Indie Comics Spotlight: Sundowners #1, Wayward #1, Battle of Ozellberg

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By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)


Wayward #1


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“I just have to connect the dots. No problem. I’m good at that.”

Take a walk on the streets of any metropolis and chances are you’ll see a heady mix of events. People walking to and fro, shops selling goods, and a general buzz that makes the city feel alive. When the sun goes down, though, some cities really are alive, full of evils that only few encounter. How you handle those evils always makes for a good story, like in Wayward #1 from Image Comics, written by Jim Zub, illustrated by Steve Cummings, colored by John Rauch and Zub, and lettered by Marshall Dillon.

Rori Lane is starting a new life in Tokyo. It’s there she’s reunited with her mother of Japanese descent, but the Irish heritage on her father’s side still makes things difficult for her. Adjusting to a culture such as that is trying for anyone; a test made even more difficult without the ancient creatures lurking in the shadows. It’s a challenge that forces Rori to find things out about herself she wasn’t previously aware of, including an ability to save the day when it calls for it.

One of the most important things about bringing readers into a new world is giving them a reason to be in that world in the first place and Zub does a fantastic job of that in Wayward #1. He follows Rori from landing in Japan to finding her way to her mother’s apartment to the shopping district (Ikebukuro). In that sense, the reader uncovers the wonders of Tokyo in the same way that Rori does, with her feelings of being overwhelmed very easy to decipher. That sense of wonderment is further compounded by the transformation the city undergoes at night, where Rori is accosted by the aforementioned ancient creatures. How Zub handles the transition and ensuing reconciliation of the situation feels strongly influenced by Hayao Miyazaki, as both creators pretty deftly depict the switch from normal to paranormal with ease.

Tokyo is one of the most popular cities in the world, so densely populated that it’s hard for those who have never been there to fully comprehend what kind of place it is. Fortunately, Cummings does a brilliant job bringing that thriving metropolis to life. He adds enough in the way of background that readers familiar with the area will likely have a sense of where they are based on real world experience. Rori is illustrated with an expected curiosity and aloofness in ways that a half-Irish girl would exhibit in Tokyo. Rauch’s colors further the wonder as Rori sees it, as he draws from a darker palette of blues for the night scenes that contrast sharply with the warmer colors from earlier in the book during the day. It’s an effect that really hammers home the transition from a city of hustle to a city of magic bustle.

Wayward #1 is a pretty fascinating first issue that completely grabs the reader and brings them right into the world. Rori’s uneasiness with the transition and events is beautifully projected onto the reader, as both uncover the mysteries and secrets simultaneously. Zub’s no stranger to crafting tales where the fantastic are staples and Wayward #1 is yet another feather in his storytelling cap. The illustrations of Tokyo demonstrate a partnership between Cummings and Rauch that works very well, with Cummings penciling a strange world that gets more vibrant with Rauch’s coloring. Wayward #1 is a great book that will definitely win over a lot of readers, so make sure you’ve got room in your pull list for one more book.

Wayward #1 is in stores now.

Battle for Ozellberg #1

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“If any animal should speak to me, do not listen. For it speaks only lies.”

Everyone knows Little Red Riding Hood. It’s the story about a young girl making a trip to see her sick grandmother. That trip is interrupted, though, by the appearance of a sinister wolf. What happens if that little girl is a little more combat ready? Would the story end the way you think it does? Battle for Ozellberg #1 is a good way to find out. The issue is written by Deon Brown, illustrated by Steve Myers, colored by Licca Kirk, inked by Jeff Morrow, and lettered by Chris Chandler.

After losing her parents in one of their many previous battles, Jaana Eberhardt, or Little Red as she is affectionately called, is sent out alone on a journey to bring healing herbs to her deathly ill grandmother Edna, a once powerful warrior and protector of Ozellberg village. Edna is Jaana’s last living relative and the only one capable of unlocking her full potential as a true Eberhardt warrior, which happens to be the real reason for the visit. She must pass on this legacy to Jaana before she dies. The Eberhardt bloodline may be the only thing standing between Alwin and his wolf clan and the complete destruction of Ozellberg Village.

