Our latest round up of the best from small press sees an intergalactic invasion at a comic convention, a Maori superhero origin story and an all action softball romance.
The Cosplayer That Doomed The Earth (Attic Studios)
With cosplay now a firm fixture at every comic convention, Lou Scannon creator Dan Harris looks to cross the streams of comics culture, with his new book The Cosplayer That Doomed The Earth, now funding on Kickstarter. Griff grew up worshipping classic video game Captain Aequitus. A regular comic con attendee, he decides to bite the bullet and cosplay for the first time as his video game idol. However when the convention is interrupted by alien invaders, they mistake him for the real Captain Aequitas. All of which is compounded further when Aequitas’ team the Veritas Squad turn up to help him out. This is a fantastically fun slice of classic all ages comics. The concept is your classic ‘mistaken identity’ trope that we’ve seen many times before, but giving it the cosplay angle certainly helps freshen it up. Harris gives the whole thing a really light and funny feel to it, with same kind of humour and gags which we loved in Lou Scannon – but with a bit more of an all ages tone to it (It would be a perfect fit in the Fairspark Book roster for example). He also supplies the artwork which is colourful and packed full of fun characterisation, reminding us of Tanya Roberts work on the brilliant Plagued series. While the plot is a little light and frothy, and fairly predictable, this is one of those books which is built around convention and playing up to reader’s expectation and so trying to reinvent the genre and subvert readers expectation would just leave you feeling underwhelmed. In the same way that we loved Andy Clift’s Captain Cosmic for its unashamed love of its subject matter, The Cosplayer That Doomed The Earth is a fantastically fun read which will have you laughing and smiling from the first page to the last.
This Land (Aroha Comics)
Just when you think there can’t be many more twists left on the superhero genre, we get sent Mark Abnett’s Maori Superhero story This Land – which describes itself as Moana meets the X-Men, which is certainly an interesting mash up! Set in s futuristic New Zealand where new tribes and cultures have developed around those with powers, our heroine Hell’Na gets drawn into a spot of bother when a god like man falls from the sky and imprisons her family and friends in glass. Because she is the only person who can understand his ancient dialect, it draws suspicions from the authorities (with whom she already has some issues) and she ultimately sets about putting together a team and trying to help this new stranger discover the demi-god Maui (there’s the Moana link!). This Land is a really mixed bag of a comic. It has a lot of positives, such as a really strong premise and a really interesting world in which the characters live. It also looks really strong, thanks to some really smart artwork from Przemyslaw Dedellis and Liezl Buenaventura which has a very 90s Wildstorm feel to it, while also reminding us of Dan Butcher’s Vanguard. The opening pages with Hell’Na showing off her powers are particularly impressive, as are the latter pages involving her putting together a misfit team, which felt very Savage Dragon like. However, as an overall book, this first issue is a bit all over the place. We found it hard to follow exactly what was going as the story leapt from scene to scene, and back and forth in time without any obvious logic to it. We also struggled to get a handle on the world and could have done with some more focused exposition at the beginning explaining the world and the characters who inhabit it. There are a lot of title pages explaining things, but it’s hard to tell what they refer to in the actual comic. It’s one of those stories which is difficult to gauge what it is trying to be. On the surface it feels like a high energy superhero book, but this first issue feels more like a pulp sci-fi book, centred around world building with a hint off fantasy quest as well. Like a lot of first issues, there are bags of potential in Our Land which just needs harnessing and pointing in the right direction. The characters and look are there, and so hopefully future issues can help iron out these first issue kinks and when the meat of the story gets going then Our Land has the potential to be something really different and a ton of fun!
Grand Slam Romance
Although we don’t usual cover much manga here at Pipedream Comics, we thought we’d make an exception for Olivia Hicks and Emma Oosterhaus’ awesome Grand Slam Romance. Micky Monsoon is the star player for the Broad City Belles in the Statewide Softball league. In the finals of a tournament she crosses paths with the new star player from the Gaity Girls, a last minute transfer into the team who turns out to be Mickey’s childhood friend Astra Maxima. As the two compete to win the game, as well as dig over past times, it also sees them flirting outrageously as the tension that builds is both sporting and sexual. We loved Olivia Hick’s work in last years 2000 AD Sci Fi Special, and this is another fantastic all female sporting success story. While the action in the issue is a little formulaic, the dialogue and banter between Micky and Astra sizzle and is laden with plenty of flirty innuendo and suggestion. Artist Emma Oosterhaus manages to capture that over the top style of a sport manga with exploding balls and high energy action on every page – not to mention Astra’s completely impractical uniform which looks like something Chun Li would reject for being too floaty! Grand Slam Romance feels like it is part of a renewed interest in romance comics in the indie world with books like Twisted Romance telling love stories, but with a pre-dominantly non-hetero point of view. It means Grand Slam Romance is much more than just another trad romance book and it’s combination of outrageous action and even more outrageous flirting makes this a really fun and feisty read.