Wednesday, April 22, 2015

WonderCon round-up, part 1

It's been a very long time since I wrote anything about comic books on here, but I am still an avid (if sometimes slow) reader, and a few weeks ago I attended WonderCon in southern California for the third time, doing some news coverage for Comic Book Resources and hitting the convention floor. As usual, my convention strategy was to focus on indie publishers and artists' alley, to look for some interesting discoveries. If something caught my eye and I could pick up an individual issue for $5 or less, I gave it a shot.

The Children's Vampire Hunting Brigade (David Blake Lucarelli/Henry Ponciano) There isn't really anything new in this series inspired by the true story of hundreds of Scottish children searching a cemetery for a vampire in 1954. Lucarelli uses that as the jumping-off point for a typical vampire tale, with one of the grown-up children warning modern-day teens about the dangers of vampires. It's a solid setup with decent art, but there isn't enough of a unique angle to really hook readers in. Plus the "Scottish" dialogue reads like it's all being delivered by Banshee in a 1980s X-Men comic.

Cirrus (Graham Sibley/Hillary Bauman) The first issue of this sci-fi series opens with a huge text-page info-dump about the development of weather-controlling technology, a super-virus that wiped out nearly the entire human population, and the rise of animal-human hybrids who could resist the disease. But almost none of that seems to have any bearing on the story, which is vague and sometimes hard to follow, despite the overabundance of back story. There is a mysterious weather-controlling figure who breaks some other mysterious figure out of a mysterious holding facility. The characters appear to be human, but Bauman's painted art, which can be evocative when depicting landscapes, is clumsy when it comes to faces and people, so it's hard to tell whether they're hybrids or regular humans or something else. The issue's end is meant to be a shocking cliffhanger, but to me it was just more confusion.

Havenhurst (Tanya Bjork) Bjork offers up a familiar concept, with a girl who's inherited magical powers ditching her heritage and living among humans. The art is cute but sometimes a little awkward, especially during an unclear fight sequence near the end of the issue. The main character is a bit inscrutable as well, which is problematic when the entire series is based on the idea that she's abandoned her heritage to live in the world of humans. There aren't quite enough distinctive elements here to make me interested in reading another issue.

Nutmeg (James F. Wright/Jackie Crofts) I really enjoyed the first issue of this teen crime drama, billed by the creators as "Betty and Veronica meets Breaking Bad." There isn't any actual crime in the first issue, but writer Wright sets up the ominous vibe at the all-girls junior high where the story is set, with basic but effective characterization for the main characters and their mean-girl nemesis. Crofts' art is both simple and expressive, with just the right balance of sweetness and menace. It's a strong debut, and the next two issues are already available on Comixology. I plan to get them both.

Rök (Katie Longua) This cute series launched in 2011, according to the indicia, and the first issue is a little slim and slight (Longua relies a little too heavily on splash pages). The concept is that the Norse gods have come down to Earth and formed a rock band, which is somehow key to defeating their enemies. A young woman turns from fan to participant when she ends up with the power of one of the gods. The art and the combination of rock music, hipster style and supernatural threats reminded me a bit of Scott Pilgrim, although without as much self-aware humor. The story barely gets started in the first issue, but it has the potential to be goofy, exuberant fun.

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