Last year was a strong year for writer Andrew Clemson, as he managed to release not one, but two issues, of BOTH his ongoing series: Damsel from DISTRESS and Bete Noir. Fresh off a place in our Best of 2021, and glowing reviews of the debut issues, we take a look at these new issues and see if they managed to keep the magic of the originals!
Damsel from D.I.S.T.R.E.S.S. #2 and 3
These new issues of ‘Damsel’ picks up where issue one left off, as Bec and her accidental squire Dave pick up their mission to rescue a Dwarven princess, despite the hesitancy of the Dwarven King in Bec’s ability. However, aided by the Princess’ shield maiden, Brunhilde, Bec’s mission leads her to the border between life and death, and a reunion with a man she long thought the latter.
Much like its opening instalment, Damsel #2 and 3 continues to be a fun and charming adventure, which feels very much like a cross between the Moore James Bond and Beast Hunting Battle Badgers in its lightness. This is best exemplified by the characters, with Bec portraying a bubbly confidence during her mission and, particularly new cast member Brunhilde whose forwardness and charm is so wonderful she reminds me of the Legend of Wonder Woman’s rendition of Etta Candy. Straight away she is my favourite character.
Mauricio Mora’s art continues to maintain the same page popping vibrancy of the first issue, giving the series a look which reminds me of Jim Cheung. That said, the opening pages, while having the same pencils, lack the same colour, utilising a more faded colour scheme which gives it a very dreamlike feel. This leads into my only complaint as, while the art is still nice, the scene it depicts is confusing as it offers very little evidence to confirm if its set in the past or present, implying a lack of consistency in the story if it’s the latter. As such a little clarity is all that was needed here, but it’s a minor flaw.
Andrew Clemson’s fantasy spy series is pure, unfiltered fun, not taking itself too seriously and coming across as highly enjoyable because of it. By the end of the third series, Damsel left me with plenty of questions and intrigue, as well as a cliffhanger that’ll definitely bring me back for more.
Betê Noir #2-3
This also follows on from its opening instalment with the prior events causing the remnants of the former heroes to reappear out of the shadows as the mysterious hooded man sets about putting his plan into action. As flashbacks of the events causing the present day actions are revealed, questions begin to arise as to who in the world are the real heroes and who are the villains?
Andrew Clemson’s story continues to maintain the gritty, noir feel here as it did within the first issue. However, the plot seems to take a much more complex turn here as more of the players are revealed as well as the catalyst behind the mysterious Bete Noir’s plans are revealed. As a result of this twist, Clemson’s tale gives me a reminiscent feel of Waid’s Irredeemable, Millar’s Jupiter’s Legacy and even a sense of Miller’s Dark Knight thanks to its ominous and ambiguous atmosphere as the lines between the heroes and villains are seemingly blurred. However, this ramping up of the intrigue does have a negative side-effect in that very few of the characters are named. While this does help to the mystery as it keeps me guessing what was going on, the fact that characters’ (known) identities are seldom revealed to me made it difficult to keep up when they may be referred to in the third person.
Meanwhile, I continue to enjoy Kriswantowhy’s gritty style and cold tone for the present day scenes within the artwork, as it maintains the harsh, noir-ish vibe of the story. However, the subtle change in both the pencils to something a little softer and the colours to something a little warmer for the flashback scenes is a welcome addition as it not only gives a noticeble difference between time frames but also paints the story’s past in a more hopeful, optimistic light.
While Bete Noir lacks certain elements which do not help fix its momentary confusion in the story, Clemson has taken an interesting story in the first issue to something vastly more engrossing and captivating by the third. Coupled with an atmospherically dark and fitting artwork, Bete Noir is certainly shaping up to be a gripping tale which I need to see the end of.