This month’s small press spotlight looks at three very different genre tales: starting off with the collected edition of Jordan Kroeger’s crazy combat comic The Fist; following that is goth monsters in the wild west courtesy of Frankenstein Texas; and last but by no means least is wordless zombie sci-fi comic Z from D4VE’s Valentin Ramon.
The Fist by Jordan Kroeger
We’ve been a fan of this crazy violent sci-fi combat series since the first issue and so were excited to hear that writer/artist Jordan Kroeger was going to collect the first 4 issues together into one 130+ page volume as it meant we had an excuse to re-read the whole thing from the start. The Fist himself is an itinerant combat specialist who gets drawn into a series of scuffles with a myriad of quirky adversaries. It starts off with him involved in an intergalactic fight tournament but in later issues it sees him take on fighters named after other body parts, such as the Legs and his nemesis the Right Hand – who is desperate to steal his cybernetic fist to complete his cyborg body. It’s these kind of strange side characters which make The Fist really fun to read. (Especially his spaceship who is also his wife). Kroeger has a really frantic and raw style to his artwork that on first impressions looks quite rough around the edges (and it is) but it also has that energy and vibrancy that makes books like Michael Fiffe’s Copra so fun. it also has a neon colour scheme that makes your eyes hurt, but that’s OK because this is a book that revels in it’s craziness. It’s one of those books that if it was more polished it would loose it’s anarchic charm and you would find yourself questioning what the hell is happening?! So just embrace the craziness and knuckle up as seeing it all collected in one place is a great chance to experience this one of a kind story in all its action packed and insane glory!
Frankenstein Texas by Zebra Comics
It’s gothic monsters in the wild west in this new book from Hex Loader‘s Dan Whitehead and artist David Hitchcock. A reimagining of the final chapter of the Victor Frankenstein story sees the doctor and his monster end up in the Wild West instead of the arctic. This gives fantastic scope for Whitehead to play with the man with no name trope from the world of westerns, but featuring an all powerful monster as the enigmatic anti-hero. Victor and the monster end up in the back of beyond, and help save a town from a nefarious villain, as you would expect. It’s all fairly familiar western fare, and so if you live that kind of gun slinging action then you will love this. However, the unconventional lead makes for an interesting angle and means it is a bit more intriguing for those who aren’t instantly drawn to a book about the wild west. It’s definitely helped by some really fantastic artwork from Hitchcock, which is pencilled and not inked. It gives the whole book a real Penny Dreadful/ Victorian pulp feeling to it, which really matches the tone of the story. It’s a bit rough in a few pages, but the action scenes and characterisation are very strong and the monster is a brilliant mix of terrifying and sympathetic, while the wild west scenery and details and rendered superbly. This mix of western and supernatural reminded us a bit of Accent UK’s excellent Westernoir or Dead Canary’s Reddin, which is never a bad thing, so if you love those kind of contemporary westerns mixed with supernatural elements, or just fancy something a little different from the norm, then be sure to check out this really enjoyable genre mash up.
Purchase Frankenstein Texas from Zebra Comics’ Gumroad Store for $10
Z by Valentin Ramon
From Valentin Ramon, the co-creator of the smart but sleazy sci-fi series D4VE, comes this new wordless graphic novel starring a man with a skull for a head. From the opening pages we are introduced to a dark and unsettling future world of gasmark wearing strangers in grimey rooms and zombie like creatures shuffling through a bleak and dystopian world. As a character Z is difficult to describe as he doesn’t have much in the way of facial features to work with, but he has a kind of swagger and attitude to him that you pick up through his body language. As you follow him on a series of escapades things get darker and wierder with every page turn and it’s not the easiest book to follow, thanks to the lack of dialogue. Perhaps it benefits from being read in a larger print format as the artwork is incredibly detailed, with a very Geof Darrow quality to it (reminding us a lot of Hard Boiled). Ramon attempts to overcome the lack of dialogue with lots of personality in Z and his supporting cast, as well as lots of infographic like elements and pictogram style speech bubbles. It’s an awe inspiring read as you digest the sheer level of detail and intricacies of the ideas on show on every page. However following the story is a struggle and so we found ourselves experiencing and admiring the book rather than reading it. It certainly lacks the high level polish of D4VE, but it is also a very different kind of book. So if you like dark and twisted science fiction and can overcome the lack of dialogue then it is definitely a book that is unlike anything else we have read this year and a stunning calling card for what an incredible artist Ramon has become.