Review: Strangelands #1 (Humanoids/H1)

The latest publisher to start building a multi-verse, Strangelands #1, is the latest title from Humanoids’ H1 imprint and part of their ‘Ignited’ universe (which we saw debut with Ignited) Will this be the start of an exciting, wider universe or will it fail to ignite readers interest?

Publisher: Humanoid Comics/H1
Writer: Magdalene Visaggio, Darcie Little Badger, Carla Speed McNeil (backup story)
Artist: Guillermo Sanna (art), Bryan Valenza (colours), A Larger World Studios (Letters), Meredith Laxton (art, backup story), Lee Loughridge (Colours, Backup Story)
Price: £2.49/$3.99 from ComiXology

Strangelands #1 follows Elakshi and Adam Land, two complete strangers who share nothing in common except their last name. However, in a world which is seeing significant changes and powers being bestowed onto select individuals as a result, the Land’s find themselves sharing one more thing when both ‘ignite’ with powers which forces them to remain in close proximity to each other. Now on the run from a seemingly unstoppable agent bent on killing them, the Land’s are directed by their mysterious benefactor, ‘Kittyhawk’, to an isolated lodge near the Colorado mountains. It is there they meet a man who wishes to help people like the Lands in controlling and removing their powers. But have Elakshi and Adam truly found the help they’ve been seeking? Meanwhile, as two ‘sisters’ prepare to be parted, the anger of one for what is happening leads to an unexpected revelation for the other.

Magdalene Visaggio and Darcie Little Badger have put together an interesting beginning to both the Land’s story and the wider world in this first issue of Strangelands. Dropping readers bang in the middle of the story, very little is revealed in regards to how the story reached this point, making for intriguing questions as to the origins of these characters and how things came to be. One thing that is revealed here is Elakshi and Adam’s power set and how they works, which really comes across as interesting due to their need for proximity but not too much. This revelation to their powers implies a sense of attraction and repellent similar to Magnets, which makes for a unique and original power compared to many other well established characters in comics. Beyond this, however, the issue is very run of the mill with little going for it beyond set up of both the series and the larger world as well as questions regarding the two apparent antagonists in the Hitman and Win, their new ‘friend’. Meanwhile, the back-up story by Carla Speed McNeil is incredibly captivating, with McNeil able to fill a lot of intrigue into two pages and is a good addition to fill out this new universe.

Meanwhile, the art team of Guillermo Sanna and Bryan Valenza have produced a visual style to this story has something of a gritty realism about it. This makes it stand out against Marvel and DC, while the aesthetic appears reminiscent to Valiant’s visual house style, particularly Ninjak and Quantum and Woody (the latter of which the title vibes in terms of its characters) as well as Bryan Hitch’s work in Superhero book America’s got Powers. The colour scheme continues this trend with very muted tones, which are only given up in place of colour when powers are put to use. This is a similar style during the backup, with Meredith Laxton and Lee Loughridge seemingly mimicking the main story’s style, allowing for a sense of consistency within the title and possible across the entire line.

While it offers very little information on the wider ‘Ignition’ universe that the opening page touts, Strangelands #1 is a quietly intriguing and visually enjoyable opening issue which doesn’t so much bolt as saunter out of the gate, looking to build up pace before heading for the lead. Fortunately, the questions it leaves by the end, as well as the good back-up and teasers for the other series, makes coming back a seriously tempting proposition, as well as checking the other corners of Humanoid’s new universe.