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The Last Book You’ll Ever Read #2: Inevitabilities and Causes

At the risk of sounding even more like GateCrashers’ resident Pop-Pop, I need to mention the Vault Undressed variant covers for this issue, which are scandalous and definitely worthy of that black bag they put them in. One is done by main artist Leila Leiz and colorist Vlad Popov and the other is done by Richard Pace. I’m not sure which I like more, but I will say that for the Leiz/Popov cover, it took me a while before I noticed the heads of the two dead guys.

Credit: Cullen Bunn/Leila Leiz/Giada Marchisio/Vlad Popov/Jim Campbell (Vault Comics)

Getting in to the issue itself, we find Olivia Kade on her book tour and she’s met with angry protests. Connor Wilson, who is hired to protect her, still hasn’t read the book per Kade’s instruction to him, but he wonders if her treatise on the downfall of society and humanity’s descent into cruelty isn’t accurate. At the signing, Olivia again reads from Satyr and if the theme of the passage from the first issue was about binary of the predator or the prey, this time it is civilized or wild, with everything going swimmingly well for two pages until a couple is caught having loud and aggresive sex. The question remains as to whether Olivia’s book is merely documenting society’s decline or is perhaps causing it.

Bunn has created a fascinating character with Olivia Kade and the script shines in the scenes between Olivia and Wilson as the latter tries to dig deeper to figure her out. The dynamic between the two feels like something out of an old Hollywood movie and that sensibility is mixed in with the modern issues of violence, depravity, and sex. It is interesting to see everything play out.

Leiz’s artwork works incredibly well in telling this story. There are several times when a close-up of a character’s face and eyes are shown outside of a panel. Or they are overlapping with a couple of panels and the pages of dialogue pass in the looks. The aggression of the crowds and Olivia’s fear are captured so well. The last few pages, which switch between a full page fight scene and a full page sex scene, show the ability to be dynamic and sensual. And that last page is sexy as hell.

Credit: Cullen Bunn/Leila Leiz/Giada Marchisio/Vlad Popov/Jim Campbell (Vault Comics)

Both Giada Marchisio and Vlad Popov are listed as colorists and because of them, I appreciate how bright and alive this book looks. With a story like this, I think there could have been a tendency to make the book look dark, but I don’t believe that would work. Jim Campbell is the letterer and as always, his lettering never gets in the way and is absolutely crucial to this story, especially with certain panels being heavy on dialogue. The lettering during the fight scene was particularly well done.

There’s definitely more to the story Satyr as Olivia is once again assailed by a protestor who mentions “The Wilding.” And after two issues, I’m not concerned that I don’t know more about where the story is going. I am surprised that the relationship between Olivia and Wilson predictably played out in this issue, but I’m still invested in seeing where things go from here.

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Comics Interviews

Chris Shehan’s Interview

Chris Shehan has had a busy year! After wrapping up the prettiest horror story you’ll ever read, The Autumnal, it was announced that they would be the artist for the upcoming House of Slaughter. Somehow, between all of that, they’ve also drawn variant covers for some of our indie horror faves The Plot and The Last Book You’ll Ever Read. We got a chance to ask Chris for details on these projects, and some other important questions, starting with:

What is your favorite sandwich?

My favorite sandwich to eat is a BLT with avocado. Hard to beat. Favorite sandwich to make is grilled cheese. I go all-out and make a special event out of it.

Your next work, House of Slaughter, is out next month (FOC is next Monday, September 13th)*! What do you want to share with us about that?

For anyone who may not know, it’s a spin-off of Something is Killing the Children. It’s a little bit of a prequel following some stuff that Aaron Slaughter was up to before we see him in SIKTC. There’s some back story and more lore and mythology to the world crafted by James Tynion IV and Werther Dell’Edera. I won’t say much outside of that, but I’m really enjoying working on it.

* Final Order Cutoff is the last day local comic stores can put in orders for a print comic book and have it guaranteed that they’ll get a copy. Publishers use the numbers they get on that day to determine how much of a comic they should print, and if you decide you want one after that, they might have sold out. So, if you want House of Slaughter #1, tell your local comics store before next Monday!

