With a new year now uon us it’s a great chance to catch up on some of the small press titles we were sent over December while we were distracted with our end of year awards. This month we look at ghostly monks, music inspired superheroes and sci-fi sheriffs.
Throk: Path of Vengeance (Ravengear Studios)
We start this month’s round up with two uniquely named titles from writer Zakh Fair. The first is Throk: Path Of Vengeance, which is set in a world of ghostly demons and exorcist monks. Throk is a Ghost Lotus monk who battles evil spirits and rescues lost children. After a battle with a particular troublesome Ratkin he meets Aldo, a young boy who needs returning home. But before he does, Throk must head out on more missions to defeat an evil spirit. Writer Fair and his team brings together a host of classic fantasy tropes but manages to give them a really fresh and vibrant feel. There’s shreds of Yosagi Yojimbo or Mice Templar in there, with the anthropomorphic fantasy, but definitely more of the former as there is definitely an Asian influence with the characters who feel very samurai like. There is also a generous hint of classic Anime Ninja Scroll, with it’s magical powers and frenetic action. And, inevitably in anything supernatural, there is also a hint of Hellboy thrown in for good measure too, especially in the wonderful colours. Visually it’s really strong with artist/colourist Luca Vasallo giving the whole book a really unique style. Composition wise there are hints of Michael Oeming with the angular poses and faces (especially when he was doing Mice Templar), but the line style is a lovely mix of thick outlines and fine shading which makes for a really nice textured piece reminding us of John Arcudi in places. It also gives it a slightly ComiX feel as well reminding us of Lukasz Kowalcuk’s work on books like Knock Off Wars. Our only negative on the whole book is that at times the lettering had some odd positioning and so reading the book was a bit challenging – especially given the genre and its reliance on long winded speeches and complicated names! But this isn’t enough to take away from the overall enjoyment of the book and this is definitely a book to join on its epic journey as it is packed with potential greatness.
Codename Vokz (Ravengear Studios)
The second book from Zakh is a slice of all action superhero adventuring that reminded us a lot of H1 Comics Ignited books. Dawnie is your average teenage pop sensation who gets mugged in a back street by an armour wearing bad guy with some kind of lightning bolt sticks. When she wakes up her hearing is all messed up, she has some kind of weird energy powers and her heart rate goes at 180 bpm (great for drum and bass). As she learns more about her powers she finds that they are all musically themed and so she looks to get revenge on whoever mugged her and becomes a music inspired hooded vigilante – complete with headphone hearing aids which help control her powers. It’s a delightfully daft concept, and the world that Zakh has created is completely over the top and ridiculous – but lots of fun! From the glamorous record exec world to her science geek buddy with the giant underground lab beneath his house, it doesn’t feel grounded in the real world at all. But that isn’t a bad thing, because this is a superhero comic, and it is much more enjoyable for having this outlandish stuff in there. Codename VOKZ is a heck of a lot of fun. In the same way that we really enjoy comics like Geek Girl or Mahoney’s who don’t take themselves too seriously and don’t get bogged down in the kind of meta over analysis that a lot of current superhero books are caught up in. The artwork from Asela de Silva, is quite rough around the edges, with a slightly inconsistent style to some of it. But at the same time it has a DC Comics house style to it, and although it is in black and white this is probably a good thing as it means it hasn’t been marred by poor quality digital colouring (something which so often blights books like this).
The Last Sheriff #6 (Reckless Hero)
Reckless Hero’s all action space western has been a perennial favourite here at Pipedream HQ since it first burst on to the scenes in 2015. It’s a book which has seen it’s characters and creative team evolve, from a high impact Capcom inspired debut one shot to a more intricate and involved story with supporting characters and a full fleshed out world. (Check out the supporting story in the back of this issue to see how much they have evolved). With issue #6 the first arc comes to a bloody and violent conclusion, but also leaves the door open for future series. With The Sheriff captured and set to be executed it is up to Rose and The Sheriff’s gang of followers to help rescue him, which doesn’t go quiet to plan. The twist in this issue is definitely a shocking one and sets the story up nicely for the future (or rounds things off nicely if they want to focus on other titles). However in doing this it perhaps veers too much into violent/mature territory for our personal taste. The Last Sheriff has always felt more like Star Wars Rebels or a gritty Bravestarr, rather than a full on hardcore Anime, which feels like it is inspired by here. Some of the more graphic scenes in this finale jarred for us, especially when the artwork from new boy Davide Tinto is so clean and crisp. Tinto has taken over from original artist Chris Imber for these final two issues, (so Chris can work on other projects) and while he manages to maintain Imber’s high quality of work and impactful Wildstorm/Manga infused style, his work has a much cleaner line and less gritty tone to it which makes some of the more violent scenes feel a bit contrived. It’s not enough to detract from the issue and series as a whole though, and this is a fitting conclusion to a fantastic series. And we hope it’s not the last we see of the Last Sheriff.