Indie Comics Spotlight: Wild Rover, Black of Heart, Shadowland

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by Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Wild Rover Featuring the Sacrifice (One-Shot)

Dark Horse  Presents is quickly becoming a great showcase of equally great  new works. Michael Avon Oeming has cut his teeth once or twice in the  anthology, with his short story debuting a while back. Now, Dark Horse  is giving Oeming a bit more leeway in publishing Wild Rover Featuring the Sacrifice  (One-Shot). “Wild Rover” is written  and illustrated by Oeming and lettered by Aaron Walker, while “The  Sacrifice” is written by Oeming, with art and lettering by Victor  Santos.

Like his mother before him, Shane’s an alcoholic. But his family curse  goes deeper than that–Shane needs to overcome the black magic at the  heart of his addiction by killing a liquor demon if he hopes to reclaim  his soul. It’s a black magic that has the power to dictate his actions  and send him in directions that he shouldn’t be going. What follows  in the remainder of the story is a battle with personal demons; a theme  that’s carried over to the second story.

Oeming is clearly tapping into some of his own demons, something he  mentioned in an interview last year. Shane’s woes are deeply rooted in an addiction  to alcohol, something he’s a slave to at the behest of his mother. It  manifests itself as a dark creature that controls his decision-making.  He runs the gamut of self-destructive behaviors, wallowing in defeat  and refusing to take steps to better himself. “Wild Rover”  is a powerful story of addiction that conveys the depths of despair  someone like Shane often falls into. He knowingly drinks and visits  less than reputable locations and furthers himself into a downward spiral  of self-loathing.

“The Sacrifice” is a bit more medieval than “Wild Rover.”  It draws on some of the similar metaphors as the first story, with a  young warrior braving a sea of blades in an attempt to draw the correct  one. The trick is that he finds out doing good doesn’t always end well  for the do-gooder. Sometimes people are urged to do something that is  spun as being for a greater good, yet ends up less than so.

Oeming’s art in “Wild Rover” is dark and unnerving. There  are sharp angles slicing through the pages and the visual representation  of the monster is sufficiently terrifying, helping the reader better  understand what Shane is actually going through. The art is as unforgiving  as the subject matter, depicting a hateful being who despises both himself  and those around him. Santos’ art on “The Sacrifice” is a  lot different than Oeming’s on “Wild Rover,” but it fits the  narrative very well. It’s fantasy oriented and just looks great, thrusting  the reader in front of the tree of swords.

There’s honestly nothing not to like about Wild Rover Featuring the Sacrifice  (One-Shot). Well, you could probably not  like the fact that it’s a one-shot, but boy, what a one-shot. Oeming  really taps into his life for the work and his pain bleeds through.  Shane is both a detestable and sympathetic character, slave to his emotions  and rash decisions. It’s a strong ride through one man’s personal battle  against his inner demons.

Wild Rover Featuring the Sacrifice  (One-Shot) is available now.

Black of Heart #1

Since its inception, New York  City has always been a hotbed of criminal activity. The bad guys do  whatever they want and the good guys do whatever they can to stop them.  In Black of Heart #1 from Assailant Comics, the endless dance between  the good and bad sides of the law takes another twist. The title is  written by Chris Charlton, with art by David Hollenbach and letters  by Brant W. Fowler.

The first chapter of the five-part miniseries sets the book in New York  City, 1949. Detective Drake Harper is searching for a tortuous serial  killer known as The Vulture, a monster with a penchant for abducting  women for rather nefarious reasons. Meanwhile, Detective Harper has  his own battles to deal with, including the press and a crumbling marriage.

Charlton’s work has criminal noir all over it. Detective Harper is a  man who’s trying to do good, but it seems like everything in the city  is conspiring against him. Despite his best efforts, the Vulture manages  to continue racking up victims, instilling terror and fear in the citizens.  The dialogue is pretty good at conveying the story. Harper’s life is  about as harrowing as the case he’s investigating and it helps to humanize  him as someone who believes in the law and will do what he can to uphold  and defend it.

Hollenbach’s art is very stark and smoky. It’s all black and white,  with a few splashes of red here and there for emphasis on certain aspects.  Some of the hashing makes a few of the panels a little difficult to  see exactly what’s going on, but the vagueness fits well with the tone  of the case. The Vulture is sufficiently frightening and there’s two  panels that show who it could possibly be in a very nice symmetrical  way.    If you like the pulp detective stories, then Black of Heart #1 will be exactly what you’re looking for. It may be  set in 1949, but it feels a bit more modern than that for whatever reason.  The story is paired well with the art and offers a rather stark look  at serial crimes. It’s a five-parter and so far seems to be gearing  up for something interesting and paced well.

Black of Heart #1 is available digitally now.

Shadowland

Waking up with a hangover comes  with its own challenges. Usually a splitting headache, intense thirst  and an inability to full remember what happened the night before. For  most in that situation, the night was simply one of reverie disguised  as a haze. In the case of Detective Ian Gates in Shadowland, things are a little more devilish.  The title is written by Tobias Elmore and illustrated by Ken Bastard.

When Detective Ian Gates wakes up in the hospital he has a head wound  and no memory of what’s happened to him. Despite that he wakes up a  hero, the admiration of a terrified city raining down on him for apparently  ending the lives of a pair of dangerous killers in the process of saving  a young woman’s life. However, as the haze clears, bits and pieces of  the night he landed in the hospital beginning to return, two things  become frighteningly clear. He may not have been as much the rescuer  as the one being rescued. And, whoever or whatever he was being rescued  from was likely not human.

Elmore’s story is something of a mix between that of Flight and a Stephen King work. Detective Gates is a man  who’s struggling with alcoholism, a pending divorce and an investigation  that he just can quite resolve. It’s a tried and true formula when it  comes to detectives and Gates fits the description pretty well. The  bulk of the book is something of a whodunnit with a supernatural twist  at the end, providing a reason for why Gates may have trouble remembering  the night. The twist at the end feels a little unnecessary, despite  it’s positioning as something grander that seems will dictate the direction  of the narrative in future works.

Bastard’s art is all black and white with an emphasis on the blacks.  Some of the facial close-ups look very detailed, whereas others look  a little murkier. The art handles the fight sequences well, making sure  the reader can keep up with everything going on. The lettering is a  little tough to decipher though, mostly because of the font chosen and  how much dialogue is there. There’s a lot of dialogue in the book crammed  into the thought bubbles and there is some squinting necessary to make  out what’s going on.

Shadowland is a cop book with a man trying to piece together  both his previous night and a case. He’s sacrificed a lot for his trade  and the results aren’t quite what he was expecting. It’s an interesting  book that blends black and white illustrations with a ton of dialogue.  There’s a foundation for further exploring the universe and future issues  would do well to reduce the dialogue to unclutter the pages of lettering.

Shadowland is available now.


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