Is this something new readers can pick up if they haven’t read Something Is Killing the Children?

I believe so, but I think the added context of Something Is Killing The Children will really help fill out the world for the reader. Plus, it’s one of my favorite comics, so I honestly would recommend it whether I was working on a spin-off or not!

Can you tell us about getting signed onto this project? Is it true that it started with fan art? What happened after that?

I’m not actually sure how it really started, but James Tynion IV had helped get the word out about The Autumnal when we first started promoting that, and I assume my work on that had led to being considered for House of Slaughter. But I did do Erica Slaughter fanart that James liked, and I like to think that helped! As I was finishing the final issue of The Autumnal, I was contacted by Boom about the project, and as a SIKTC fan, it was hard to say no!

How does it feel to have drawn a $2000 comic? Can I ask how variant covers** work from an artist’s perspective since you’ve had comics with variant covers and drawn variant covers for other comics?

Oh wow, I didn’t even know that was a thing. I’ve only very recently started learning about the way collectors use comics as a form of art collecting and/or investing. I’m honored people find value in comics, but I don’t fully understand it. As for how it works for me, I’m generally just asked to draw a cover or variant for my usual rate. With exclusive retailer variants, I might do some profit-sharing, but honestly, my rep handles those deals, and I try to just focus on drawing. I’m fascinated by it, though.

** Variant Covers are comics where the cover of an issue is drawn by a guest artist. The interior of the comic is the same! Sometimes publishers will make variant covers generally orderable, so you just have to ask your local comic store to get a variant cover for you. Other times, they’re sold as incentive bundles, where your local comic store is only allowed to order one copy of the variant for every x copies of the regular comic they order. Different stores will have different policies on getting these incentive covers for you or how much they charge for them, so if you’re interested in one of those, you should ask about your local store’s policy!

How is working on House of Slaughter different from working on your most recent project, The Autumnal? How do these compare to your guest covers for The Plot? What is it like to add to an existing IP? Do you approach it differently?

I’m much more careful when working on something that already has an established fan base. I try to find a balance of bringing my voice to something while matching the voices that came before so that what I do can exist, believably, in that world. I’m very nervous for this book to come out. I do hope that the fans love it. I’m having fun working on it. My guest covers on the plot were less nerve-wracking because I had The Plot co-creator, Tim Daniel, art-directing those covers from start to finish. That gave me a lot more confidence.

What kinds of things did you enjoy drawing the most in your projects? What were the most difficult or challenging things to draw?

I love drawing emotional character moments more than anything else. The most challenging things to draw are crowds of people.

Who are your influences? What artists are you seeing doing cool things right now?

I have so many influences at this point it’s hard to list them all. Lately, I look at a lot of Mike Mignola, Yoji Shinkawa, and Ashley Wood. Artists who are doing cool things right now are people like Martin Simmonds, Jason Shawn Alexander, Werther Dell’Edera, Sally Cantirino, Josh Hixson, Matteo Scalera. I can go on and on and on. It’s a great time to be making and reading comics right now, honestly.

Some fun details showed up in The Autumnal—references to other Vault comics! How did those come about?

I like Easter eggs! Some stuff was simply just Easter eggs. I put myself as an “extra” in everything I do. My dog also showed up in The Autumnal. And the crossover between The Autumnal and The Plot was Tim Daniel’s idea, and I loved that. I like the idea that they exist in the same universe, and I’d love to see The Autumnal references in other Vault Nightfall titles.

Do you have a list of dream projects that you would love to work on?

First and foremost, I’d love to write and draw my own big epic story. I’ve been sitting on a great one, and I’ve already got designs and art for it, so it’s just a matter of finding the right time to pitch it. The right place is Vault Comics. I can’t see doing it anywhere else. After that, I’d love to do some Batman, something in the Hellboy universe, maybe a short Spider-Man story, and as much creator-owned stuff with great writers that I can manage. The Autumnal was a delight, and any other creator-owned I’ve done with other writers is very special to me, so I’ll likely never stop doing that.

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Barbaric #3: The End (For Now!)

This issue opens with Soren presenting the first actual threat of the series to Owen.

