Vault Comics Pubwatch: July 2020

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

Hopping straight into the news with the Vault Comics Pubwatch for July 2020, it’s a bit unpleasant to start:

As the slate of comics industry misconduct allegations continue, many publishers have chosen to step away from creators who have been named in such allegations. Vault Comics stands among that list of publishers, divesting themselves from involvement with Myke Cole, despite earlier announcements of the release of Hundred Wolves.

After only one season, SyFy’s Vagrant Queen has been cancelled due to low ratings. SyFy originally aired the series in its 11pm Friday night slot, then slipped it to Thursdays at 10pm hoping for improvement. IDK about you, but it seems to me that shoving anything into an after 9pm slot means you don’t value it, you expect it to fail, and you will help it to do so… Still, reviews were lukewarm, and the cancellation likely comes as little surprise for some.

In more positive news, Vault revealed the David Mack variant covers of Vampire the Masquerade #1:

Coming Soon

Summer’s in full swing, but Vault’s already got its eyes on the fall with the return of Nightfall, its annual horror imprint that brought us The Plot and other titles. This year, Nightfall will debut Autumnal, written by Daniel Kraus, illustrated by Chris Shehan, coloured by Jason Wordie, and featuring letters by Jim Campbell.

The faces of two people are obscured by leaves

Following the death of her estranged mother, Kat Somerville and her daughter, Sybil, flee a difficult life in Chicago for the quaint—and possibly pernicious—town of Comfort Notch, New Hampshire.

First and Faves

Vault picks up the pace this month with several titles on the shelves. Here are a few that caught my attention.

Engineward #1
Tim Daniel (designer), Joe Eisma (artist), Michael Garland (colourist), Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (letterer), George Mann (writer)
July 15, 2020

“Yet from those few tiny seeds of the Oert that had survived, new gods were born.”

A gold robotic face

Engineward opens with a blue text narration box, with a font choice that immediately made me check the credits again to confirm that it was indeed Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou’s work. While there are many excellent letterers within the industry, Otsmane-Elhaou has a gift for selecting just the right fonts to elevate the words on the page. Even when those words—or in this case sound effects—feature a monstrous worm creature diving through them. But the more subtle font choice that opens the story literally leans into the visual aesthetic with a slight left tilt that matches the debris that a group of excavators are dealing with.

The opening sequence introduces us to many things about this world, beyond its monsters. The people appear to be humans, but we’re not quite sure if this is Earth. In fact, we know from the description that Earth is a long forgotten myth, but perhaps there are hints to the connections within the language. Now, the zodiac-based Celestials rule and their first appearance, gathered around their table, is striking. The artistry in this comic is bright and lively, despite the desolate feeling the opening desert landscape promises. It’s understood as the story continues on, that the people are not as well off as they should be, but the way Eisma draws the main character, Joss, and everything around her, gives a sense of hope for whatever this future may hold.

Money Shot #6
Sarah Beattie (co-scripter), Crank! (letterer), Rebekah Isaacs (artist), Kurt Michael Russell (colourist), Tim Seeley (writer)
July 8, 2020

“There’s definitely some sort of rodeo going on down there. Just not sure how many people have bought tickets.”

The Money Shot team of 5 in their red outfits, now with bondage straps

When last we left our intrepid XXX-plorers, they had brought both water and sexy back to a warring planet that is warring no more. In #6, the team—now firmly cemented in their commitment to indeed work as a team—are stepping out f some hell dimension with the bonus S&M accouterments we see on the cover, only to be confronted by the president of their scientific institute. But it seems that their ethically questionable science-meets-porncapades now successfully bring in just enough funds, so the president’s admonitions are only, amusingly, for show. The show must go on, but apparently their recent trip wasn’t a hit with the fans. Where can they find more drama? As Dr. Chris Ocampo tries to figure this out, she also has to deal with the nasty STI she’s picked up. A beautiful drama plays out across the stars around Chris’ struggles and some other interesting interactions within the team, but the real MVP of this issue is Curie, Chris’ cat who has been hooked up to a translation device. And he says exactly what we’d expect of a cat who has no time for stupid human problems.

No One’s Rose #3
Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque (artist), Raul Angulo (colourist), Tim Daniel (designer), Emily Horn (writer), Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (letterer), Zac Thompson (writer)
July 15, 2020

“I’ll be a hero when people accept the truth.”

A woman in purple dances, holding a a rose in each hand

First of all, that cover. Joro, the Caretaker of the Green Zone, here in benevolence and joy, presiding over the land with flowing colours rising behind. But the minute details in the cracking walls, the connecting pipes, and Joro’s grip on the roses all seem to have their own secret story to tell…

In this issue, Tenn and Seren’s opposing sides come to blows when they each make a stand—Tenn’s a very public one that will surely threaten the siblings’ relationship, while Seren has to deal with the roller coaster of the Drazil’s extremist acts. They are called terrorists, and not without good reason, though their goals are for the greater good. In fact, both siblings’ goals are for the best of the people, but both of them are too young to fully grasp the upheaval each option will cause.

Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque’s attention to detail, as mentioned above, is stunning. This is a story about ecological upheaval, therefore the art does not skimp on the depictions of nature, featuring many recognizable flora and fauna. Raul Angulo grounds the imagery with warm lighting and colourful flowers, such that, even in the scenes where technology prevails, nature is never far from focus.

Finger Guns #3
Taylor Esposito (letterer), Val Halverson (artist), Rebecca Nalty (colourist), Justin Richards (writer)
July 8, 2020

A girl smiles and dances, holding up her finger guns, surrounded by hands pointing finger guns at her

Issue #3 is a difficult issue, delving into more images of the domestic violence Sadie and her mom endure. This issue also features a lot of music, depicted in swirling musical staffs and smiling faces that serve as a stark contrast to the reality Sadie must face. Now that she and Wes are trying to use their powers to be, well, useful, it makes sense that helping her mom would be Sadie’s first priority, but things don’t go as planned and that entire scene is tense and difficult to read. The art and colours are deceptively buoyant, given the heavy topic that Finger Guns confronts.

Heist, or How to Steal a Planet #6
Vittorio Astone (colourist), Tim Daniel (designer), Paul Tobin (writer), Arjuna Susini (artist), Saida Temofonte (letterer)
July 15, 2020

“‘People trying to assassinate you’ is a wide group to draw from.”

A woman stands amongst cherubs floating around her

Having Eddy Lets the sniper on Glane’s team was already a risk, since Glane had gotten Eddy’s mother killed. But now that the corporation has found Eddy’s sister and won’t give her back without Glane dead, well, that explains the dance of the sniper and his intended victim that occupies the first few pages of issue #6. And a dance it is, as Glane’s narration focuses on his partner Gaville’s artistic dodging and distraction as the pair try to escape Eddy’s sights. Down a person, Glane’s team still has a heist to pull off, so his plan presses forward, with Paul Tobin and the artistic team showing off their penchant for dredging up the most unique caper antics within a truly unique and seedy scifi environment.

Vagrant Queen: A Planet Called Doom #4
Zakk Saam (letterer), Harry Saxon (colourist), Jason Smith (artist), Magdalane Visaggio (writer)
July 15, 2020

“None of this would be happening if you maniacs didn’t treat my family like gods.”

A gold and white mask, with blue lightning crackling out of the right eye

Vagrant Queen may have been cancelled on television, but the new comics series is still going strong. Elida is no longer hiding who she is or her birthright, and she’s turned her attention to being a true leader, seeking to save her people from their doom. Unfortunately, not everyone wants to cooperate, and it turns out, Elida can’t save everyone, especially as her captors continue to hunt her down. Again. Magdalane Visaggio’s dry wit carries us through the issue, along with Jason Smith and Harry Saxon’s outlandish imagery, but, after spending so much time with Engineward and No One’s Rose, I find myself a little disappointed to visit a story that ought to have more intense worldbuilding, but often reads as just… Canadians in space. Granted, one of the characters is just a Canadian in space, but the rest of the very alien landscape and even the dialect does not delve as deeply into the otherworldly as I’d like. Still, Vagrant Queen is solid in other ways, featuring an evolving subplot led by side characters that promises an exciting climax.

Bleed Them Dry: A Ninja Vampire Tale #1
Andworld (letterer), Hiroshi Koizumi (creator), Miquel Muerto (colourist), Eliot Rahal (writer), Dike Ruan (artist)
June 24, 2020

“Do they bleed like us?”

A man in a white shirt and black jacket holds a katana. A woman's face hovers in the background

Read my full review.

Heathen #9
Natasha Alterici (writer and colourist), Morgan Martinez (letterer), Ashley A. Woods (artist)
June 24, 2020

“Fighting for strangers is what we do.”

A horned viking woman on a horse

This issue is a quiet, introspective one, despite the great battle that looms within it. Aydis’ friends and family face off against Odin’s army, but Aydis herself is not there. Instead, she is at the Tree of Wurd, communing with the mystical Norns, perhaps not getting the answers she seeks. The imagery and sparse wording throughout this issue implies that not much happens, especially when the expected climax of two armies facing off against each other doesn’t quite come to fruition, but there is a lot of depth hiding behind the simplicity of the pages and it’s worth reading between the panels.

That’s it for this month. See you in August, when we’ll catch up on SDCC and other virtual convention news.

Wendy Browne

Wendy Browne

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