Pubwatch: Aftershock Comics October 2019

Aftershock Pubwatch Banner - image from Trust Fall #1 (Aftershock Comics)

Welcome back to the Aftershock Comics Pubwatch! This month we’ve rounded up news from New York Comic Con, Baltimore Comic Con, and more, as well as reviews for some of the books starting and finishing this month!


Aftershock’s Baltimore Comic Con lineup for the weekend of October 19-20 included signings at their booth with creators Cullen Bunn, Leila Leiz, and Aaron Douglas, and a panel with the three titled Aftershock Original Graphic Novels: The Format for Storytellers on Saturday. On Sunday, Aftershock presented a Spotlight on Aaron Douglas panel, discussing Douglas’s work with Aftershock and within the film, television, and video game industries.

Aftershock also offered variant covers exclusive to Baltimore Comic Con at their booth, including Dark Arc: After the Flood #1 with covers by Leila Diaz (created exclusively for BCC), Francesco Francavilla (available at the BCC Exclusives booth), and Mike Rooth (lenticular cover); original graphic novel Horde in hardcover with cover by Leila Leiz; and A Walk Through Hell Volume 2 with cover by Andy Clarke and signed by Garth Ennis.

A variant cover of a horned skull, puple toned bone on the left half and red toned and superimposed with the faces of demons on the right side.
Baltimore Comic Con Exclusive Dark Arc: After the Flood #1 variant cover by Francesco Francavilla, from Aftershock Comics in October 2019.

News out of this year’s New York Comic Con brings us announcements of writers Steve Orlando and Phillip Kennedy Johnson, artist Alec Morgan, and letterer Jim Campbell’s new graphic novel, Kill a Man.

Here’s the book’s solicit: “In the early days of Mixed Martial Arts, kickboxer icon DJ Bellyi slurs a queer opponent in the ring, and is beaten to death while his young son James watches in horror from the stands.

“Sixteen years later, young James Bellyi has become an MMA star in his own right, with top-tier endorsements and an imminent title shot. But when James is outed as gay by an opponent in a press conference, he loses everything: his title shot, his fans, his team, even his family. To fight his way back, he turns to the only one left in the world willing to train him: Xavier Mayne, the man who killed his father.”

A faceless MMA fighter, blurred with motion, gets ready to fight in front of a red and white background.
Alec Morgan’s cover to the OGN Kill a Man, coming from Aftershock Comics in spring of 2020.

Aftershock Army begins deployment! After months of careful recruitment and training, Aftershock Comics has announced the first nine members of its Aftershock Army, a team of what will grow to be at least thirty brand ambassadors based in fifteen regions across North America. Each of these “agents of change” has been charged with working one-on-one with comic shops in their communities to better keep open the lines of communication between publisher and retailer, as well as assist stores in maximizing opportunities to increase sales and build business with the comics, collections, and original graphic novels of Aftershock Comics.

“Shortly after founding Aftershock a little over four years ago, I personally visited more than eighty stores to establish a dialogue,” said Aftershock Publisher and Chief Creative Officer Joe Pruett. “In our first two years, we’ve reached out to close to 300 stores in this way and the information we’re able to share with each other has proven invaluable to our growth. That’s what we’re looking to replicate with this program.”

“More and more, we’re seeing that success for a publisher like us—one that’s been surgically aggressive in bringing fresh creator-owned content to market—is reliant on relationships at the shop level,” added Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing Steve Rotterdam. “No two comic shops are exactly alike—even ones owned by the same retailer. That’s why we sought out service-oriented ambassadors who were as good at listening as they were at promoting.”

“Being a legitimate comics fan was a primary requirement,” said Senior Retailer Relations Manager RuthAnn Thompson, who led the recruitment effort and supervises the Aftershock Army. “Knowledge, passion, and charisma were also traits we were looking for. But connection to the community was also critical.”

Additional ambassadors will be added to the team over the next month. As recruitment is an ongoing initiative, those interested in learning more and signing up are invited to connect at their recruitment page.