In the physical matchups so far, our tanky protagonist unleashed his axe and made quick work of any adversaries, but Soren presents a different type of challenge.

First of all, he doesn’t really want to kill her, having decided maybe not all witches are bad after hearing her backstory in the tavern last issue. And second of all, her magic isn’t really something he can slice his way out of. The fake out of him almost dying would be convincing, but we already know that Moreci has big plans for this series next year. That gives Owen quite a bit more plot armor than we’d normally expect for a final issue, and as expected this resolves pretty quickly. It is really interesting getting to see a variety of Soren’s powers in this issue, leaving me wondering just how strong she is. 

Credit: Michael Moreci/Nathan Gooden/Addison Duke/Jim Campbell (Vault Comics)

From there, the energy of the comics picks up and we get the full force of the action comic we were promised. The trio slash through the bad guys in their path on their way out of the crumbling castle. Nathan Gooden’s art and Addison Duke’s colors really shine here. Instead of feeling repetitive as they hack up their adversaries, they mix it up with variations in color, design, and the relative sizes of their opponents to keep it fresh. 

This issue hits a lot of the same nostalgic notes as your favorite pop-culture adventurer stories: Buffy, Indiana Jones, The Legend of Zelda, or any of the Final Fantasy games. A big boss battle happens, and just as it seems like all is over, there’s a big reveal that the boss is actually a bigger boss! And also, the heroes have to hurry because everything is falling apart; they have to fight their way out of the dungeon as it collapses behind them! All of this happens while we get a lot of montages of the characters just destroying everything in their path in a really satisfying way while neatly wrapping up the story and teasing the next arc. 

Credit: Michael Moreci/Nathan Gooden/Addison Duke/Jim Campbell (Vault Comics)

The series as a whole is in a really good place going into 2022. We have a strong cast of characters, really great art, hints at meaningful character development to come, and solid writing that understands and leans into its genre. I look forward to the second arc!

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Comics

Deadbox #1: A Horror Story About Belonging & Unwritten Futures

“The most painful state of being is remembering the future, particularly the one you’ll never have.”

― Søren Kierkegaard

Do you love horror? Stories about being trapped in a god-forsaken small town with a myriad of colorful characters? Vault Comics? New or old Vault Comics horror fans will be fighting to obtain a copy of Deadbox #1. Okay, maybe only Captain Kirk-worthy wrestling match battles should ensue, but you get the idea.

Credit: Mark Russell/Benjamin Tiesma/Vladimir Popov/AndWorld (Vault Comics)

Mark Russell makes his foray into the horror genre as the writer of Deadbox #1. The creative team for Vault Comics’ new five-issue miniseries also includes illustrator Benjamin Tiesma, colorist Vladimir Popov, letterer Jim Campbell, and Vault superstar, designer Tim Daniel. 

This review begins with a quote from Danish philosopher Søren Aabye Kierkegaard about internalized pain accrued from yearning for a future that will never come to fruition. I question society’s general cognitive dissonance and memory lapse every day now. Lately, a meme that has been circulating, known as “My Fall Plans vs. The Delta Variant” (humorously?) tries to show how the latest COVID-19 variant has nullified people’s autumn event schedule. Meanwhile, I’m sitting here wondering who had Fall plans in the first place during this unceasing pandemic? The future may not be written in stone, but mapping out plans for the final months of this year never seemed like a viable option (for me, anyway) based on current events, COVID, and distrust. I’m not here at all to criticize individuals’ sadness over another holiday season contaminated by a deadly virus. Personally, my expectations lowered a year and a half ago and I haven’t felt hopeful about the future in a long time. 

Needless to say, Kierkegaard’s words hit home, particularly considering the throbbing ache — those privileged to even consider a more agreeable future — are currently collectively experiencing.

If you were to list all the intriguing themes in Deadbox, you might line them up side-by-side inside a crimson media vending machine. Would you like to check out “Kierkegaard & Existential Philosophy”? Does “Belonging & Meaning” suit your cinematic tastes? Can you palate the sweeping epic horror movie, “I Had to Give Up My Future and Stay in a Shitty Town I Hate Because I Have Too Much Empathy to Leave My Dying Dad Behind For College?” Here’s a personal favorite: “Life Sucks XVIII: Movies Are Escapism.” Grab some popcorn, because you’re about to read a comic seething with philosophizing, fright, and relatability. 

