Recently, I picked up some “indie” graphic novel trades at the local Bargain Book World. I was kind of surprised to see these, since I’d never heard of them before, but I decided to splurge and pick up the four most interesting sounding comics from the lot. And without further ado, here is the indie comic potpourri.
CVO – Covert Vampiric Operations – African Blood
Publisher: IDW Publishing
This is the third in the CVO line, detailing a covert group of vampire operatives working for the CIA. In this installment, Cross, one of the CVO operatives must confront his past and present, returning with the rest of the CVO crew to Ethiopia to track down some African stereotype who’s captured not only a large quantity of magical devices and created a large number of vampire-zombies, but also a friend of Cross’s who’d been captured previously when he and Cross were sent into Ethiopia. Being the third trade in the series, I’m kind of screwed by not knowing a lot about these characters or anything, but it was still easy enough to piece together. The idea itself is pretty solid, and would make for an awesome WoD game (Project Twilight, Demon Hunter X, meets old-school Vampire). There’s a ton of blood, of course, and the vampires die in many horrible, poorly-illustrated ways. (Let’s put it this way: get used to seeing disembodied heads, as well as people being sliced in twain.)
Sadly, CVO just didn’t do much for me. The characterizations weren’t really built up, despite some effort, and remained feeling like flat, stock characters. For example, there’s a great scene where on of the characters (Bools) goes on a long heavy-handed tangent about how it’s “our duty” to help the starving Africans, while another going on a likewise heavy-handed tangent about how when third-world nations are in trouble they always run to “Uncle Sam.” The dialogue ran the gamut from good to terrible, with one character in particular (again, Bools, if you actually read the damn thing) falling flat most of the time, as does the trite dialogue between the demon and bulimic vampire running the operation.
Also, much like Resident Evil 4, I can see a lot of claims for racism in here with the depiction of Africa and Africans, only unlike Resident Evil 4 I could see such a claim justified (what with the depictions of tribalistic witches and all). The art was rather lackluster at points, being overall passably solid but with a number of small graphical errors which are kind of jarring. At the end of the day, it’s got average or passable art, characters, plot, and text, and the awesome concept and potential outweigh some of the terrible flaws and occasionally trite dialogue. CVO isn’t bad. It’s just not great, which is what the Virgin comics were, or awesomely fun, which is how I’d describe Hack/Slash, so it falls behind the heap.
Hack/Slash: First Cut
Publisher: Devil’s Due Publishing
Hack/Slash is “soon to be a major motion picture from Rogue Pictures,” and I can see why. It’s got a good blend of action-horror as well as a good tongue-in-cheek vibe from poking at the stereotypes of a good slasher film. The main character is a survivor of multiple slasher attacks who’s decided that killing slashers should be her mission in life; each story arc focuses on how she finds, confronts, and takes down the slasher. Not terribly much development, but with only three arcs, I see this first issue as more setting the characters and style up rather than making grand sweeps to the characters.
A great satire of the B-movie slasher genre, with some solid artwork throughout. Obviously, the plots aren’t too original—slasher movies aren’t—but the satiric twist does wonders. The first slasher is called the Lunch Lady for God’s sake. Don’t expect to take it seriously. Note that there’s buckets of blood and plenty of gore, as befits a slasher-related media, as dismembered limbs go flying; there’s also a good deal of T and A from the various panty shots and such.
I ended up really liking this one. The slashers were original, and the plots had neat spins on the standard slasher archetypes. The characters were interesting if not developed, and you get a good feel for how both the characters (and the slashers) work. Again, the art is fantastic in the first storyline, and remains solid throughout; it’s got a great use of color, detail, and texture. There weren’t any lines of (unintentionally) corny dialogue, and having three full arcs, plus a ton of sketches and other material, made this well worth fifteen bucks.
Publisher: Virgin Comics
Apparently, Virgin Comics these days is branching out into two directions. The first group is comics inspired by movies, which are basically screenplays and storyboards made/written/briefly looked at by a film director. The other half are based on Indian (dot, not feather) myths, legends, or otherwise attempt to break into the Indian comics market. Devi falls into the later group.
Devi herself is a goddess of the Hindu persuasion, fighting an eternal war with the forces of darkness so that the light will prevail. So, take the plot of a great Eastern epic and marry it with an ultra-modern location to aptly create a great contrast of east and west, past and future. Despite its pitch as “India’s first superheroine,” this is very much a sci-fi/fantasy comic, with plenty of eye-popping battles and gunfights akimbo. As the story progresses, characters are brought in and introduced, and the plot moves quite fluidly, but in a naturally smooth way without any trite introductions or useless “Well, as you know, George” moments.
Devi boasts some impressive production values. The art is fantastic, with a lot of the more panoramic and dynamic scenes, giving it a distinct film feel. The colors are exotic, fitting the scenery wonderfully, and giving it an Indian feel. Think of the epic nature of a Hong-Kong wuxia special, give it the plot of a great epic, and style it in pure Bollywood pomp, and you start to see what’s going on here. All in all, it was quite awesome, and I’m now looking forward to finding Devi part 2, or the other India-centric Virgin comics, Ramayan 3392 AD and The Sadhu.
Guy Ritchie’s Game Keeper
Publisher: Virgin Comics
This would be the other kind of Virgin comic, the one that’s made by movie directors who want to turn the comic into a storyboard and/or then into a movie. This one’s from the director of Snatch and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, and is already on the movie block with Warner Brothers and Joel Silver.
The plot is simple, but has the thriller/mystery aspect of keeping everything secret until things are done playing. The Gamekeeper of the title is a Chechen working on a Scotsman’s farm, keeping everything fine for his Scottish friend…until paramilitary troops break in, killing everyone, looking for some hidden documents the Scot was hiding. So, we’ve got two mysteries to unravel: that of the Chechen and his buried past, and that of what exactly the documents were that are worth so much trouble and bloodshed. Of course, the Chechen gamekeeper goes on a long-running gunfight to get revenge and all, thus garnishing the action.
According to the introduction, Guy Ritchie only had to go into Warner Brothers and pitch the movie version by showing the first two pages of the comic as his “storyboard.” And damn, does it look fine. The high-contrast of blues and reds makes everything seem larger than life, and this contrast continues throughtout, as the pages are awash in red security lights and the occasional high-contrast black and white segments of the gamekeeper’s flashback. It’s got a great Sin City feel, but at the same time is bloated with the wonderful art. Speaking of which, the last twenty or so pages are filled with the scripts and storyboards of how the art developed, which is fascinating. Gamekeeper is full of gunfights and fisticuffs, enough mystery and violence for any good ultra-modern technothriller. It’s a roller-coaster ride that makes me think Richard Brannson is on to something if he can maverick up stuff like this and Devi.