Vault Comics Pubwatch: September 2020

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

Vault Comics is moving at full steam now that comics distribution is back in full swing. Autumnal, Vault’s new horror series, has already sold out and is off for a second printing which will feature a new cover. Meanwhile, Resonant, one of my favourite series from this publisher, will be returning with a new story arc in December. November will see the release of I Walk With Monsters, the first book in Vault’s new young readers imprint, Wonderbound (formerly known as Myriad). Read on for more news, and my review of the first issue of Heavy!

Says Vault President & Publisher, Damian Wassel in a recent press release: “Wonderbound has been in the works from the very first day we put together our vision for Vault. We have always wanted to create a space for amazing genre books for young readers. Of course, the idea has evolved, and so has the market. We’ve brought on amazing people, like Rebecca Taylor. We’ve refined branding, strategy, and curation. And now, to our good fortune, we get to bring a line of amazing books focused on still underserved genres to the most enthusiastic graphic novel market in history. I couldn’t be more excited to continue sharing Wonderbound with the world.”

A person with long hear in a braid wearing a patterned vest stares forward determinedly with a monster looming behind them

Written by Paul Cornell, and featuring art by Sally Cantirino, and colours by Dearbhla Kelly, I Walk With Monsters follows Jacey, who lost her brother to the actions of the Important Man. Now Jacey has David, who can transform into a terrifying beast, and together they hunt the kind of men who prey on vulnerable people until their paths cross with the Important Man again.

“I Walk with Monsters is my attempt to do what Stephen King does: to make a horror story that speaks of genuine horrors,” says Cornell. “It’s about male violence and cycles of abuse. It’s also a nightmare that’s personal for me. It’s taken a lot of digging to finally get here. Though it’s a tough journey, I promise that if you get through it there’s light at the end. It’s a book I’m incredibly proud of.”

Cantirino adds: “The ability to freely express anger is a privilege. I understand Jacey in I Walk With Monsters. Jacey holds her anger, heartbreak, hurt, and betrayal deep in her chest. She enacts her revenge through a proxy with the power to attack, a visceral and violent version of the same impulse that had me singing or screaming along to a song about being attacked by monsters, or about being the monster myself. Anger makes you feel monstrous, or capable of monstrous things. But how you are allowed to express that anger is described by privilege, which is no small part of what we are investigating in I Walk With Monsters—a story that is very much meant to scare you.”

First and Faves

This month, I’m taking a look at a new series and catching up on a few ongoing titles.

Heavy #1
Max Bemis (writer), Eryk Donovan (artist), Taylor Esposito (letterer), Cris Peter (colourist)
September 16, 2020

“Bill, I couldn’t be happier someone gut-shot you and left you to die. If I had ten more of you on the job, I’d have, like, ten less hemorrhoids.”

A large man in a trench coat points a smoking gun downward

Bill’s girl was murdered and it motivates his actions, but this isn’t your regular old fridging because Bill was murdered too and is now stuck in the Big Wait where he plays the role of a Heavy, policing the multiverse to maintain order and make sure those butterfly effects ripple the right way. This can mean anything from punching bullies, to slitting the throat of a version of Leonardo Da Vinci whose ego led him down a darker path. There’s a whole pantheon of people doing this work in different ways, changing the world as they earn their Climb to a better afterlife.

Heavy pokes as much fun at and holes in those sad dude loses lover and goes on killer rampage stories, as it does the space/time continuum itself. And all in these gorgeously creative panels that love the colour magenta. I admit, I was definitely not moved by the idea of seeing yet another tragic story of dude loses lover etc, but Heavy #1 packs the weight to make this work.

Finger Guns #4
Taylor Esposito (letterer), Val Halverson (artist), Rebecca Nalty (colourist), Justin Richards (writer)
September 4, 2020

“It’s not fine. I’m… not fine.”

A hand with a bandaged pointer finger surrounded by fists

Despite the bright colours and psychedelic vibe of the initial covers, it’s quite clear that this series is not about fun and happy endings. That’s not how trauma and abuse works.

In the last issue, Sadie’s confrontation with her abusive father resulted in her losing a finger, which means her ability to alter people’s emotions by pointing finger guns at them is obviously severely hampered. And worse, she blames herself for everything that has happened to her and her mother. This issue doesn’t start off focusing on Sadie though. Instead we see Wes struggling to deal with his own guilt at not being there for her, painfully expressed through panels that feature him going through the motions as he answers questions with the police and finally makes his way home where he finds comfort from his own father. When we do see Sadie again, the story leans into the importance of friendship through such trauma and tragedy, but it never lets go of the pain of blaming yourself for the results of actions that were out of your hands.