Also this month, the hit series Killer Groove draws to a close with its fifth and final issue, while new series Dark Arc: After the Flood and Shoplifters Will Be Liquidated kick off.


Killer Groove #5

Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Ollie Masters (writer & co-creator), Eoin Marron (artist & co-creator), Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (letterer)

Cover to Killer Groove 5 with a vinyl record in the top half of the cover and a desk strewn with blood splattered tape cassettes and bullets on the bottom.
Cover to Killer Groove #5 by Eoin Marron and Triona Farrell, from Aftershock Comics October 2019.

The final issue of this mini-series about death, drugs, and rock and roll concludes with a bang, tying together plotlines that felt far apart at the beginning of the book, and finishing the story off satisfactorily. Throughout the series, the art has been a strong suit, and this issue is no change. Eoin Marron’s bold lines and Jordie Bellaire’s understated, contrasting colors tie Jackie, Jonny, Raul, and Lucy’s stories together as Ollie Masters’ scripts brings each of their narratives to a close. The art in this mini-series has felt uniquely well-suited to its content, with heavily shadowed faces, darkened backgrounds, and brightly contrasted sprays of blood.

Just as darkly engaging as the four previous issues, the bloody end to the story is ultimately satisfying, as Jackie does what she thinks she has to do in order to put their tangled stories to rest. I’m left wanting to reread the entire series from the start with the benefit of hindsight, and hoping that Masters and Marron collaborate again soon.

Shoplifters Will Be Liquidated #1

Patrick Kindlon (writer & co-creator), Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (letterer), Stefano Simeone (artist & co-creator)

A purple hued Nusbaum and various merchandise falls into a pink toned void.
Cover to Shoplifters Will Be Liquidated #1 by Stefano Simeone, from Aftershock Comics October 2019.

The first issue of this new series introduces readers to the capitalist dystopia of Caucausus, and to one of its loss prevention officers, Nusbaum. Caucausus is a colossal mall, geared towards encouraging constant consumerism, and urging consumers to fear the world outside. At one point, Nusbaum berates a shopper for not smiling, explaining that “commerce is supposed to be fun,” which illustrates the wild extremes of late-stage capitalist commercialism Caucasus has taken shopping to. The issue opens with a clever bait and switch, inviting us to empathize with the protagonist, before turning the tables on readers and revealing that he’s not the underdog at all, but an enforcer of the capitalist machine instead.

The stylized art is funky and dynamic, with no shortage of energy. The coloring in particular is phenomenal, leaning heavily on a color palette of blues, purples, and pinks to great effect. Instead of limiting the vibrancy of the art by limiting the range or colors, this clever choice lends itself well to the art’s stylization, and utilizes the range of tones within that color palette to give the art detail and emphasis. The coloring sets a mood that informs the entire story so far, and stands out as the highlight of the issue.

This is a first issue with a lot of potential. The world building feels fresh and salient in today’s hyper-monopolistic age. Artist, colorist, and co-creator Stefano Simeone does great work in creating an environment that looks futuristic enough to be foreign, but feels similar to modern shopping centers. The issue wobbles a bit on the central takeaway, as the monopolistic capitalism of Caucausus is clearly a broken system, but at the end of the issue, both the system and Nusbaum’s role in it feel relatively unchallenged, and Nusbaum still seems content to simply follow orders, whatever they may be.

Nusbaum makes a discovery at the end of the issue which opens the door to further complication, through which the story’s themes could crystallize in future issues. And while the first issue felt devoid of characters worth rooting for, the second issue is poised to change that entirely. Nusbaum’s journey has the potential to be incredibly engaging, and I’m excited and curious to see how his discoveries shift his worldview and how he interacts with the world of Caucausus in the issues to come.

Emma Snape

Emma Snape

Emma is an Ohio native who has worked in film production and education, and writes about comics on the side. She loves thinking about the role of visuals in narrative storytelling, both in film and comics, reading comics set in cities she's lived in, and telling people to read X-Force (1991).