Indie Comics Spotlight: The Bargain, Hawken and The Displaced
By Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)
The Bargain #1
“No real point in running…”
If you make a deal with the devil, odds are you have next to no chance in breaking it. It still won’t stop someone from trying, regardless of the potential cost and what the person has to go through in order to be successful. Jackson Connolly is one such man in The Bargain #1 from Kerfuffle Press going through a rather harrowing ordeal. The issue is written by Kara Barrett, illustrated by JC Grande and colored by Fares Maese.
With only days left to break a pact for his soul, Jackson attempts one final, desperate gamble at salvation. It’s a journey that will take him from the backwoods of ghostly Louisiana to the seductive lights of a 1950s New Orleans burlesque club. And the ride is rife with hellhounds, ghosts and hoodoo, not to mention a mix of even more of the supernatural.
When a story ventures into deep south and magic, things are gearing up to be very interesting. In fact, Barrett does an excellent job of keeping the dialogue snappy and in character even, tapping into the zeitgeist of both 1935 and 1955. There’s an undercurrent of distrust and racism when Jackson visits Auntie, a ghost with a penchant for seeing evil and helping when she agrees with who exactly it is that needs help. And the premise behind the book is very powerful, in that Jackson makes a pretty big sacrifice to save someone he loves, yet is desperately seeking a way to break the deal. In that regard, it’s very similar to Drag Me to Hell and the riding along with a character being chased by the hounds of hell looks to be a fun adventure.
Grande’s illustrations are pretty meticulous, presenting characters and backgrounds that are fairly detailed and show an attention to the work. This isn’t to say that it’s an inspiration, but the characters do look a lot like those of Archer. Regardless, they match the style of the era they inhabit and really help the reader get into the feel of the book. Maese’s coloring draws from the darker end of the spectrum, further bolstering the book’s claim to a world of mediums, seers and ghosts. Speaking of ghosts, the ghosts are illustrated with an eerie sensibility and the hellhounds with an angry ferocity, both of which offer a full spectrum of what Jackson is dealing with.
The Bargain #1 is a bold, adventurous book that looks at how far one man will go to break a promise he made. The thing is, that promise meant giving up his soul and it’s something he’s pretty fond of and would love to keep if at all possible. Barrett’s tale unfolds at a steady pace and keeps the reader engaged; while Grande lends some haunting visuals that helps set the mood for the story. It’s a book that’s different than a lot of other books out there, but that’s a very good thing. In fact, it would even fit pretty comfortably in the Hellboy universe, as it has that strange sensibility to it. It’s worth your attention and has a rather bleak–yet intriguing–ending that encourages you to check out the second issue.
The Bargain #1 is available now via Comixology.
Hawken: Melee #1
“Twenty seconds. Just got to keep alive for twenty seconds.”
Warfare is not pleasant. That unpleasantness only gets exacerbated when mechs enter into the equation, mainly because it’s one-on-one battles that pit one soldier’s wits against that of another. Hawken is a video game that offers up a world rife with mechs fighting one another and BOOM! Studios/Archaia Black Label are content to tell stories of that world in Hawken: Melee #1. The issue is written by Dan Abnett, illustrated by Federico Dallocchio, colored by Chris Northrop and lettered by Julia Fung.
Draden Lusk has proven to be a more than capable mech pilot. In fact, as Nardine, he’s earned a commendation for 15 unassisted kills. Like any young, brash soldier though, life has a way of catching up to him, as he’s currently in the midst of a rather sticky situation. That situation includes multiple enemy mechs bearing down on him and twenty seconds until he gets the support he needs to survive.
Normally, an overabundance of self-narration slows the momentum of a comic, but Abnett uses it to great effect here. The issue takes place over the span of twenty seconds, as Nardine fights for his life against seemingly insurmountable odds while waiting for an evacuation option. Having Nadine chronicle the fight literally second by second is very powerful and offers a time lapse view of an event that can be over in less than a minute. The play-by-play also serves to showcase how talented Nadine is as a pilot; not to mention how lucky. Both traits are crucial to any combat and Abnett does a great job of conveying that to the reader.
Dallocchio’s art is gritty and mostly done from a rather distant perspective. Mechs are illustrated with thin, black lines and little attention to the sophisticated machinery that powers them. In fact, the mechs looks extremely clunky and ungraceful, a sharp contrast to the more organic looks at Nadine. The shots of Nadine in the cockpit make more of an impression, primarily because they help the reader to feel the jostle of mech combat. There are a few varied panel layouts, including some insets and vertical panels, but by and large Dallocchio sticks with the standard format. Northrop’s color palette lives in reds and oranges, perfectly synonymous with explosions and gunfire.
Hawken: Melee #1 is a pretty harsh reminder that even mech warfare is dangerous and requires skill and luck. Nadine pulls off a series of intricate maneuvers that any soldier would be thankful to have successfully pulled off, giving him hope of survival in a hostile situation. Abnett chronicles the brief skirmish with harrowing detail and from Nadine’s perspective, accompanied by Dallocchio’s art that contrasts mech and human. It’s a good combination that delves deeper into the Hawken franchise.
Hawken: Melee #1 is in stores soon.
The Displaced #1
“Well, this story goes back.”
Magical artifacts are always desired to be owned, controlled and dispensed. They typically come with a vast and rich history as well, prompting their legends and lore to transcend time. Sometimes, that history needs to be told and illustrated for context, as in The Displaced #1. The first issue is written and illustrated by Rick Troula.
The first men of Zarconia were known as the Wildlings and their defiance of the gods formed the Wildling Amulet. The amulet fed off of years and years of hatred and warfare, becoming more and more powerful. Eventually, it was sealed away by a very powerful magic and became the object of much obsession. That was all the past and in the present a rather motley group of individuals is seeking the artifact for reasons yet to be revealed.
Troula spends the first half of the issue in retrospective historic mode, while the second half brings things into the now. The choice to break the story up like that keeps the reader up to speed on what’s happening, but it does slow down the momentum slightly. It’s not easy to establish a universe and readers are essentially presented with a history lesson about the Wildlings and the amulet. There’s a healthy mix of religion and anger at the gods (and gods at the mortals), which draws on the Greek mythology that pursued similar stories of anger and rage. While the Wildling Amulet is so sought after is still very much a mystery and the group seeking it are equally as mysterious. In fact, their names aren’t even revealed to the reader.
Troula also handles the art duties in the book. The early pages that highlight the history of the amulet are really only sketches of the events, as if to add a nostalgic look and feel to the proceedings. It’s a marked contrast from the last few pages in the present, where Troula switches style and illustrates the characters and settings with a bit more detail. That detail is still fairly vague, with the exception of the giant yeti creature who looks very unique and devastating. The entire book is chock full of panels, with some pages crammed with upwards of fourteen panels that is sometimes a little distracting.
The title The Displaced implies that something has been displaced and needs to be reclaimed. It only makes sense that the three characters at the end are seeking the amulet because one of them feels entitled to it, but the first issue doesn’t really establish that motivation at all. In fact, the bulk of the issue is spent introducing the reader to the amulet and the universe it inhabits, most likely to provide context for future events. It’s written with a slight sense of humor, which makes it very accessible to new readers and capitalizes on myths to create a tale of a powerful artifact and those seeking to wield it.
The Displaced #1 is available via Comixology now.