Deadbox #1 features an ominous DVD rental machine called a Deadbox and a self-delayed college student who imagines an unrepressed future outside of her rural town, Lost Turkey. Penny’s desperation for a future beyond her reach drives the slow-burn pace in Deadbox. She longs for more — for a life beyond interacting with backwards-thinking townspeople at the convenience store she works at and halting her college plans in order to care for her sickly father. 

Credit: Mark Russell/Benjamin Tiesma/Vladimir Popov/AndWorld (Vault Comics)

Immediately, Deadbox asserts its first issue thesis: Where do any of us truly belong?

Russell’s dialogue launches readers into rumination from Deadbox’s opening pages. The narrator waxes philosophical, correlating America’s obsession with “patriotism” and land ownership while questioning the affinity for belonging. Caption boxes with Jim Campell’s typeface aesthetic emulating formal document lettering hover over Benjamin Tiesma and colorist Vladimir Popov’s images of a dusty, rural landscape. Tiesma illustrates Lost Turkey with dark shadows and rough linework. Here, readers immediately gain familiarity with the town. All touchstones of American rural existence appear from varying angles in a noteworthy, four-panel grid composition: A man holds a gun in his lap, a police officer cruises along the road, a dog leashed to an American flag barks loudly, and a storefront bears posters reading “Enlist” and Christian cross imagery. From there, we are pulled into the darkness looming in Penny’s isolated world. The transition works seamlessly as colors dim further, shadows linger longer, and lines feel more weighted. 

Credit: Mark Russell/Benjamin Tiesma/Vladimir Popov/AndWorld (Vault Comics)

Visual horror awaits readers, but plenty of fright is present as we learn about Penny’s depressing existence in the dual narrative comic issue. How many of us can relate to Penny’s plight? When your head is contemplating a future pulsing with possibility and your body is trapped in a place restricting your sense of personhood, your heart ascribes both physical and psychological pain to yourself. Because of this, we retreat within ourselves. People seek comfort in many forms. One such form of shelter is physical media. 

Deadbox points to film as escapism, where we can take solace in watching a fictional story casting characters in situations we either feel relieved in not having to endure or find a piece of ourselves within. In Deadbox #1, the latter statement manifests itself all too tangibly. The films in the Lost Turkey Deadbox aren’t found anywhere else because they are a reflection of the watchers’ own lives. Duality runs through the Kierkegaard-influenced comic in both theme and artistry. Without spoiling too much, the Deadbox movie Penny dares to watch exhibits dramatic parallels to the comics’ opening cogitation and an adroit sci-fi artistic look. Binaries exist in immensely well-executed form in this 10/10 comic.

Credit: Mark Russell/Benjamin Tiesma/Vladimir Popov/AndWorld (Vault Comics)

If there is any criticism to be had, I would argue Deadbox #1 boasts a highly elevated script you may need to re-read to gain a fuller understanding. However, you’ll probably end up flipping through the comic pages again anyway because the art and story are incredible. Gleaning additional analogs in the process acts as a bonus. 

There’s no renting like a DVD rental box when comics are involved. You need to have your money in hand when bursting into your comic shop on September 1st to buy a copy of Deadbox #1.

Mark Russell makes his foray into the horror genre as the writer of Deadbox #1. The creative team for Vault Comics’ new five-issue miniseries, Deadbox, also includes illustrator Benjamin Tiesma, colorist Vladimir Popov, letterer Jim Campbell, and Vault superstar, designer Tim Daniel. 

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Barbaric #2: A Bloody Thrill

If you like women with swords, you now have a lot of options, thanks to Vault! This is probably my favorite trend right now, so I was delighted to see Barbaric #2 delve into the backstory of Soren, a witch who can pull swords out of the tattoos on her body. We get two flashbacks from her, one about the recent events of how she met Owen and Axe, and one about her childhood, where we learn that people wanting to set her on fire is a real theme in her life.

