Three for Thursday: Independent Comic Reviews – Indestructible: Stingray, Sons Of The Devil And Material


Every Thursday, I would like to offer reviews and general discussion for a handful of independent comic titles released for the week. This week we look at three.

Indestructible: Stingray #1
Writer: Marsick, Jeff
Artist: Reguzzoni, Luca
Cover Artist: Langevin, Jeff
Published by IDW

“There are no original ideas,” someone once told me. I think it was in reference to stories in particular. Maybe it was a professor, and it was definitely years ago. Yet the artist in me struggles with the belief that there is “nothing new under the sun.” We want to believe our hard work is unique, never before seen. But the sad truth is that my professor from years ago was right: what separates stories (of the same kind) from one another is more a matter of style and not substance. The only question is whether or not the style seems fresh and whether its creator has mastered it. Indestructible: Stingray #1, unfortunately, fails to meet this standard.

That’s not to say the new one-shot from IDW totally fails. It does not. There is much to appreciate in the comic. The dialog and pacing remind me of some of what we see from the bigger publishers (think of a medicated Brian Michael Bendis doing a Gen 13 kind of book). The artists clearly know what they are doing, even if they have yet to master their craft.

My problem with the comic is its lack of originality. The characters, the costumes and yes, even the story, filled me with a sense of deja vu. We have seen this all before, and in ways done much better from a stylistic standpoint. Consider the hook: a team of super heroes takes in a new member who is not what she seems. See what I mean? I won’t offer up a history of this hook in comics, but the big two publishers have played on this quite a bit themselves. Why anyone would want to produce more of the same is challenging for me to wrap my head around, but it is clear we are (ahem) swimming in familiar waters with Indestructible: Stingray.

To be (somewhat) fair, we are stepping into an already established mythos with this one-shot. These characters have been flying around and saving the world for a few years now. This issue was meant to add texture to the myth. But when practically every character and scene reminds us of characters and scenes that we have already experienced and gotten to know, it is difficult to muster the excitement that a new comic release deserves.

From the publisher:

"It’s tough enough being a mutant teenager, but imagine the challenges when you’re surrounded by role models driven wholly by power, money, and fame. Kelly, a.k.a. Stingray, finds herself the newest member of the League of Defenders, America’s premiere super-team, and most dysfunctional ‘family.’"

Sons of the Devil #1
Writer: Buccellato, Brian
Artist: Infante, Toni
Cover Artist: Infante, Toni
Published by Image

Continuing with the theme of “original or not,” anyone who is a fan of television’s The Following, Cult, or Orphan Black will recognize the setup for Image’s Sons of the Devil #1. Set in California of today, we meet an angry Travis Crowe, who, as an infant, survived what appears to be to be a cult of the scary kind (is there any other kind?). We do not get to learn much about the cult in this premier issue of the series, other than discovering that violent black magic is involved and that some of its members suffer from heterochromia iridum (a condition where one eye is of different color than the other). This issue is all about setting the reader up for what is to come in following issues, establishing the main character (he is a little unstable but good-hearted), fleshing out his world and the people around him (in both cases described as not really meshing with Travis), and hinting at horrors that go back to before Travis was even born.

The creative team responsible for bringing Travis and his world to us did a very good job. The pacing and development of the story has a very fluid and cinematic feel. The dialog works well. And the art, dark and sketchy with a wonderful color palette, matches the shadows and meanness of the story. Were I to nitpick, I suppose it would center on the lack of any third-person point of view. We only have dialog and action and no mechanism to see inside characters’ heads aside from those two tgins. That works okay in the real world, but when it comes to stories, it seems like a bit of a cop out not to explore the inner thoughts of our characters either through the ubiquitous “voice-over” or some similar device.

From the publisher:

"From New York Times Best Selling writer BRIAN BUCCELLATO and artist TONI INFANTE comes a psychological horror story about TRAVIS, an average guy trying to get by, who discovers that he has familial ties to a deadly cult. Told across three decades, SONS OF THE DEVIL is an exploration of cults, family, and the dark side of human nature. It’s TRUE DETECTIVE and ORPHAN BLACK meets HELTER SKELTER."

Material #1
Writer: Kot, Alex
Artist: Tempest, Will
Cover Artist: Muller, Tom
Published by Image

Finally for today, I want to share my thoughts on one of the more challenging comics I have read in some time: Material #1 from Image.

At first blush, Material is totally out of my wheelhouse, even from an independent comic perspective. Almost entirely driven by dialog, there might be a tendency to question if anything really happens in the comic. Practically every panel is of one character or another, alone and shown from the waist up, speaking to someone and at the same time speaking directly to the reader. Ultimately, this device draws the reader in. These people are talking about some interesting if not totally original things: philosophy and artificial intelligence, riots and police brutality, Guantanamo and torture. Once drawn into the comic, however, I got the feeling that I was not so much in a story as in a portrait or picture of some kind. We get to see three or four characters, but they do not interact. Each character is following a thread all their own, but you wonder if there is a connection. Coupled with the uneven and simplistic art, it would have been easy to put this comic down like you would a big old hairy spider, but the more I think about this comic, the more I think it works. It is just not going to work for a wide audience. It is too smart, and at the same time, too simple to garner much of a following.

For me, and as fascinating as I found this story to be, I doubt I will continue with the series. Comics are an escape from reality, a place to fantasize and, in my opinion, to have fun. Material #1 felt more like work.

From the publisher:

"A man comes home from Guantanamo Bay, irrevocably changed. An actress receives an offer that can revive her career. A boy survives a riot and becomes embedded within a revolutionary movement. A philosopher is contacted by a being that dismantles his beliefs. Look around you. Everything is material."

Next: Three From Last Week: Resident Alien, Winterworld and More

More from Bam Smack Pow