Vault Comics Pubwatch: September

Vault Pubwatch banner - image of Aydis from Heathen, art by Jen Bartel

Vault Comics continues to come up with innovative ideas to show the industry who they are and that they are here to stay. The Missoula-based publisher is featured in a big write up in the local paper, and have lots going on in the coming months.
In October, Vault will be at New York Comic Con for the first time and will be offering a convention exclusive cover by Joshua Hixson and Tim Daniel for The Plot #1. The cover features design filigree printed in a special metallic-gold ink. The central image uses a a spot-gloss image. Limited to 100 copies and costing $100, fans can pick up a copy and get it autographed by Daniel and Hixson, as well as co-writer Micael Moreci.

A frightened face looms over a creepy house

Partnering with GraphicAudio, Vault Comics is bringing Wasted Space to audiobook format. Adapting it directly from the comic, the audiobook features a full cast performance, complete with immersive sound effects and music.

Vault Comics has joined the roster for the fifth annual Local Comics Shop Day on November 23 to help celebrate “the independent spirit of local comic book specialty shops.” Their contribution to the celebration is a gorgeous specially embossed Gold Edition of the These Savage Shores collected graphic novel. These Savage Shores is already a gorgeous, well-written and -drawn comic. Vault Comics just keeps upping the scale with every new release.

Cover for These Savage Shores, c. Vault Comics - Hands hold an ominous white mask against a red background with gold lettering that reads "These Savage Shores"
Money Shot #1 is getting two naughty Black Bag variants for its October 23 release. The first is drawn by series writer Tim Seeley, and the second is by Mirka Andolfo, creator of Unnatural. Both covers, available now for pre-order, ship in black polybags to obscure the 18+ artwork gracing the covers. What’s on those covers? We won’t know until the day of their release!

This Month’s Reads

Vault Comics proclaims itself a publisher of the best science fiction and fantasy comics, and after reading these recent issues, I’m hard-pressed to argue the claim.

Test #3 & 4

Jen Hickman (artist), Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (letterer), Harry Saxton (colorist), Christopher Sebela (writer)
August 28, 2019, September 18, 2019

Initially, it seemed like Aleph only had two choices: to be returned by force to the corporation that owns them and all the technology and drugs that have been implanted in their system, or to join the resistance against that technology. But Aleph had followed the path to the technologically advanced mystery town of Laurelwood in hopes of finding some level of peace. So when they are offered an opportunity to live in harmony with that technology rather than fighting it forever, they, surprisingly, take it without a second thought. But as much as Aleph has been trying to escape the things they have committed themselves to, Test #3 also reminds us that those commitments have almost become an addiction. Sign your name, receive an upgrade. The difference between Aleph and the other test subjects they have known is that, well, Aleph has been one of the few to survive.

Mary, the AI voice in Aleph’s head, returns in this issue, and I realized that its polite snark was missed. Mary also serves as a counter to Aleph’s own thoughts, which dive a bit into their past and how they ended up where they are now. But even as they sign yet another commitment, Aleph also reveals that they have always read between the lines during the processes and observations of the corporations and hospitals, and they have been observing as much as they have been observed. Testing the new angle of Laurelwood that has opened up to them now, Aleph discovers yet another layer to the town’s mystery—and may have finally found their place within it.

Or have they? In issue #4, Aleph’s thoughts are less chaotic as they come to terms with the reality they are facing in Laurelwood. Those who are like them want them to be their leader, but Aleph wants none of that. They are no one’s chosen one, just because of their ability to survive all the tests. But… what if this is all just another test too? Only Laurelwood has the answer… and in this issue, we finally get to meet her.