Bleed Them Dry #3
Andworld (letterer), Hiroshi Koizumi (creator), Miquel Muerto (colourist), Eliot Rahal (writer), Dike Ruan (artist)
September 16, 2020

“The night Black betrayed me was the same night he became a hero.”An angry vampire with white hair looks monsters and ready to attack

It’s been three months since Detective Halloway went missing and her former partner, Atticus Black, was practically sliced in half by the vampire hunter, Toyo, who has been waging a long-forgotten war against the vampires. Black, sporting his body upgrades, has vowed to find them both, but he has no idea that Halloway is actually working with Toyo. The bigger twist is that Halloway…isn’t, though Toyo thinks she is.

This issue features the anticipated big showdown between Black and Toyo, which goes as expected, expertly crafted through panels that seethe with motion, from the moving car to the swipe of each weapon. But it’s what’s going on in the background with Harper that we get to keep an eye on, as this remains her story, even though these vampire men are trying their best to keep her under their control.

Money Shot #8
Sarah Beattie (co-scripter), Crank! (letterer), Rebekah Isaacs (artist), Kurt Michael Russell (colourist), Tim Seeley (writer)
September 16, 2020

“Oh no, no, not you, honey. I had a foursome as my morning workout.”

The team stands at the ready, above them are a centaur and an elephant-like alien pointing and firing energy weapons

The XXX-Plorers have been forced to take the president with them to Cockaigne, a planet of pleasure where scientists are the elite. President Kirk remains an obnoxious parody of Trump and toxic masculinity and his antics, unsurprisingly, get the whole crew in trouble. This is compounded by the arrival of Councillor Bode and her companion, who were here to kill the XXX-Plorers and earn back whatever honour she lost by zapping the president in the nuts in the last issue. Meanwhile, Dr. Ocampo is busy coming to terms with her feelings for her new partner and her ex, hoping that this time, she won’t mess up either relationship in her usual explosive fashion.

So, there are some interesting things going on here and I’d like to say there are some amusing moments, but Kirk rubs me too far the wrong way to make the satire enjoyable, even knowing that he will most likely get his comeuppance.

Vampire the Masquerade: Winter’s Teeth #2
Addison Duke (colorist), Nathan Gooden (artist), Blake Howard (writer), Tini Howard (writer), Devmalya Pramanik (artist), Tim Seeley (writer)
September 16, 2020

The cover of VTM #2 by Vault Comics; a very intense looking redheaded woman wearing a revealing shawl

“If I know one thing from the World of Darkness, it’s that being a vampire is a tough life, filled with various dangers and crises. The difficulties are starting to pile up in issue #2 of Vault’s new Vampire the Masquerade comic—both for Camarilla enforcer Cecily Bane in the main Winter’s Teeth storyline, as well as the anarch gang in the suburbs of the twin cities from The Anarch Tales. And it’s happening fast! Just two issues in, there’s already a lot of groundwork being laid for the complex political machinations that are about to unfold in the Twin Cities.” Read the rest of Jameson Hampton’s review here.

Engineward #2
Tim Daniel (designer), Joe Eisma (artist), Michael Garland (colourist), Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (letterer), George Mann (writer)
August 26, 2020

“Now the children of Oert knew that forging a new realm was a perilous task indeed.”

Half of the profile of a woman with long blond hair, smiling wickedly

Leo is featured on the cover of this issue, and we get to meet her up close when she visits the people to assuage them of their fears. The people worship her and the other celestials, but Joss doesn’t buy into the smoke and mirrors, especially not when their people keep going missing on a regular basis. Meanwhile, Joss has managed to free the ghoulem head from its “hex” and it has a query that implies that this world is definitely not where it should be in terms of colonization.

In my last mini review, I gushed about the lettering. This time I’m going to go on about the language, which I briefly touched on last time. Worldbuilding goes so far beyond the physical world that is created in a particular story, or even the particular politics, spirituality, and cultures that make up that world. One of my biggest pet peeves is reading a speculative fiction book that binds itself to today’s language and expressions. The irony here is that Engineward is a world connected to our Earth somehow, so the language of the text should be expected to have those connections. However, George Mann is doing an excellent job of defining this world as its own through the dialogue, right down to the most important element: swearing. Oh sure there are the typical swears—because obviously, “fuck” is never going to go away—but there are also far more creative curses being flung around that should remind writers of how far and wide your worldbuilding needs to go.

Cover Monster

To close out this month’s Pubwatch, let’s admire the gorgeous colour work and overall design in the cover of The Plot #6

A gaunt face rises out of the water, reflecting a monstrous face with red eyes

Wendy Browne

Wendy Browne

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