Our latest round up of small press comics features: native American pulp vigilates in The Owl: Osage Guardian; floral sisters investigating their mother’s mysterious death in The Deadliest Bouquet; and the brilliantly monikered Hardcore Bazooka All Stars!
The Owl: Osage Guardian
We’re always a bit of a sucker for a pulp inspired vigilante hero and The Owl is definitely a great example. Moulded in the image of Batman and The Shadow – with a bit of Lobster Johnson and even Moon Knight thrown in for good measure – the Owl’s USP (which these kind of books always need) is that he is the guardian of the Osage nation (A Native American tribe based in the American mid west). Set in the 1930s, the story focuses around a family losing their traditional blankets to a group of bank robbers who are on the run and The Owl manages to get back their prize possessions. With the period setting it plays up the depression era themes of racism and financial struggles and while this first issue has a relatively straight forward story it is fleshed out nicely with plenty of back story on the Osage family whose blankets get stolen and they come across as very sympathetic victims. You could argue that this part of the story takes up much more of the issue than The Owl himself, or the villainous Vickers gang who he goes after, but as with a lot of genre comics like this, finding something to help it stand out from the crowd is important, and rightly or wrongly this part of the story does just that. The Owl himself is very much your classic genre vigilante and so doesn’t need a lot of introduction – he lets his fists and pistols do that – and does enough to remain interesting and enigmatic here without too much character development. Visually, artist Huenito gives the book a dark and shadowy feel that reminded us a bit of Michael Avon Oeming in places, as well as Mike Mignola. While there is also a quite gritty texture to a lot of the artwork which goes well with the period setting and along with the colour scheme reminded us of TPub’s excellent Theatrics series. While The Owl is not really breaking new ground for pulp heroics, it ticks all the boxes that you could ask for a debut issue of a book like this. With plenty of scope for future character development with both The Owl and the supporting cast, this is a great first issue and we can’t wait to watch it emerge from the shadows and really take care of business!
Currently funding on Kickstarter
The Deadliest Bouquet
When their mother is found dead in her flower shop, sisters Rose, Violet and Poppy (can you see a connection!) are brought back together to try and figure out what has happened. But in doing so the girls, aka Les Trois Fleurs, also begin to dig over events from their past involving their father which should perhaps remain buried (pun intended,) The Deadliest Bouquet is an interesting mix of murder mystery and dysfunctional family melodrama. Superstar writer Erica Schultz (Daredevil, Hawkgirl) does a great job of introducing the family and the three sisters with their unique personalities. (Rose is the one stuck at home looking after mom. Poppy is the family woman, and Violet the unpredictable son). However it is also a book which poses more questions than answers – ranging from who killed the mum, to what happened to Dad and perhaps most importantly, what are these three hiding, and is this what makes them who they are today? Schultz makes the most of these character dynamics to create a book which is powered forward by the murder mystery but also the family tensions and there is plenty of scope for this to head off in a variety of directions. Visually The Deadliest Bouquet has a very slick and crisp feel to it, courtesy of artist Carola Borelli. It has a very modern Big Two style to it, which almost feels a bit too polished in places and as such feels like it lacks a bit of a unique visual identity. Given the subject matter we would have preferred something a bit more gritty or stylised and less polished for this kind of story to give it a bit more edge.
Hardcore Bazooka All Stars
We have to admit it, writer Nick Moffat had us sold on his new book from the minute we read the title and saw the awesome front cover. After all, how can a book like this disappoint!? And boy does it deliver – although not quite in the way we had expected. With a pedigree of writing for The Beano, Dandy and other kids comics, Nick doesn’t go for the classic 1 story over 25 pages approach of US comics, but instead goes for a series of skits and sketches, some only being a couple of pages long. As a result, what the comic lacks in long form story telling it more than makes up for in high energy anarchy and laugh out loud humour. The Hardcore Bazooka All Stars are an eclectic bunch made up of Suzuki Overkill (last of the wardroids), Bionic Actionslacks (master of bike fu) Heavenly Rigor Mortis (undead stunt rider) and Loungecore Bowlorama (laid back ghost hunter) and their adventures range from taking down a sewer full of undead hipsters to taking on a possessed TV during games night. Although we are doing our best, this is one of those comics that really defies description. The characters are brilliantly weird and the sketches equally so. Nick’s visuals manage to mix a classic kids comic sensibility with that of a left field underground animation studio mixed with the attitude of a disgruntled art school drop out who wants to do whatever crazy comic they damn well want. Everything about it just feels slightly different to the norm, from the purple and blue colour scheme to the awesome hand drawn lettering. It all just sizzles with originality and fun – it’s almost as if this is an antidote to Nick’s more corporate day job, and he is finally allowed to really cut loose and really go all out, and it is a hell of a read as a result. With it’s fragmented nature this is the kind of story which would slot perfectly into an awesome small press anthology and be the stand out offering. When collected together there is just enough variety and originality to hold an issue together, but it would be nice to see a few more longer form stories in future issues. However for now, this first issue is every bit the ‘lovely premiere issue’ that it boasts about on its cover. In fact it is a truly explosive read that will blow your mind with it’s all out assault on your senses!