At it’s core, Battle for Ozellberg #1 plays out in a way that’s familiar to those in the know of Little Red Riding Hood. Brown uses that tried and true tale as a jumping point for something grander, essentially making the loss of Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother a catalyst for something greater. And Brown does this pretty well, infusing the book with a certain level of chaos that raises the stakes significantly, but at the same feels rooted in fantasy. Twisting the classic tale in the way Brown does is pretty unique and adds a level of freshness to the storied tale. Even the dialogue feels appropriate for the tale being spun by Brown.

Updating the classic tale with a new story is only half the battle. Myers offers up illustrations that are very representative of the fantasy world the creative team is inviting the reader into. Characters are cartoonish in appearance, with some features exaggerated for fantasy measure. For instance, the paws of Alwin are slightly oversized, which is pretty effective in keeping the reader engaged in the fantasy. Panels also float on every page, with the gutters somewhat loosely defined in a way that keeps the story moving along at a solid pace.

Battle for Ozellberg #1 is a good first issue that establishes the tone of the next two issues. Jaana has a family lineage that she feels pressure to uphold and that pressure is further intensified by the end of the issue. Brown’s take on the classic is pretty unique and intriguing, promising to go in some pretty fun directions down the line. The art team of Myers, Kirk, and Morrow do a great job offering a look at all the action, giving the book a feel that’s somewhere between cartoon and anime; there’s even some looks of a JRPG. Battle for Ozellberg #1 is worth checking out because it’s a new take on and old classic.

Battle for Ozellberg #1 is available now for free.

Sundowners #1

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“She wanted to be part of something bigger…”

What makes a hero beyond the cape and tights? It likely has something to do with their personality, which leads them to make sometimes reckless decisions in the name of helping the helpless. What if those decisions are made to help those who don’t really need help? Or, better yet, don’t even exist in the first place? It’s something Dark Horse addresses in Sundowners #1, written by Tim Seeley, illustrated by Jim Terry, colored by Sean Dove, and lettered by Crank!.

Pigeon, Crowlita, Arcanika, and Karl, the Patient Wolf are a team of “superheroes” who have tasked themselves with saving the city. At least, that’s the world they believe the live in. Their exploits are recounted to Dr. David Shrejic in the Sundowners Support Group, named for Sundowner’s Syndrome. The thing about the heroes, though, is that they might not actually be the heroes they make themselves out to be. Saving the day might just be a delusion in the minds of the so-called heroes.

There’s no shortage of “citizen superhero” books on shelves, but give credit to Seeley: he wrote one that feels different than the rest. His tale twists that tale by presenting the possibility that the heroes might just be making everything up as they go, not even fully realizing the dangers they may be putting themselves in. Presenting characters as flawed as the leads in Sundowners #1 is very strong and keeps the reader on their toes. Seeley doesn’t reveal everything in the first issue, though, and instead gives just enough to keep the reader hooked. The end of the issue also presents a nice twist that sets it up for some more intrigue down the road.

Terry’s illustrations are well matched to Seeley’s script. The characters in the book are reminiscent of other superheroes in the history of comics and Terry imbues them with an appropriate sense of nostalgia. The way the characters are illustrated evokes a certain uncertainty on both their parts and on the part of the reader, which plays perfectly into the notion that maybe the heroes are imagining the heroic deeds. Terry relies on that grittiness that conveys the grime of the city being “protected” by the Sundowners. Dove’s colors further accent the grime, which help make the city feel like a place after the sun goes down.

On its surface, Sundowners #1 feels pretty superfluous, but once you dig deeper you find a pretty fascinating journey into the human subconscious. The main characters are extraordinarily flawed in a way that’s perfectly in line with their presumed psychological shortcomings. Seeley’s script moves along relatively briskly and in a way that slowly peels back the layers of the characters. Terry’s illustrations have a certain nostalgia to them that helps keep the book itself feel somewhat stilted, much like the characters who are the focus of the plot. Sundowners #1 is a pretty intriguing first issue that offers an equally intriguing concept in the form of truly flawed superheroes.

Sundowners #1 is in stores now.


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