Covers for Witchblood #3, Barbaric #2, She Said Destroy, and The Devil’s Red Bride (all published by Vault Comics)

Our story picks up with our trio of characters (Owen, Soren, and Axe) waiting in a pub for Axe to sober up. The first issue of Barbaric was memorable for its on-the-nose humor and violent montages, thus introducing us to the characters and setting in a splashy way. This second one seems to settle into its identity as ‘The DND campaign you wish you’d come up with’ while still retaining a lot of the laugh-out-loud dialogue and the ‘chop everyone to pieces’ moments that you would expect. 

Credit: Michael Moreci/Nathan Gooden/Addison Duke/Jim Campbell (Vault Comics)

The story being set up is interesting, but like the nostalgic tabletop roleplaying games with friends, the character interactions along the way are what make it special. Their designs and their writing are really precise here, with each character having a distinct voice, look, and color scheme. This makes for some really visually interesting color combinations when they talk and fight! 

Credit: Michael Moreci/Nathan Gooden/Addison Duke/Jim Campbell (Vault Comics)

My only complaint is that I’m not sure if the current storyline matters. It’s an interesting concept, but this feels like it will be resolved in an issue or two when a main quest or storyline appears, which leaves me wondering if we spent a lot of time on the backstory of what feels like a sidequest. The stakes aren’t clear, and it doesn’t feel like interacting with this current task will get any of the characters further towards their goals. I’d love to be proven wrong here, but this isn’t a huge problem–After all, this issue is still a lot of fun and it delivers on its promise of blood, mayhem, and monsters. 

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Comics

Witchblood #5 Review: A Character-Oriented Reflection

It’s the end of the month, which means it is Witchblood time once again! We last saw our favorite chaotic cerulean-haired witch, Yonna, teaming up with her rivals Atlacoya and Big Red at the conclusion of issue four. The last month has been spent with countless questions being asked about all the wild reveals and twists that were dropped, so how does one keep that momentum going?

Witchblood’s fifth issue is much quieter than the last. It almost feels as though issue four didn’t happen in some ways. I don’t mean that as a bad thing in the slightest, mind you. Issue five feels more like it comes after issue three than four, and in that I find both the previous issue and the continuing larger narrative arc of Witchblood that much more intriguing. 

Credit: Matthew Erman/Lisa Sterle/Gab Contreras/AndWorld Design (Vault Comics)

We start this next chapter with yet another new face. A woman with an adorable otter and dowsing rods is surveying an area, only to happen upon the town of Sargasso. The town is ominous, and seems to almost be under sea, despite being very much on land like any other regular small town. After an ominous start with our new character, the trio we’ve come to know and love are shown essentially right where we left them: in hot pursuit of the Hounds of Love. The banter between Atla, Red, and Yonna is snarky and fun as usual and I personally could watch them bicker and be put in a “play nice” sweater together for eternity. The ladies end up in the same town as our fresh-faced mystery lady, Sargasso, to try and get some fuel for Atla’s gas guzzling truck only to find themselves knee-deep in the town’s sea-centric curse. While trying to uncover the source of this curse, Yonna runs into our mystery woman. Arteria is a witch and knows Yonna from “the old days”, which also gives us a glimpse of what Yonna was like before the tale of Witchblood began. 

Credit: Matthew Erman/Lisa Sterle/Gab Contreras/AndWorld Design (Vault Comics)

The issue continues with discovering the source of the curse via a quippy spelunking expedition with our ladies, and low and behold, it was a witch. When Yonna ensures the curse has been fully listed, she’s asked if she knew the witch in question, to which she hauntingly replies, “I knew all of them.” Arteria asks to join up and help our witch and her reluctant allies, but Yonna assures her that her dowsing talents are more needed in Sargasso to help them rebuild after the curse. We end on another self-reflective soliloquy from Yonna about her intimacy issues and whether or not she truly believes she keeps people at arm’s length for their safety, like she tells herself. The very last thing shown is the Hounds of Love seemingly close to approaching Esme in the flesh and are left to spend the next month wondering how all of this is going to play out.

