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SPREAD #1: Meat. Teeth. Tentacles.
by Kyle Ellinger, Comics for Fun and Profit
Post apocalyptic? Check!
Zombie-style outbreak? Check!
Hatchet wielding protagonist immune to said outbreak? Check!
Ok. I’m in.
While a lot of Spread is things you’ve seen before. It never comes off contrived. It’s enough of a fresh take to get me excited for the future being woven in the newest Image comic by Justin Jordan and Kyle Strahm. Our Story starts in a barren winter landscape among the wreckage of a Downed airplane. However this plane and this winter landscape are covered in a meaty red gelatinous organism made up of spikes, teeth and tentacles. This is the Spread. And it’s taken over the world. Kyle Strahm’s art fits excellent within a pure winter landscape covered in the contrasting red as you see the Spread as a background or much of the blood being thrown about in almost every scene. We quickly learn the spread can take up many forms, be it the giant form, a “Flyer” which made short work of our aircraft, a “runner” Which looks to be a horse sized four legged mound of death meant to chase you down and kill you. And the spread can also infect another human equipping them with extra teeth and tentacles for their utmost murdering pleasure. In this way spread quickly separates itself from your typical post apocalyptic romp or any typical zombie comic. We zoom into the wreckage of the plane crash as the protagonist No (yep. That’s the name) a grizzled man of few words who lets his hatchets do most of his talking. He settles upon the body of his friend who was killed by raiders picking over the scraps of the wreckage. Now, No must fight through the spread and get revenge on the raiders who killed his friend. Upon catching up to these raiders, No finds them in possession of a child from a woman they killed. This child also serves as our narrator for the issue, which after reading Saga is a narrative I’m quite comfortable with. What this child is, and who she is will drive our story for the foreseeable future as No battles the elements to keep this child alive in this dangerous, wild, unpredictable landscape. Spread does a great job making No a force to be reckoned with, while still making it known that the world they live in could kill him at any moment. So much feels very familiar, and that just allows the environment and the characters to lead the way. The creators say they borrowed from the Mad Max feel where society is scavenging on the past that has been laid to waste, while losing their humanity in the process. I for one want more of this world and am anxiously waiting for when we meet our other characters talked about in issue one. Spread takes us to a world covered in Meaty tentacles with spikes, eyeballs, and teeth around every deadly corner. Yet somehow that’s inviting. A-
C.O.W.L #2 - That’s The Chicago Way
by Kyle Ellinger, Comics For Fun And Profit
The Second Issue of Kyle Higgins and Alex Siegel’s C.O.W.L. continues to showcase a gritty 1962 Chicago where the streets are being cleaned up by superheroes. Not the conventional gang of superheroes we’re familiar with, but by the Chicago Organized Workers League or COWL. COWL consists of powerful superheroes and normal humans all tasked with keeping Chicago safe from crime and super villains. Bureaucracy, egos, and our heroes’ checkered pasts plague COWL from the top down, like most government organizations. From one hero with trouble balancing family life at home to some using their fame as heroes for their next sexual conquest.
COWL has many layers, and a lot going on but the writers make the journey a little easier by providing character breakdowns on the first page highlighting who will be in each issue. Each book ends with a personnel file for one of our main characters giving us a little more detail. Some information has been redacted from these but hopefully, one day, we’ll get that level 3 clearance. The second issue continues to focus more on the politics and relationships so there is not as much action.
COWL feels a little like Watchmen or Astro City, I really enjoy the many layers we examine, everything from superhero health insurance to costume budgeting to the challenge of working for COWL without powers to even examining crime-fighting as a business model (if you’re really good at what you do, will there be a need to renew your contract).
Artist Rod Reis does an amazing job making 1962 Chicago a character of its own. The shadows and minimalist color give the city its grit. Background colors change with the tenor and feel of the subject matter at hand, or even disappears altogether when in dark alleys or behind buildings. Each character is unique in look and feel, and the style of 1962 is evident with every panel. We’re not given too much detail about these characters, but it’s enough to sympathize with their plight, root for some, while having distain for others.
All in all, COWL continues to create a world where political dealings and personal demons weigh just as heavy as the super powers wielded. Cowl isn’t built to reach every audience, but the foundation is enough to keep me interested in it for what it’s trying to build, not what it lacks. I look forward to the next few issues, and learning more about a world where superheroes get overtime. B+