A couple of days ago, at the Star Wars Fan Days in Plano, I stopped by the booth for Red 5 Comics and spoke with co-founder Scott Chitwood [more background on Red 5], who was very personable. He also had some very good looking comics. For a mere $8, I picked up 4 comics, all #1 issues.
Overall, I liked the look of the comics: they are slick, if nothing else. They also remind of Burlyman Comics by going with the heavier stock paper, a superficial similarity. But the tone and art are similar across all four titles: it’s a comic book, which means some humor, if not a bit, and a cartoon style. As Scott said, he has kids and wanted to create comics they could read.
I think Red 5 is off to a great start for an indie comic company. Its themes are clear: play with recognizable themes and characters, and make people laugh while telling a good story. The books all have a cartoony but very professional, cool style, but they’re not just for kids. I recommend your trying the titles out, though they might be hard to find in your comic store. You can print this order form for you comic shop, or order online here, here or here.
So, here’s my quick review of each:
This title probably has the most detailed art of the four issues that I read, but as you can see, it has a quasi anime style to it. The setup is efficient, and by the 5th page, we’re introduced to the humans, to a couple in particular. The characters have no real hooks yet, except for one young builder named Pax, who is shown to have some internal conflict.
But before the issue ends, we see two fights with dinosaurs and get a mystery. The emphasis seems to be on the action more than the dialogue, though this isn’t like some of the Clone War comics I’ve read which have had little dialogue and read all too quickly.
My problem is that I had a hard time not thinking of Xenozoic Tales: Cadillacs and Dinosaurs from a few years ago, which was an excellent retro action/sci fi comic that evoked EC titles and, for me, Al Williamson, one of the guys that made me want to draw. But I got past the comparison because NeoZoic has its own style and the premise is different enough to beat back concerns of imitation.
The book is good, even though I thought the characters were a bit weak. Korim’s art is so attractive and even lush in its own way that I will definitely pick up #2.
Atomic Robo #1 of 6
You can read pages 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16 online. Like NeoZoic, Atomic Robo has a familiar story about a robot who works for the government fighting in the himalayas in exchange for becoming a citizen.
The art has more of an art deco look to it, and Robo’s design immediately reminded me of Iron Giant and Dave Stevens’ Rocketeer. And like both, there is good humor to enjoy. [Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Robotman of Doom Patrol and Robot Archie.]
The first issue is not your typical intro to a character: first you see the main character in the middle of something and then you see a two-page backgrounder before rejoining the plot. We don’t even really know the character’s name.
The book has some action, but that wasn’t the focus in the first issue. Instead, there were several humorous setups, mostly at the expense of the bad guys, one of which you can see in the preview pages above.
Something about this book really grabbed me: I thought it probably had the most interesting character, as much of a retread as she/he/it might seem at first. I’m left with many questions, the good kind that keep me wanting to read more. A mix of humor and character development is a rare thing in comics. The story seems a little on the weak side, reminding me some of Warren Ellis’s over-the-top plots [if you can call them such] in Nextwave, a book that itself was funny only for a couple of issues but became quickly tired. I don’t see that with Atomic Robot, which is not mocking comics and fans as much as it is playing with a well known situation.
If you don’t read any other Red 5 comic, you should try this one.
Abyss #1 of 4
you can preview pages 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15 online. The plot is once again a familiar one . . . but with a twist. A young boy is on his way to see what he has inherited from his distant father, only to discover a . . . secret lair!
I can’t tell much about this issue without giving away the plot turns. The book is definitely one for comic fans, with references to all sorts of cliches, including a reference to the Batman television show. In fact, it seems to play off mostly DC comic characters and cliches, including a cover that DC threatened to sue over.
This was probably the most humorous of the books. But we can see an interesting plot and a good main character developing here. As with all these Red 5 comics, the book read well . . . it wasn’t too fast or too slow. It never dragged, but I didn’t read it so quickly that I thought, what the heck did I buy?
I didn’t think this was the strongest of the four titles, but it’s a good book nonetheless. It’s a superhero comic that can appeal to kids and to adults who grew up with comics. I wasn’t crazy about the art style or the page layouts: I had trouble figuring out how old Eric, the main character, is because sometimes he seemed like 14-16, 18, or 20something. I also thought the transition to the last scene was somewhat rushed, though it worked. But the writing is very well done, to the point that I don’t think any detail is a throw-away: it could come into play.
Again, this is a series I intended to complete, and I recommend it, especially for younger readers.
You can see pages 13, 14, 15, and 16 online. The book is written and drawn by Tom Hodges, whom I know through his work on Star Wars and met at the convention. As he explains in the back of the comic, this title has its origin years ago but went through a couple of planned launches and some tweaking before its current form.
The story concerns a couple who are a superhero team, David and Tarilyn Deville who have a three-year-old daughter and a right smart nanny. This might evoke The Incredibles for some, but it didn’t really for me.
The title doesn’t start with an origin but with a hockey puck and a group of robed evildoers. We see the couple in good bantering form, including a thread involving David’s desire for a motorcycle.
This is the weakest of the four titles, one that I find some interest in but willing to give only 1-2 more issues. The reason is that, while I love the idea of a crime fighting couple, I didn’t get much from this issue. I mean, the nanny was the most interesting character. The latter pages lead us to a possible engaging mystery, but we don’t get much detail. The two fight scenes didn’t do much for me, and came across somewhat generic.
Still, I think it has potential, and I will pick up at least 2 more issues.