This week’s lead review for Wednesday Comics is Stoneheart #1, a dynamic debut issue from writer/artist Emma Kubert. In addition, the Wednesday Comics Team has its usual rundown of the new #1s, finales and other notable issues from non-Big 2 publishers, all of which you can find below … enjoy!

Stoneheart #1Stoneheart #1

Script, Art, and Letters: Emma Kubert
Publisher: Image Comics

A mad and reckless force of nature, or a foretold protector who will defend the realm in its most imperiled hour? Shayde Whisper could be either, and from the first issue of this ongoing series, she may even be both. 

The land of Althea is served by a Paladin Guild of the North comprised of mythics, beings with extraordinary powers raised in a protected haven where they can learn control and application of their abilities. There they receive training regimens and support. 

However, Shayde is a young resident deemed too dangerous to remain. She’s mindwiped and exiled to Lightspring Canyon as apprentice to a master blacksmith. Bubbly and energetic, the new student quickly excels in learning forge-craft. But Shayde’s  mythic potential is not easily hidden, from herself or others.

Creator, scripter, and artist Emma Kubert places her protagonist into a forge as well. With superhuman aptitude, Shayde wrestles with two versions of herself, two pathways for utilizing her powers even though she’s supposedly been neutralized into a safer seeming.  One is powerful and willful, the other less self-assured, yet possessing a potent inner light. Her journey begins with navigating between those extremes, learning how they weave together,  and eventually how they’ll combine forming her complete self, her full potential.

As readers, we sense it’s Kubert’s narrative, too. If you are now or have ever been a young creative, you recognize that internal thrum of boundless inventive force emanating from both Shayde and Kubert. It’s a spirit others usually try quelling one degree or another. Some offering guidance for harnessing it effectively and producing lasting artistic expressions. Others, silencing it out of jealousy or spite. External forces also try forging Shayde, for better, for worse, or simply for suppression of her abilities. 

Witnessing her talents being channeled into metalworking, we empathize with her. We feel the sting of truth Shayde discovers while acclimating to apprenticeship in a frightening and unfamiliar city, how much nicer people become when they find you useful for their own purposes. In those moments, the labors of the hero mirror the labors of the creative soul in a mundane and hostile world.  

Kubert’s art cements the intertwining of whimsy and woeful. Dire forces conspiring against our hero are rendered in the deepest dyes. Meanwhile, Shayde lights a city block with the positive energy her stream of consciousness observations generate. The styles would seem in contrast panel-to-panel, yet Kubert melds them proficiently when one impacts the other. 

One drawback to the story flow, however, is placement of continued narrative boxes across several panels. Background briefs regarding the world of Athea come in additional text boxes. Together, they dropped me out of the dialogue progression and, for clarity, back to where the asides initially began.  

Stoneheart #1

On one level, Stoneheart is the first step of Shayde’s journey finding out her true nature, the extent of her gifts, and whether she will use them in righteous or ruinous ways. On another, it’s an enlightening exploration of an exceptional young talent’s inner thoughts regarding  her artistic expression, the potential for creative delight or downfall.

Emma Kubert is a dynamo you feel powering every fiber of this ongoing title. It’s a premiere placing the hero into the smelting furnace, creation alongside her creator, and we’re fully invested seeing what emerges from both.  

Verdict: BUY

Clyde Hall

Wednesday Comics Reviews

  • Clear #1 (Dark Horse Comics): Borne on the backs of writer Scott Snyder’s Best Jacket Press imprint partnership with ComiXology Originals and the impressive mind of artist Francis Manapul is a print run of Clear that combines the first two issues into one oversize book for Dark Horse Comics. In Clear #1, we’re in a near-future where mental processing technology called ‘veils’ allow the common man to view the surrounding world in any style they desire, but more so to project their escapism into reality. How ironic then that Clear’s aim to speak to the dichotomy of escapism and reality mirrors the end product of Snyder’s Maltese Falcon riff and Manapul’s Cyberpunk 2077 aesthetic facelift. Deep down, beneath the neo noir film covering this tale of a SF-Chinatown based private eye stuck with a mysterious package, mysterious message, and deep in goose chase case — it’s all just the same noir classics regurgitated back out with a ‘veil’ over it. Now, comic creators projecting their worldview from peak-pandemic time has resulted in some interesting experiments, for-better-for-worse, and I believe this is for the better! Manapul’s bubblegum and copper haze adds a fluorescent grain to the otherwise textbook noir world of Clear and its ‘veil’ filters allow him punches at different illustration styles — there’s a JH Williams III try at a cowboy you gotta see! Beyond the colors, Andworld Design’s approach to lettering feels like a mid-2010s DC Comics title with the stair-stepped drop shadow and best-case-scenario arrangement. For me, personally, I immensely dug the authenticity Manapul brings to the Filipino noir lead; ex-Navy, living in Chinatown (or Daly City), dressed to the nines, and maybe a little too obsessed with Kamen Rider Black. In the wake of The Good Asian and Diigii Daguna’s Mami, I’ve been craving some more SE Asian noir, and feel this is breaking ground fertile for it! If you feel similar and want to peek behind the veil into the prospective future of noir, check this out, and clear your eyes. –Beau Q.
  • Dejah Thoris #1 (Dynamite Comics): Written by Chuck BrownDejah Thoris attempts to contextualize the Princess from Mars as a capable warrior, adding agency to a woman with a ways to go on her journey both in confronting her biases and confronting those that have laid siege to her home. The characters are expressive and artist Emiliana Pinna showcases a strength in visualizing the nuances in shifting emotions, though some compositions can flatten out. The warm and vibrant colors highlighting the art are done by Ellie Wright with letters by Jeff Eckleberry. –Khalid Johnson
  • Comics to Buy for March 8Gospel #5 (Image Comics): I kind of just want to write, “More comics like Gospel, please”, because that was the overwhelming thought I was left with after finishing this interesting finale for what has been a delightfully complex comic book. Much praise is due to writer/artist Will Morris‘ choices throughout this one, which never dumb things down for the audience, maintaining an engaging literary bent throughout all five issues. While Gospel ends with this issue, the series was the type that will have readers finishing the last page and immediately wondering what Morris is going to do next. Grab this one in trade if you haven’t kept up, you won’t be sorry. —Zack Quaintance.
  • Finally, The Gimmick #1 is also out this week, and you can read our full review here as well as an interview with the book’s writer, Joanne Starer.

Read more entries in the Wednesday Comics reviews series!

Wednesday Comics is edited by Zack Quaintance.