For the non-Wednesday warriors looking to try something new, we look at a few titles debuting in stores this week and bring you the list of #1’s. March’s second week sees the best kids comics team around, Baltazar & Franco, bring something of a throwback to Lion Forge. Archie’s going from werewolf Jughead to Vampire Ronnie, while Titan tries to get pirate fans to the open world seas.
Story: Art Baltazar, Franco, Chris Giarrusso
Art: Chris Giarrusso, (Backup) Art Baltazar
Published by: Lion Forge/Cub House
Kids comics don’t get enough credit when they’re good. They often get lost in comparison to complex mature audience reads but when done right, it takes just as much work to craft twenty plus pages aimed at holding the attention of children. Encounter from the Cub House imprint at Lion Forge is a sterling example of a fun original idea for kids that contains just as much nuance as any title currently on shelves.
The team of Baltazar, Franco, and (art by) Chris Giarrusso bring readers a tale of a mysterious hatchling called Encounter. Its simple premise of something alien looking to use its powers to be a hero is merely the surface of the book. We’re introduced to a quickly forged militantly positive character and its dog sidekick in a way lesser storytellers would quickly overstay the welcome. Real world horrid behavior we’ve become desensitized to such as robbery and potential animal abuse hover around to be acknowledged by Encounter who’s experiencing things for the first time. These events instantly motivate our hero to do right and play up the gallant angle it does. While the Superman level of cheese could have been off-putting, these pages include a levity that brings you back from being annoyed. You can’t help but chuckle at the pop culture references Encounter shape shifts into, or his instant connection with a canine sidekick, even the cliche “look out behind you” gags manage to fit right into this opening issue.
Encounter channels a mix of golden age superhero with Jim Davis Garfield comic strip humor. The first issue serves to introduce readers to Encounter in a way that kids can bond with and adults can say “HA!” after looking at. If it has any problem, it’s that there isn’t much set up for a long game problem to solve. Encounter’s fight with a mech making villain is a great action sequence but feels more like a vignette than a long game story. Encounter #1 would be a great one-and-done comic book but needs to put readers on more of a distinct path in upcoming issues. While villain of the week procedural could be the aim of the book, there’s simply too much personality to this book to not build a foundation on.
Despite the lack of long game hints, Encounter #1 is still worth checking out if you have kids looking for something easy to get on board for in comics.
Story: Greg Smallwood, Meg Smallwood
Art: Greg Smallwood
Letters: Jack Morelli
Published By: Archie Comics/Archie Horror
The label that gave us an undead world of Archie characters, a werewolf Jughead, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch is bringing us a badass Blade-like Veronica Lodge in Vampironica #1. Greg Smallwood (Moon Knight) and his sibling Meg Smallwood put together a tale that channels a bit of the ironic humor of Tales From The Crypt with Bram Stoker’s gothic gore.
Right out of the gate, the book’s opening sequence of Veronica killing vampire’s at a high school kegger reads like something out of a YA Blade movie. It perfectly sets the tone and level of expectation for what’s to come with this title. We even get Ronnie’s very own version of “some motherfu***rs are always trying to ice skate uphill” action line. It’s good or bad dialogue depending on what side of the Blade movie you landed on. By the title alone, you can easily pick up the series premise. Veronica has been turned into a vampire but, by happenstance, saves herself before she can be completely put under the control of a mysterious sharply dressed vampire king. Now she’s Riverdale’s only hope of stopping every teen from becoming an undead bloodsucker.
As an opening issue, it gets a lot done right. We as the audience are dropped into the hook right away and allowed to get drawn in by the action and focus. Instead of letting the wide net of the Archie universe take up valuable panels, readers never forget whose tale this is. Even if you’d never heard of Veronica Lodge before this, you’ll instantly pick up on her dichotomy from an average rich girl with boy problems to vampire hunting badass. The Smallwoods cover a gambit of her character in such a small amount of time using exact amounts of dialogue when needed and letting her actions tell the rest in other places.
Much of that action is due to the underrated art of Greg Smallwood. His pages have an art student charcoal drawing charm to them yet with a refinement that stamps powerful acting on to these characters. His sequential form is just as good and the artist has an uncanny ability to put in just the right touches for specific moments. Whether it was the photo in an over the shoulder shot of Veronica looking in a mirror or emoji’s in a text conversation, we see just the right atmospheric touches that bring us back from grim vampire world to being in Riverdale.
Vampironica #1 is a blueprint on how to blend a fantastic horror story with the ridiculous world of Archie.
