PUBWATCH: Cracking Open The Vault (Jan/Feb 2018)

PUBWATCH: Cracking Open The Vault (Jan/Feb 2018)

Hello! It's been a bit since our first Pubwatch for Vault—we had some technical difficulties to iron out. Thankfully we've gotten through those, so we should be pretty on top of releases going forward. Because of the delay, this'll be a super-sized entry, covering both January and February's releases. We've got a lot to cover,

Hello! It’s been a bit since our first Pubwatch for Vault—we had some technical difficulties to iron out. Thankfully we’ve gotten through those, so we should be pretty on top of releases going forward. Because of the delay, this’ll be a super-sized entry, covering both January and February’s releases. We’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s just jump right in!

Alien Bounty Hunter #3 (Jan) and #4 (Feb)

First, I need you all to stop and look at these covers. Nick Robles handles his own art duties. Go ahead, give yourself some time with them. Take it in, appreciate it. I’ll wait.

Done? Okay, good. Alien Bounty Hunter remains a really, really fun comic. It sets up a vibrant, interesting world featuring aliens of all sorts playing off of human leads, spectacular action, and heartwarming moments that make you care about the outcome of those action sequences. It showcases characters with complex motivations and morals, who you won’t always like but you’ll definitely always enjoy. It’s like Star Wars, when Star Wars is good. You know what I mean.

You can read an in-depth review of the first issue here, but the short version is that if you like sci-fi, action, and heart, Alien Bounty Hunter is a book you’ll enjoy.

Songs For The Dead #1 (Jan) and #2 (Feb)

Do you like Dragon Age? Do you like Pushing Daisies? (Hi, Missy!) If so, you’ll enjoy this story about a traveling minstrel with the ability to bring folks back from the dead in order to find out how they died. She hooks up with an equally homeless and hard-drinking mercenary girl as they become embroiled in the local politics. It’s full fantasy, a little bit morbid, and extremely cute. LOOK AT THESE COOL GIRLS, READ THEIR STORY.

If I’m leaning on the sales pitch a bit hard, well, this is the kind of thing I’d like to see more of. It’s a fantasy story with a unique take, starring a pair of women who both fit and manage to flip classic adventurer tropes. It’s thoughtful and clever, it asks pertinent ethical questions and draws your eyes to decisions during action sequences that you might not otherwise spend much time thinking about.

I really, really enjoyed the two issues I read and I’m waiting for more. If you want another take, though, the parenthetical Missy up there is our own Melissa Brinks, who’ll be providing a more in-depth review soon!

Maxwell’s Demons #2

Maxwell’s Demons #2 is an engaging second part to the new series that started in November (Link to Pubwatch November). It continues the story of the child genius Max Maas, and his travels to other worlds through time and space. This second issue focuses on one of the many worlds that he visits in the story. Maxwell’s Demons #1 left me curious about Max, his mad science explorations, and his relationship with his father. We seem to get very little of that in this latest issue.

That being said, issue two did surprise me in a number of ways. I enjoyed the story and its skillfully prepared setting, and it was told from an angle I could not have anticipated. That isn’t easy to do in comics, and the reveal at the climax of the story was well executed in both the illustration and writing. The lettering was as usual, unique and superb. Vault often allows its letterers—in this case Aditya Bidikar—to break out of typical comics lettering and make bold choices. For example, using different fonts for different voices worked well, making it clearer and more visually engaging during heavy dialogue scenes.

Though the overall story arc remains mysterious, I am left quite curious about Max, his demons, and the continuing series.

Reactor #2

Reactor #2 is not only an appropriate follow up to the first issue of this brand new comic series, it goes above and beyond the first segment of the story to draw readers even further into the story. New intriguing characters appear, and we get to know a bit more about those who were introduced to us in November 2017. Reactor #2 adds an attuned depth to the foundational first issue.

Dylan Burnett’s illustration portrays a new character named Luc as the eternal, Biblical scale Satanic vampire god that he is. Along with the killer illustrations that call to mind several metal albums, Dee Cunniffe’s well chosen shadowy colors add layer and depth to the intimidating and awe-inspiring Luc.

There is a sly nuance in each character’s moral viewpoint and the way that they react to the events presented in issue #2. One thing that makes the Reactor series fascinating is the moral ambiguity: who is the bad guy? Who is the good guy? Reactor #2 shows us what that feels like for these characters, in the middle of battle, and after the battle is over. It makes the reader think: maybe the world is about more than “good” and “bad”.

