This month’s Vault Comics Pubwatch is full of good stuff because Vault has been very, very busy. At the beginning of the month, they spread the good word about their science fiction and fantasy comics across the sea, expanding their comic convention trail to include Thought Bubble Comic Art Festival 2019 in Harrogate, England.
For 2020, Vault has yet another cool cover campaign planned. Following their 2018 “Women in Front” campaign and this year’s Vintage Variants, Tim Daniel and Nathan Gooden will be designing “Pulp & Paint” themed covers for 2020, based on those painted pulp books and magazines we all love. As before, the variants will be limited to the first issue of a series, starting with Vagrant Queen: A Planet Called Doom in January, and Finger Guns in February.
And, continuing to prove their commitment to innovative ways to bring their stories to new readers, Vault has teamed up with Tapas to introduce Heathen, Songs for the Dead, Necromancer’s Map, and Sera and the Royal Stars to the vertical digital comics platform’s 2 million unique users.
Sooooo Vault released a whole lot of comics since my last pubwatch.
Firsts and Faves
With so many comics and so little time, I had to be picky with my reads for this month’s Pubwatch. Here are a few of my standout favourites and first issues to keep an eye on.
Money Shot #1&2
Sarah Beattie (co-scripter), Crank! (letterer), Rebekah Isaacs (artist), Kurt Michael Russell (colourist), Tim Seeley (writer)
October 23, 2019/November 20, 2019
Scientists funding their research by fucking aliens and sharing it online for clicks. What’s not to love? The first issue, which I reviewed fully here, introduced us to the players in this hilarious sex positive science romp, though it still remains severely heterosexual-leaning and I have concerns with the one panel that depicts a homosexual relationship that implies that it is an example of sexual fetishes and kinks. In the second issue, the team has been captured by the people of Dryreef and Omar and Chris are forced to face off against a monster while Little Shot, the drone recorder, must determine if their repeated cries of “We’re fucked,” mean it should be livestreaming their fucking activities for the universe. As in the first issue, the scenes flip back and forth between past and present, spelling out how Chris’s idea of sex-funded science came to fruition. There’s some Porn 101 and sciencing, culminating in Chris’s instructions that each of them should have sex with each other first in order to get over any issues they may have. The implication is that non-heterosexual interactions were supposed to happen, but again, the focus remains heterosexual, with queer relationships clearly denoted as “other,” dampening the sex positive vibes the series wants to portray.
Black Stars Above #1
Jenna Cha (artist), Tim Daniel (designer), Lonnie Nadler (writer), Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (letterer), Brad Simpson (colourist)
November 13, 2019
Black Stars Above #1 opens with a bird’s-eye view of a desolate, snow-covered clearing, slowly closing in to the surrounding forest and a pack of animals moving through it. A man comes into view on the next page, and, eyeing the animals, he begins to scribble notes in his notebook, revealing some small details of the madness that threatens to overtake him here, alone in the woods. But is it madness? What truths do the creatures hide in their inky eyes? Read the rest of my review here.
These Savage Shores TPB
Vittorio Astone (colourist), Aditya Bidikar (letterer), Tim Daniel (designer), Sumit Kumar (artist), Ram V. (writer)
October 30, 2019
As promised, I am a trade-waiter and I have no regrets, especially after reading These Savage Shores in its entirety. In the year 1766, an ancient monster travels alongside the East India Company, seeking a home in new lands, but it discovers that there is darkness far more ancient that himself. Though I am not fond of horror, I appreciate when it is done well. Here, it’s almost two issues before the monster is fully revealed, but the tension and legacy of the fear it leaves in its wake is palpable. Moreover, the monstrosity and ferocity of the island are tempered by a beautiful and bittersweet love story and a story of friendship and loneliness. This is a visually stunning book that, even without words, speaks so loudly. Exquisitely detailed, with exceptional use of the nine-panel grid to contain the savagery of its monstrous elements, this book is comic artistry and storytelling at its finest.
David Andry (writer), Alejandro Aragon (artist), Deron Bennett (letterer), Jason Wordie (colorist)
In Resonant #3, Paxton is the prisoner of a community that has an interesting initiation program, but it gives us an opportunity to see what happens when the waves hit and how Paxton has learned to survive them. Let’s just say that meditation is a lifesaver, though he’s still at the mercy of the violence that surrounds him. Meanwhile, the children continue to struggle to survive on their own, with diverging opinions on what they should do. Bec holds faith in their father’s return and will hold down the fort against anything that comes at them, but Ty has had enough and takes off to follow his new friend, Elijah. Both Paxton and Ty discover examples of humanity being bad or questionably too good in the face of the breakdown of society. This is falling into the typical apocalypse exploration of humans behaving badly, but my hope is that Resonant will find some new way to tell this story.
Jen Hickman (artist), Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (letterer), Harry Saxton (colorist), Christopher Sebela (writer)
October 30, 2019
Aleph Null, the ultimate test subject, finally discovers the truth of what they have been seeking this whole time, and learns that it was everything they were trying to deny. In the fifth issue, Sebela unravels the mystery, shaping an entirely new future that Aleph must come to terms with. If you haven’t been reading Aleph’s journey to this point, I simply can’t say more because my words aren’t enough. This is a series that must be read to be appreciated.
Queen of Bad Dreams #4
Dearbhla Kelly (colorist), Danny Lore (writer), Kim McLean (letterer), Jordi Pérez (artist)
October 30, 2019
The dream figment Ava has sacrificed herself to save Daher’s daughter, Selene, from politicians who don’t care much about who lives or dies, as long as their secrets are kept safe. The reality of the danger Daher’s job has put her family in hits home hard in this issue, but the narration, which began from the point of view of Viv, her ex wife, takes a very interesting turn when their daughter Selene takes charge of her own destiny and decides to learn more about what her mother does. In brilliant colours and imagery, this issue takes us inside dreams, instead of the previous world of dream figments stepping into reality. And like any good criminal investigation and corruption drama, we finally start to learn how much deeper this all goes.
Heist, or How to Steal a Planet #1
Vittorio Astone (colourist), Tim Daniel (designer), Paul Tobin (writer), Arjuna Susini (artist), Saida Temofonte (letterer)
November 6, 2019
Glane is just a few hours out of prison and, after dodging a few assassination attempts, drops into his favourite bar for a drink and a demand: he wants to recruit a team to pull off a new job. That job? Heist. Like, the planet. Like, he wants to steal all of it. With a tongue cheek start and a sassy scoundrel at the helm, this plays as a simple heist story to start, but when Glane meets up with a young Heist kid named Brady who doesn’t recognize the man he’s taking to the inner sanctums of the filthy crime planet, we get to learn the truth about Glane—and Heist’s—past. A good heist story is always a welcome read, but one where the heist is the whole damn planet? I’m so in.
Christmas is coming, so one would think Vault might slow down their pace a bit for the holidays, but I suspect that won’t be the case and am looking forward to reporting on more cool stuff from them next month!