Overall, I did feel a bit let down after the adrenaline rush of issue four initially, but I think in retrospect, the way this issue played out gives the audience more time to flesh out theories, think of new questions, and continue to read Yonna and company’s adventures with rapt attention. With so much still unknown and unanswered, the road ahead for our gals looks to be very exciting. Now to spend the next month chewing on what we do know, and where it could all lead!

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Comics

Witchblood #4: The One That Changes Everything

“And I’m ashamed of running away
From nothing real
I just can’t deal with this
But I’m still afraid to be there”

-”Hounds of Love” by Kate Bush

Witchblood has, in four issues, hooked me into their universe more than most Big Two comics can do in entire trades. I don’t know how this happened or where it came from but believe me when I say, you have no idea what to expect from this book. I went in thinking one thing, started reading, and still felt similarly, but with some added context. As the book went on I was still feeling relatively on the same track, with some slight variances. 

Issue four came into my inbox and just completely turned every expectation or theory I had to dust. Much like the Major Arcana in tarot (of which there are plenty of visual references throughout this book’s run thus far), Yonna was a lone figure starting out on a wild and often arduous journey of growth and acceptance. To me, Yonna came off much like The Fool and while the comparison is obviously not 1:1, I genuinely thought this is how it would play out and boy was I ever wrong. I am sincerely at a loss for how exactly to discuss this issue because there’s just so much that happens. New characters, swift twists and turns to keep the reader guessing, and an absolutely massive reveal that will change the trajectory of this book entirely. I truly cannot wait to see where things go from here. 

The first three issues of Witchblood have ramped up each month and, as any series does in the beginning, introduced us to Yonna and the world she lives in. One of the things I have found the strongest is the fact that Yonna’s world is not unlike our own. By grounding it to reality in small ways, I always found it much easier to warm to the story and characters. I also felt like it helped the readers gain easy footing and feel comfortable, but remain inquisitive. I’ll admit that the first issue or two felt a bit guarded in its lore reveals and world-building. Looking back on it now after having read issue four, that guardedness was very intentional. Without feeling a bit left out of the bigger picture, I don’t think this major plot twist would have worked nearly as well. It takes a lot to completely take me by surprise, but I can say with full transparency, I would not have been able to predict where this book headed, or even where it will be heading in the near future. 

Coming off of issue three, I was truly excited to see where Witchblood went. Issue three was by far my favorite of the series so far and it looked like things were going to get real wild and weird in issue four. While I was correct on that part, I don’t think I ever could have braced myself for the rollercoaster ride we ended up receiving. We left off with, what is arguably one of the best intros of all time, Texas Red on her valiant steed Belenus.

Issue four picks up immediately after Red’s intro and things just escalate from there. There’s Hounds of Love, there’s fighting, there are reluctant partnerships, there’s…sky vampires? We are not only introduced to a new character, Paradisia Bath, but a whole new part of this world called the Limbo of Vanity. Paradisia literally swoops in on her adorable bat Olam Ha-Ba and immediately seems infatuated with Yonna and her recent display of previously unknown powers.

This power, unfortunately, levels all of San Sangre, but since Atlacoya and Texas Red were unconscious, Yonna elects to change the narrative to something a bit more palatable and blames the Hounds of Love. We’re left wondering if this is an entirely selfish motivation on Yonna’s part to ensure her new partnership with the two who were previously hunting her goes smoothly, or if she really does believe they’re better off not knowing the truth. With so much action already behind us, what could possibly happen next

Well, to gain the trust of Texas Red and Atlacoya, Yonna reveals the biggest secret of the Witchblood world: Esme, the previously mentioned witch queen that the Hounds of Love have been hunting, is not a witch at all. Witches aren’t her children, either. Yonna reveals that Esme is, in fact, an alien. Witches like Yonna were once mere mortals before encountering Esme. “Well, what about the vampires”, you may ask. Turns out humans were envious of Esme’s power and the gifts she bestowed upon a select few that became witches. Then, the humans who took umbrage with this decided then to steal Esme’s blood and were then cursed to become vampires. The entire motivation for the vampires to hunt witches is now revealed and why there’s a very ominous sky castle and why witches are so secretive and guarded: they’re hiding. 