That is only a little of what is so engaging about Reactor #2. The writing, the lettering, the continued excellent sound effects come together in a badass post-apocalyptic war mystery. The way that page transitions are used draws the reader into an emotion in a moment, and then snaps them out of it into another. This happened so quickly in one scene that I got goosebumps and felt tricked by the story, but in a very good way. I went back and read it again. And again. Because it was so well done that I needed to know how, and it was sincerely, the page transition.

There are other details I could easily rave about, but I will simply leave you with this: get yourself a copy of Reactor #2, and experience its excellence for yourself.

Zojaqan #3

Zojaqan #3 is another issue in this brilliantly executed existential mythology about a post office worker who finds herself on another world, and her interactions with that world. One thing that I have come to truly love about this series is the utter believability of the world; from the different alien races, their evolution and survival, to the landscapes in every scene that sing of a world I wish I could visit. Yes, the Zoja are believable. And so is the terrifying Tide, a hideous species whose darkness threatens to consume the world. Our beloved central character, Shan, still wrestles with the trauma of her life on Earth, not only as a woman of color but as a mother of a child whose brutal, racially motivated murder was recalled in the first issue. There are echoes of her experiences on our green planet that cause her to reflect on her own decisions as she learns more about her personal power on this alien planet.

There is no hitch in the writing; the narration feels natural, whether it is the Zoja narrator or Shan’s voice telling the story. The art seamlessly integrates to create natural interactions both savage and sweet between Shan, the Zoja, the Tide, and more. Though this is only the third issue in the series I am already immersed, and can’t wait for issue #4.

Cult Classic: Return To Whisper #1

Cult Classic: Return to Whisper #1 most certainly lives up to the hype it has received from numerous outlets. It is a dark, nostalgic comic for fans of horror, mystery, and suspense stories that is set in both the present and the past. Eliot Rahal weaves a tale within a tale in this first issue for Vault’s newest series. As a reader I love a great comic that allows me to experience another world, and immerses me in the lives of its characters with depth and consideration. Cult Classic: Return to Whisper #1 is certainly that kind of comic; I was hooked within the first few pages, wondering how one event could correlate to another almost 15 years later.

As a child, I devoured mystery books throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. From Encyclopedia Brown to Agatha Christie to Sherlock Holmes to Edgar Allen Poe, I craved the dark and deliciously scary stories that kept me reading until midnight in middle school. Rahal revisits all the wonderful elements of a great mystery in his writing: death, friendship, fun moments full of sarcasm, strange events, and a giant question mark at the end of the first issue. Felipe Cunha’s accompanying illustration draws the characters in a way that makes them instantly feel familiar, believable. Cunha’s use of shadows and light, the detailed facial expressions on the same faces that are different ages in different parts of the story, these finely tuned points make this comic book an immersive read. Cult Classic: Return to Whisper #1 is the kind of mystery comic that made me return to the beginning of the issue and read it again, so I could pick up more clues the second time around.

HEATHEN #6

HEATHEN #6 is a foray back into the world of Aydis after six months. When we left off, Aydis had entered a new phase of her epic journey to bring down Odin and the cruelty he had imposed on Brynhild, Freyja, and viking culture. We are truly getting into the meat of the story now, as is the case with many new comics series in the early stages. HEATHEN #6 was an interesting read as a result. Instead of one storyline, we now follow three storylines in an engaging and efficient manner. Natasha Alterici does all the writing, illustration, and coloring for the series herself, and handles moving from scene to scene with tasteful skill. The art is still darkly evocative; the lines messy like Aydis’s emotions throughout the story. In HEATHEN #6 the plot continually inches forward towards the ultimate conflict we are all waiting for in the story. Part of this involves the ship that Aydis seeks passage on, and part of that involves the introduction of a whole new cast of characters.

The women introduced in HEATHEN #6 all work and live on the ship that Aydis is taking to the North Sea. They are all women of color, former slaves, and new to Aydis. Many of them question her decisions, her skills, and her background. She seems to seek an affinity with these women, but is often dismissed by most of them because she does not understand their experiences. There are a few scenes where these women, women who have escaped slavery and likely endured rape or abuse at some point, communicate their frustration with Aydis and her methods. Aydis’s response is to counter with a “well, actually” type of statement explaining away her seeming flaws. Though this certainly seems in character for Aydis, who constantly gives pushback to everyone, it is dismissive of the experiences of those women of color. This is something that stuck with me as I read the issue, and I will be interested to see what happens between Aydis and her ship companions in the upcoming issues.

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Corissa Haury
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