She Said Destroy #3

Joe Corallo (writer), Liana Kangas (artitst), Rebecca Nalty (colorist), Melanie Ujimori (letterer)
August 28, 2019

Cover for She Said Destroy #3 - Joe Corallo (writer), Liana Kangas (artitst), Rebecca Nalty (colorist), Melanie Ujimori (letterer) August 28, 2019 - People stand on guard in the shadows of a building
The Morrigan’s people and the seemingly triumphant followers of Brigid both struggle with understanding the commands of their goddesses. Meanwhile, Winona is led on an inward journey into the past that reveals their true connection to the Morrigan. When Winona finally decides to embrace their destruction, Kangas’ and Nalty’s art and colours burst with energy. As both sides come together, Ujimori’s distinctive lettering, as a complement to Nalty’s colours, really shows its effectiveness, helping to keep the many voices focused despite the heavy dialogue.

Sera and the Royal Stars #2

Raúl Angulo (colourist), Jim Campbell (letterer), Tim Daniel (designer), Audrey Mok (artist), Jon Tsuei (writer)
August 28, 2019

Cover for Sera and the Royal Stars #2 - Raúl Angulo (colourist), Jim Campbell (letterer), Tim Daniel (designer), Audrey Mok (artist), Jon Tsuei (writer) August 28, 2019 - A purple faced man with horns and long white hair and beard looks back. He wears flowing robes and holds a staff
In the first steps of her quest, Sera has awakened the Old Bull: Aldebaran, who joins her in fighting off the reptilian soldiers that attacked at the end of the first issue. Battles in this series are stunningly rendered, with detailed but easy to follow action from panel to panel, and vibrant colours that carry on into the quieter moments of Sera’s journey. The story itself is similar in form to the tale of the Monkey King, as Sera awakens another royal star in this chapter and contends with the forces that seek to stop her. That similarity isn’t necessarily a problem, and I’m eager to see Tsuei’s version evolve into its own, unique tale.

Resonant #2

David Andry (writer), Alejandro Aragon (artist), Deron Bennett (letterer), Jason Wordie (colorist)
August 28, 2019

Cover for Resonant #2 - David Andry (writer), Alejandro Aragon (artist), Deron Bennett (letterer), Jason Wordie (colorist) August 28, 2019 - A girl with dark curly hair, wearing overalls, stares forward determinedly. She is missing her left leg just above the knee and uses a crutch, but she looks like she’s ready to fight
While their father, Paxton, is away seeking medicine for his youngest son, the three children, led by his eldest, Bec, face the challenges of a wave and a stranger at the door. Meanwhile, Paxton makes a friend on the road, a cute pup. But this is the only kindness he finds, even as he approaches the place known as Hospitality in hopes of trading for meds. As with the first issue, turning the pages of Resonant #2 requires caution. We’re still barely getting to know this world where chirpers are the only warning to keep you safe from the waves of sound and what they can bring people to do. But whatever it is that’s going on, the creative team makes it all chilling.

Relics of Youth #1

AndWorld Design (letterer), Matt Nicholas (writer), Skylar Patridge (artist), Vladimir Popov (colourist), Chad Rebmann (writer)
August 28th, 2019

Cover for Relics of Youth #1 - AndWorld Design (letterer), Matt Nicholas (writer), Skylar Patridge (artist), Vladimir Popov (colourist), Chad Rebmann (writer) August 28th, 2019 - Six teens lie on a beach
Six teens keep dreaming of an island and all share the same tattoo that only they can see. Nat Rodriguez has tracked them all down and convinced them to join her on a quest to find answers to their shared mystery. The part about the tattoos seems to be relegated to the description of the series, since this rather unique element isn’t addressed in the introduction of any of the characters. Instead, while we do see the various places the tattoos appear (bonus points for the colourist’s understanding that tattoo ink looks different on darker skin tones), only one character other than Nat addresses the strange connection initially: Randy, who doodles images of the island during cancer treatment. The superficial connections, though, seem to be enough to convince the teens not only to hunt down the island, but to do so recklessly.

