenant.

Halo: Initiation #1 is in stores now.

Bloody Dreadful #1-2
“All right then – who’s next?”

Typically, those words are uttered by a person on a rampage, looking to take on all comers. Sometimes though, it works perfectly well when working through a series of something. Like robbing graves in Bloody Dreadful #1-2 from Slave Labor Graphics Publishing. The issues are written and illustrated by Justin Sane.

Harland and Beatrice Gifford are a couple of privilege. They live a charming life, taking in the local sights such as a carnival. It’s at the carnival where Beatrice pays a visit to a fortuneteller, who just so happens to give her a glimpse into her future. One house fire and an insane asylum later, things get a lot fuzzier for the strength of their relationship. Throw in a gravedigger and you’ve got what amounts to good clean fun.

Sane’s story is one of love and revenge, but he spins it with a fate twist. Yes, there are things we can’t control about our fates and sometimes our fates have us doing things that we assume is based on choice. That’s what really works about Bloody Dreaful. The Giffords are well-to-do and used to the finer things in life and watching what fate has in stores for them makes for a great read. It doesn’t matter who you are; in the end, fate will find you. The air of superiority exhibited by the characters in the dialogue really hammers home the point that these are two wealthy people with wealthy problems.

Art duties are also handled by Sane and the black silhouettes are actually appropriate and quite powerful for the work. He let’s the art carry the suspense of the story. There are some facets of it where appearance matters and because the reader only sees silhouettes, it’s up to their imagination to project onto the illustrations what they’re seeing. It’s a wildly effective means of illustrating the tale and really makes it stand out just a bit more. Had Sane gone with either black and white or color illustrations, the story might not have worked so well.

Bloody Dreadful pokes fun at the “first-world” problems that the wealthy tend to have, but it does so in a way that is applicable to everyone. In a sense, we’re all fated for something (if you believe that sort of thing) and the Giffords are no different, wealth or not. Sane marries shadows of a possible future with the reality of what will come and presents a union that’s quite a joy to read. The work is definitely something a little less ordinary and evokes Edgar Allen Poe and Edward Gorey, paying reverence to both and doing a great job in the process.

Currently Bloody Dreadful is available as a digital comic book series at Comixology as well as directly from the SLG Publishing website. The first issue is free at both sites, subsequent issues are 99ยข. A print version is also available from the SLG website and at Amazon.com and a softcover collection of the entire series is planned for next year.

Uninvasion #1
“Never mind evacuating the hangar bay, I just evacuated my lunch!”

Aliens have to deal with some of the same things humans do, including inept employees and employees who are too smart for their own good. It’s an organizational flaw, but one that still bears handling by superiors. Even the superiors have difficulty controlling things and Univasion #1 is a story that highlights those difficulties. The issue is written and created by James Dilworth.

Pilot Ineptus lives up to his name when it comes to piloting spaceships. Professor Imperitus is something of a genius who has a slight difficulty in getting things to work as well as they should. Together, they’re the dumbest and smartest of an alien civilization, recently on the lam thanks to the reactions of Captain Virtus and the Emperor.

A quick read through of Uninvasion #1 offers up a story that’s very succinct, but fun at the same time. Ineptus and Imperitus are presented as foils in a sense that one is brilliant and the other isn’t so much. There’s a joviality in the dialogue that keeps things a little lighthearted, despite the seriousness of their “crimes.” The characters all fall into stereotypes, but they work for the purpose of the book. It’s definitely got an odd couple feel to it that will likely lead to some hijinx down the road.

Dilworth also handles the art, relying on black and white illustrations for the entire issue. They’re very detailed illustrations though and could easily have been colored as well, but the basic illustrations really add something to the book. His characters have great detail and live in panels that are fairly simplistic and all are the familiar look of aliens that everyone has known.

Uninvasion #1 is a book that’s slightly out there, but in a positive way. With Imperitus and Ineptus on the lam, it remains to be seen how those in power will react. Watching the pursuit will be rather interesting as well. Fans of books like Atomic Robo may find something fascinating in the pages of this book. It’s very tightly written and easy to follow, with strong art to support the story.

Uninvasion #1 is available now at comiXology.


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