Okay, so look....
The holidays happened and we were travelling a bunch. Then we got sick. Like the BIG sick, the *NINETEEN* sick, y'know. SO, we've missed some reading, but here are some things that have hit shelves recently that we think you should read. Here's to getting back on schedule moving forward.
Children of the Black Sun #1 (w: Dario Sicchio, a: Letizia Cadoniei)
Publisher: ABLAZE Publishing
This book is full of wonderful bait-and-switch moments. Taking place in a world where on two separate occasions the normal sun was replaced by a dark, ominous Black Sun. During the first of these events, millions lost their lives to despair. On the second, billions lost their lives to one another. We enter into a world trying it's hardest to feel hope. Ten years have past since the second event, and a collective paranoia has set over society. People want so hard to feel hope for a future free of more Black Sun events, but every slight negative emotion or chilly breeze is read as a sign of the end of days. People are angry, nervous, tired, and generally trying their hardest to keep it together.
Amidst this rising tension live the Children of the Black Sun, kids who were conceived during one of the two events. Though they sport grey skin, red eyes and white hair, science has found that they are genetically identical to normal human beings. Despite this knowledge, they are targeted by the increasing paranoia of their community resulting in discrimination and anger from their neighbors, classmates and even family members. We follow Matthew as he tries his hardest to earn the compassion and respect of his community: speaking in a soft, friendly way, constantly sporting a calm smile, and generally just being a good dude in the face of oppression. It is only when Matthew and his friend Clementine meet two older Children of the Black Sun from the first event that the kids realize what their true potential might be.
"Vampires, right?" But like, no. It doesn't seem to be vampires.
"So, the kids of the Black Sun are malicious, yeah?" I don't think so, no. Maybe? But it seems more like the world around them is malicious.
"Another Black Sun is coming, though, right?" Hard to say. After living through a pandemic, paranoia and societal infighting is scary enough without a big eldritch ball in the sky.
This is a nifty book. It's dark, dreary and oddly relatable. It hits on discrimination, specifically how painful it is being a child dealing with discrimination and having little control over it. Is it fantasy, is it horror, is it sci-fi: I honestly don't know. Super unique and fascinating, definitely gonna be a fun one to keep up with.
Black Cloak #1 (w: Kelly Thompson, a: Meredith McClaren)
Publisher: Image Comics
Good gracious, what an insanely cool book.
Black Cloak is a procedural crime drama set in a cyberpunk fantasy world full of corrupt elite, class conflicts and discrimination. This thick first issue drips with delightful world building as Thompson and McClaren carefully define the laws and layers of this beautifully dangerous world. We follow detective Phaedra Essex, a member of the law-enforcement agency known as the Black Cloaks, as she investigates the murder of her childhood friend and former lover. The murders pile up as Essex and her partner Pax dig deeper into the case. Eventually, Phaedra's own history is thrown into the mix as she has to meet with the victim's mother, the Elf Queen. We slowly learn about Phaedra's complicated history with her elven kin, namely that for some reason she's been exiled and they don't take very kindly to her presence.
This is just such a fantastic book. The story itself feels compelling and mysterious. The pacing through this first issue is spot on, providing enough additional detail to grasp your attention while leaving a strong air of mystery to keep you wanting more. McClaren's art is wonderfully adorable and fun, conflicting with the tone of the narrative in a way that provides a very interesting vibe to the book; one that challenges your initial preconceptions of the style at every twist and turn. Somehow magically, the art style fills the requirement for griminess and darkness expected by crime dramas or cyberpunk stories without dragging the whole tone down with it. It's a wonderfully playful art style and I'm glad I got to experience McClaren's work in such a fun setting.
It's a fun book, page after page, an absolute winner.
Gangster Ass Bartender #1 (w: Pat Shand, a: Renzo Rodriguez)
Publisher: Black Mask Studios
Our pal Pat Shand continues making fun stories with fun characters.
Spinning out of one of our absolute favorite titles, Destiny NY, comes a story following Trinity, the foul-mouthed, Irish thug who is trying to turn over a new, less violent leaf as a barista. The first issue features illicitly earned money, the struggles of customer service, an annoying coworker, lady bikers, rotisserie chickens and more! It's a stellar, ultra-fun first issue for anyone looking for a character driven story grounded in a completely realistic and relatable world (give or take some details).
What I love so much about the Destiny, NY world and more expansively about Pat Shand's writing as a whole is how incredibly detailed all the characters get in just a few panels. It's admittedly been a while since I've read anything Destiny related, but diving in I instantly knew Trinity's motivations, her hopes and dreams, the subtle things that pull her forward, all of it. Destiny, NY, and by extension Gangster Ass Barista, should be taught in creative writing classes as examples of developing fleshed out, real characters quickly and efficiently. It makes these stories so much more endearing and compelling than a lot of the books I've read. 10 out of 10.
Moseley #1 (w: Rob Guillory, a: Sam Lotfi)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
I'll admit that I'm getting a little burned out on the techno-dystopian theme in comics. It seems that everywhere you turn, you're hit with a book about a dreary future where people are slaves to technology and our main character is somehow more enlightened than others but that just means the people they care about treat them like a luddite but then they turn out to be right and blah blah technology bad, put down your phones millennials and zoomers.
This book was in that category for me and I spent most of the first bits just eye-rolling and "here we go again"-ing. Then the last like 8 pages happen and suddenly I'm enthralled. Possible mysticism or some sort of human spirit, I don't truly know WHAT I'm looking at, but the "I'm enlightened that's why I do everything the hard way and discriminate against the status quo" character is suddenly a lot more neato. It felt reminiscent of the way I felt about "Do A Powerbomb" which went from fun character piece to whacky necromantic thrill ride in it's last two pages.
Rob Guillory does a good job keeping interest up in the first few pages with solid character writing and a veil of mystery as to what Moseley's role in the new world order actually is. The bloody knuckles ending of this book just adds to the overall mystery of the world, leaving the reader ever curious as to what makes Moseley so wonderfully special and what his goals will be going forward. I would love to see this book introduce some grey area. Make it so that Moseley's mystical crusade against technology isn't necessarily right or wrong. Make the robot overlords generally benevolent, even if at times misguided. There is a lot of really cool storytelling potential here and it is definitely a book for thrill seekers.
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