In his latest look at the wonderful world of indie, Olly MacNamee casts his expert eye over: Ram V and Nick Barber’s Brigands #1 from Action Lab Entertainment; And the continuation of CJ Standal’s Rebirth Of The Gangster.
Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment Writer: Ram V Artist: Nick Barber Price: £1.99 from ComiXology
No one expects the Spanish Inquisition, as the old Monty Python skit established, but in Brigands No.1, the good folk of the Temur probably do expect the secretive inquisition led by the shady, sadistic ‘second most powerful man’ in the land, Arom Roche, in this sword and sorcery series from writer Ram V and artist Nick Barber.
The first, promising issue, throws the reader straight into a scene of Medieval torture that would make a dentist turn away, as teeth are pulled out from an unfortunate captive’s mouth unceremoniously. The colours are dark, dingy and bloody. Indeed, the colours throughout this book set the appropriate tones, as well as act as a visual marker for the change in setting and time, as we move from the present day, in which our would-be hero and all-round scoundrel, Stilian ‘Blackheart’ Desault, sets out on a mission not of his chosing, to the recent past, helping us fill in the gaps. Stilian, we learn, has been saved form execution by the no-doubt Machiavellian Roche, in order to prove a theory, it would seem. A theory involving magical objects – a hero’s quest for the Myros Pendulum – and therefore magical forces maybe, just maybe, mortals should best leave alone.
Writer Ram V (Black Mumba) weaves a fascinating tale that introduces us to a world where fear is king and brigands, like Stilian, are easy to root for when one considers what he is railing against; despotic power-hungry tyrants. He has a past, and we’re only just learning snippets of it. That past included a partner, the impish, punky Veina who he is reunited with for his hero’s journey. There are more brigands to come, but for now, it’s right to not throw everyone at the reader all at once. there is more than enough to take in: the fantasy world, the politics and a magical mission.
The artwork, by Nick Barber, is a great fit, as it reminded us somewhat of Ernie Colon and his work on DC’s Amethyst way, way back in the halcyon days of the 80’s. Simple but strong lifework that would work equally well as just a black and white comic, but shines with the addition of colour.
A satisfying read and a satisfyingly tantalising cliffhanger too. The matey, feel-good banter shared between Desault and Viena adds humour to a fantasy world that could otherwise be too dark and too dangerous. They are the heart of this story, the focus, and you find yourself cheering for these guys very quickly in no small part thanks to their camaraderie.
We’re already looking forward to how Desault worms his way out of his nefarious deal, which we’ve no doubt he will do.
Editor’s Note: You can get a copy of Brigands No.1 from good comic book stores on November 9th, or go get your copy signed by Ram the man at Orbital Comics in London on the same date from 5pm – 7pm.
Rebirth of a Gangster #2 and #3
Publisher: CJ Standal Productions Writer: CJ Standal Artist: Juan Romera Price: £0.69 per issue from ComiXology
The focus of issue 2 shifts away from rich boy Marcus and his privileged upbringing, as seen in the first issue, and onto the hapless, small-time crook from the poorer side of town, Hunter. And, while we get a glimpse into the backstory of Hunter and realise that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree where families are concerned, we aren’t privy to each conversation and what is left out of earshot which is what tantalises the reader and peeks our interests.
Clearly both Marcus and Hunter are linked in ways we have yet to find out. Who is the title of the comic even referring to? Hunter is a crook but he ain’t no gangster, while Marcus, shaken up from his ordeal of issue one (a violent hold-up), seems to be too far removed from the world of crime and protected by privilege.
Meanwhile, issue three shines the spotlight onto copper shielded but gold-hearted, Detective Lorena Gonzalez, investigating the robbery that involved the aforementioned characters. Reading both issues back to back reveals a fascinating parallel between the two, with both opening on a one-page potted history of the particular character under scrutiny. We learn that, for Hunter, nurture and nature are two separate things and he could escape his fate, albeit, not in the issues thus far published. A dad behind bars but a loving mother determined for a better life for her son. But then, those medical bills won’t pay themselves and we witness what a man has to do to get by. (Thank God for the NHS!)
These opening page summaries of their lives thus far is an interesting and effective narrative tool that writer C J Standal, has employed and immediately adds some life into these characters ahead of us getting to know more about them over the two issues. Their stories are interrelated and they share some history with one another, even if they have forgotten. A shared history we read through flashback sequences. But, to what extent their lives are tied together in the present, we have yet to realise.
Out of all the characters, we were draw to Hunter’s story. A man who is clearly talented but never realised his potential because of a number of factors; his own obstinance, his circumstances and his need for cash, and fast. we feel we are heading towards a much darker and tragic tale, and in these two issues we are starting to get there as all the ducks, so to speak, begin to get lines up.
The art, by Juan Romera is of a good, solid style and somewhat of a Hernandez brothers (Love & Rockets) vibe going on about it too. A talent to look out for, methinks and a great fit for this crime thriller.
Author: Olly MacNamee
Olly MacNamee teaches English and Media, for his sins, in a school somewhere in Birmingham. Some days, even he doesn’t know where it is. Follow him on twitter @ollymacnamee or read about his exploits at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or don’t.