What the island might mean is intriguing, but satisfying a reader’s curiousity means getting beyond the rather basic tropes of some of the teens. The rich kid is a self-centred, parent-hating jerk and flirt, while the would-be debutante’s intolerance and arrogance becomes quickly grating. Thrown together, it’s understandable that this cast isn’t going to bond automatically. And though it’s obvious that they eventually must do so in order to solve the mystery of the island and deal with the threat that shows up, my patience and suspension of disbelief is limited when it comes to wanting to spend too much time with these teens.

The Necromancer’s Map #1

AndWorld Design (letterer), Sam Beck (artist), Andrea Fort (writer), Michael Christoper Heron (writer), Ellie Wright (colourist)
28 August 2019

Cover for The Necromancer’s Map #1 - AndWorld Design (letterer), Sam Beck (artist), Andrea Fort (writer), Michael Christoper Heron (writer), Ellie Wright (colourist) 28 August 2019 - The large face of a hooded person looms over someone in a room holding a torch
Following up on Songs for the Dead, The Necromancer’s Map #1 takes Bethany and Elissar on a new path. Read Angie Wenham’s review and check out my interview with the creators, Andrea Fort and M. C. Heron.

The Mall #1

Jim Campbell (letterer), Tim Daniel (designer), Addison Duke (colourist), Garry Dauberman (writer), Zak Hartong (artist), Michael Moreci (writer)
August 28th, 2019

Cover for The Mall #1 - Jim Campbell (letterer), Tim Daniel (designer), Addison Duke (colourist), Garry Dauberman (writer), Zak Hartong (artist), Michael Moreci (writer) August 28th, 2019 - A Black man stands in the forefront with a violent group of humans beating each other in the background
The vintage variant covers of The Mall #1 pay homage to Blade and The Walking Dead. The meaning of those tributes was not lost on me as I read through the title. Andre Walker was born after the world ended in ice melts and flames. He has grown up in the place the survivors holed up and continue to scratch out a living: the mall. An extremely large mall, apparently. It is filled with factions of people, each vying for control and survival and ready to beat each other to a pulp to get it. Normally, I complain about apocalypses that settle on only showing humanity at its worst. The Walking Dead managed to find a bigger bad every season. The Mall has them all under one roof. Not that I mind the concept of a mall-based dystopian future. In fact, it was one of the facilities we decided was a suitable survival option in our apocalypse fiction roundtable. But the concept of having all these bloodthirsty humans in this confined space, with no bloodthirsty vampires or shuffling zombies to bring the humans together, makes me wonder where this lawless mess can go, story-wise. Still, Andre’s lone resistance and the help of an enigmatic little rebel spur my curiosity, which, in turn, is fired by the gorgeous chaos and muted colours on each page.

Coming Soon

As part of their new fall horror imprint, Nightfall, Vault Comics will introduce Black Stars Above.

A horror story that’s part The Revenant and part At the Mountains of Madness, BLACK STARS ABOVE is a chilling historical cosmic horror tale of survival from the deranged minds of writer Lonnie Nadler (The Dregs, Marvelous X-Men) and debut artist Jenna Cha, with colorist Brad Simpson (Coffin Bound, Fair Lady), and letterer Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (Test, Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt).

The year is 1887 and a storm brews. A young fur trapper flees her overbearing family only to get lost in a dreamlike winter wilderness that harbours a cosmic threat. The fur trade is dead and the nation is changing. Yet, Eulalie Dubois has spent her entire life tending to her family’s trapline, isolated from the world. A chance at freedom comes in the form of a parcel that needs delivering to a nameless town north of the wilderness. Little does Eulalie know, something sinister hides in those woods and it yearns for what she has.

BLACK STARS ABOVE #1 will receive a Vault Vintage B Cover by Nathan Gooden and Tim Daniel that pays tribute to Frank Miller’s iconic cover to Whiteout, by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber (Oni Press, 1999). The Vault Vintage cover line celebrates the artistic achievements of both modern and legendary comics artists.

Wendy Browne

Wendy Browne

Publisher, mother, geek, executive assistant sith, gamer, writer, lazy succubus, blogger, bibliophile. Not necessarily in that order.