All in all, Witchblood’s fourth issue is a doozy. I think this will be a great point that will turn a lot of readers who felt only partially invested in the first three issues into dedicated readers. Before this, I would say that the previous issue was my favorite and the strongest, but that has changed drastically. After this huge twist and all of these wild reveals, I absolutely cannot wait for what the Witchblood team has in store for us in the near future.

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Episodes

Talking Blue Flame with Christopher Cantwell

With Vault’s FIRST costumed hero The Blue Flame on the horizon, Dan speaks with the writer, Christopher Cantwell. The conversation gets into what being a hero means today vs the golden age, who the Blue Flame is, and much more!

Subscribe now or listen below!

Deep Diving into Aquaman with Brandon Thomas GateCrashers

Brandon Thomas stops by to talk about Aquaman: The Becoming with Dan! The conversation takes a deeper look into Jackson Hyde as a character, learning who he is and what he can become. We got to chat about our favorite Queen, Mera. There’s also a look at the current mantle holder of the Aquaman name, Arthur Curry. This is a must-listen for any fans of Aquaman!
  1. Deep Diving into Aquaman with Brandon Thomas
  2. Interview with Bill Moseley
  3. Deep Diving Into Black Manta With Chuck Brown
  4. Interview with Meghan Fitzmartin
  5. Your Lie in April
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Comics

The Blue Flame #1 (Spoiler-free Review)

Review by Jimmy Gaspero Jr.

The Blue Flame opens with an homage to Silver Age science fiction/superhero stories to introduce the reader to Sam Brausam aka The Blue Flame. Not just a fun throwback, it gives the sense that this story is going to attempt to get at something fundamental about the superheroes that have played such a large role in popular culture since, at least, the Silver Age. Sam is described as an ordinary, blue-collar Everyman, but he finds himself in strange circumstances in Outer Space, with both Sam and the reader not quite sure what is going on, which instantly helps connect the reader to Sam.

After Sam learns the reason he’s been called to this planet, the story shifts to Sam’s life on Earth. Sam is shown at work, shoveling snow, and driving what I think is a late 70’s model Mercury Comet. It’s all a bit mundane, and that’s the point. Everything shown about Sam on Earth reinforces the idea that he doesn’t have superpowers, he’s not a billionaire, he wasn’t gifted with godly power jewelry.

This issue also introduces the Night Brigade, a team of Sam’s fellow vigilantes. None appear to have superpowers and it’s reminiscent of Watchmen, except the Night Brigade all feel like decent people.  The personal relationships among the Night Brigade are not perfect, but are genuine. Christopher Cantwell’s dialogue quickly endears the Night Brigade to the reader. The mundane side of vigilantism continues as various members of the Night Brigade discuss testifying at a trial and how they will afford to repair their damaged truck. There’s such a sense of camaraderie, respect, and light-hearted humor that later events are a massive tonal shift.

Credit: Christopher Cantwell, Adam Gorham, Kurt Michael Russell, Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (Vault Comics)

The design of Sam’s suit and logo, along with The Blue Flame logo (by Tim Daniel) is incredible. The Blue Flame suit and helmet are sleek, but functional. I was reminded a little of The Rocketeer and The Great Machine from Ex Machina, but with a strong Mega Man influence.

Adam Gorham’s artwork is stunning in the opening cosmic sequence, but no less remarkable later on as he employs inventive panel layouts and inset panels that keep the story visually interesting. Kurt Michael Russell colors everything so beautifully. The colors, especially for the Night Brigade, are bright and vibrant without being brash or too bold. The cold grayish white of a snowy day, the yellowy green of working in a boiler room with artificial light, the cool blue of the evening. Sam’s life looks like a happy one.

Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou is an exceptional letterer. His font choices fit the story so well and are never stagnant as can be seen when Sam sings while he shovels or how he conveys the quickened speech of the radio DJ. Another interesting technique is the irregularly shaped speech bubbles he uses for the aliens in the opening sequence.

For Vault Comics’ first foray into superhero stories, this is a compelling narrative that has set up some very interesting questions combining an Everyman vigilante with a cosmic dilemma. It’s an incredible creative team and if it isn’t yet on your pull list, it should be. 


The Blue Flame #1 is available in all good comic stores and digital storefronts May 26th.