Death and the Frenemy’s Claw

Here’s a quick look at some new indie series.

Death Ship from IDW is a 4 issue mini-series based on an untold story from Bram Stoker’s classic Dracula. Behind Cliff Nielsen’s spooky cover I was pleasantly surprised to some equally moody art. Being printed on slightly rougher paper, with muted colours by Dom Regan, means that Death Ship will carry you to its 1897 setting with ease. Stuart Sayger’s artwork is like a more refined Bill Sienkiewicz or Klaus Janson. His work is suitably sketchy, yet equally enchanting and fits beautifully within the old world setting, which is filled with tough as nails sailors with manly beards. Sayger knows when to fill the pages with simplicity, which adds great tension to Gary Gerani’s script. The first few pages initially seem like a bland tale of sailors vs the sea; the kind of film you catch in black and white on a lazy Sunday arvo on TV, but it soon reveals itself to be something more, as a sinister force lurks about their vessel. There’s a boy, a tough veteran, a wise captain and a scared priest, but it all works well, plus the art is awesome. I’m thankful for comic moments like this, when I pick something by blind faith and it proves to be better than expected.

The Claw and the Fang. This new series has great covers, and that’s what intrigued me. That, plus the preview art looked unusual – in a good way. Bluewater Productions have become known as of late for their bio comics on stars of the moment, but that’s not all that they produce. This issue begins with Justin, a hardcore gamer losing his job before crossing to Outer Mongolia where a witch summons a huge, hooded demon to serve her. From then on it moves quickly, as Justin gets fed up with the MMORPG he’s invested his life in, and the supernatural world and his dull existence collide. There’s a slight awkwardness, as this hurriedly takes place and it would’ve benefitted from an extra few pages, but this debut ish has laid enough seeds to hopefully bear fruit in the remaining issues. Michael Kutcher’s script is filled with great captions that carry the tale without revealing too much just yet, and Matias Basla’s angular art lends a refreshing design to the pages. The sparse use of colour is a great addition to the mainly earthen look too.

Frenemy of the State has its Hollywood tongue planted firmly in its cheek and is an unashamedly fun adventure. It’s written by actress Rashida Jones (The Office, Parks and Recreation), Christina Weir and Nunzio DeFilippis and comes to us from Oni Press. Opening with a quick account of protagonist Ariana Von Holmberg’s life in the spotlight (via Twitter snapshots) as she attends an Alice in Wonderland theme party, we soon learn that she’s not just a dumb heiress, but a well educated woman. She also seems to know her way around hi-tech security systems, but with all those skills, she’s still not above seeking revenge on a cheating lover. The script is rather obvious from that point on, as she becomes a C.I.A recruit. The odd flashback transition comes from nowhere, when all that’s needed was a simple caption, but otherwise, the issue is fine. It’s not a remarkable debut, but the central concept leaves a lot of room for story possibilities. Jeff Wamester’s art is light, with a slight Kevin Nowlan approach and the simple feel adds to the bubbliness of the story. It’s not hilarious by any means, but fans of pop culture with an awareness of celebrity obsessed media will find this likeable enough.

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