SEA OF THIEVES #1
Story: Jeremy Whitley
Art: Rhoald Marcellius
Colors: Sakti Yuwono
Letter: Jaka Ady
Published by: Titan Comics
Anytime a video game gets a companion comic book, it has an uphill battle between keeping in line with the source material and simply being a well done book. Sea of Thieves from Titan doesn’t have such an extensive challenge as this series is based on a (as of writing this) unreleased video game. The game published by Microsoft Studios and developed by Rare puts players in an open-sea adventure where you’ll take the role of a pirate uncovering treasure and stealing it from others online. After only playing the game’s beta some time ago, I can tell you Titan is definitely creating a mountain out of a molehill.
Sea of Thieves the comic book tells a sea chanty tale of twin siblings Demarco and Lesdi Singh who are in a race to uncover a family hidden treasure on the aptly named Sea of Thieves. The suave and debonair Demarco seeks pageantry and fame from being a pirate while his sister is driven by a need to live up to the mantle of greatest pirate who ever lived.
Issue one sets up the interesting family dynamic along with some noteworthy supporting characters such as the marksman, Nin. A young woman with a tough as nails front who’s fun to read playing the straight man to Demarco’s flamboyance. Character definitely isn’t something Sea of Thieves lacks, its problems are in its execution. At times it crosses the danger line of getting stale quickly because of the level of over exposition in these pages. Moments that could visually speak for the characters and solid action scenes are sandbagged by exorbitant levels of dialogue that reveal more than we need to know at the moment. Instead of letting me enjoy panels such as the knife trick or Nin’s fight, there’s too many characters talking around them. At a certain point, you lose track of what’s relevant and what’s simply a filler to get you to the next thing.
Much of this is trying to fill out a story where there isn’t one yet. Sea of Thieves (the game) isn’t even in our hands yet and much of the marketing material leading in focuses on the open world gameplay where you’ll meet other pirate players. For all I know, Sea of Thieves could have a story that has nothing to do with Titan’s comic book. This isn’t a comic based on something with an established narrative to build around such as Halo or Tomb Raider. Sea of Thieves is in many ways a blank canvas Titan could have taken its time with but issue one feels like the creative team tried to do too much too fast. Shame really, because underneath the excess lies a solid comic book.
As a comic book, I can’t quite recommend Sea of Thieves #1. However, as a companion to the video game, much of that decision rests with the final game product we’ll get from Rare and Microsoft next week.
Here’s the Rest of this week’s #1 comics.
NEIL GAIMAN AMERICAN GODS MY AINSEL #1 (DARK HORSE) (W) Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell (A) Scott Hampton The bizarre road trip across America continues as our heroes gather reinforcements for the imminent god war! The Hugo, Bram Stoker, Locus, World Fantasy, and Nebula Award-winning novel and hit Starz television series by Neil Gaiman is adapted as a graphic novel!
ETERNITY GIRL #1 (DC/Young Animal) (W) Magdalene Visaggio (A/CA) Sonny Liew Caroline Sharp has been a lot of things, including both a superhero and a super-spy. But now, with those days behind her and her powers proving unreliable, Caroline finds herself stuck in a life weighed down by her depression and an inability to change. You see, Caroline is going to live forever, and there is no escape to be had. The very act of living reminds her that, to the rest of existence, she is an anomaly. All of that could change, however, when her old foe, Madame Atom, comes to her with an intriguing offer.
GHOSTBUSTERS CROSSING OVER #1 (IDW) (W) Erik Burnham (A/CA) Dan Schoening Featuring the return of the critically acclaimed and fan-favorite creative team of Erik Burnham, Dan Schoening, and Luis Antonio Delgado! It's like the Ghostbusters version of Crisis on Infinite... er, you know what I mean!
DRY COUNTY #1 (IMAGE) (W) Rich Tommaso (A/CA) Rich Tommaso INFIDEL #1 (IMAGE) W) Pornsak Pichetshote (A/CA) Aaron Campbell, Jose Villarrubia NEW MUTANTS DEAD SOULS #1 (MARVEL) (W) Matthew Rosenberg (A) Adam Gorham (CA) Ryan Stegman
BETROTHED #1 (AFTERSHOCK) (W) Sean Lewis (A/CA) Steve Uy Kieron and Tamara are both seniors at the same high school. They've never paid much attention to each other, even though they are the only kids at school who are orphans. On the eve of their eighteenth birthdays, they discover a lifelong secret: in a dimension far away, they are each the leader of an army that is at war with one another. STARGATE ATLANTIS SINGULARITY #1 (AMERICAN MYTHOLOGY) W) Mark L. Haynes, J. C. Vaughn (A/CA) Greg LaRocque
SUBSPECIES #1 (Action Lab) (W) Cullen Bunn, Jimmy Johnston (A/CA) Daniel Jay Logan Michelle survived being attacked by the vampire Radu, defeated him on more than one occasion, and has been living with the fallout for years. Her life forever changed since she was infected by him, she has adjusted to her existence as a creature of the night. Now, though, the unthinkable has happened. Radu has resurfaced, only now there appears to be fiveincarnations of the fiendish vampire!