Vault LogoAs I mentioned in a couple of my recent comic reviews, San Diego Comic Con this past weekend was quite an experience. In addition to buying a couple of amazing indie trade paperbacks, I got the chance to snag a few preview copies of some other indie titles being published by Vault Comics and distributed by Diamond Comic Distributors.

The guys behind Vault Comics are the same ones behind CME Comics, the company responsible for The Gifted (review here) and Deadeye (review pending). The Wassel brothers created Vault Comics to provide a publishing avenue for other indie creators, and I’m looking forward to doing an interview with them about the whole process in the very near future.

In the meantime, let’s talk about those preview comics I mentioned.

Currently, Vault has a slate of five titles scheduled for release in February/March 2017, with another five titles planned for later in 2017. The first five books (in the order I read the previews) are:

PowerlessPowerless Issue 1 Cover

Created and written by David M. Booher, with illustrations by Nathan C. Gooden and colors by Mike Spicer, Powerless is about a world in which everyone has super-powers – literally everyone. However, a strange disease is sweeping the globe, leaving some powerless (roll credits!) and others dead. Quarantine, a special task force, responds to outbreaks of the disease, trying to mitigate the damage it causes, but some of the disease’s victims are refusing aide for some mysterious reason.

I like the dialogue and pacing in this preview, and overall Gooden’s art style is appealing. However, I found that many of the characters struck awkward poses in many of the panels, making me wonder if they all have some kind of spinal problems. Similarly, almost all of the main characters seem to be squinting intently constantly, which limited my ability to connect with them because they looked rather silly.

Ultimately, my interest in this title is fairly high. It’s an intriguing premise, and the preview comic gets things off to a quick start. I’ll be checking it out to see where the story goes.

Karma Police Issue 1 CoverKarma Police

Creators Chris Lewis (writer) and Tony Gregori (artist) team up with colorist Jason Smith on Karma Police, and this creative team has my interest piqued. Karma Police tells the story of a young Los Angeles woman named Jack Allen, the reincarnation of a Tibetan monk. The comic has a distinct manga/anime flair to it, introducing colorful and sinister villains through a grim and bloody “prologue” before seguing to a more lighthearted scene featuring Jack fighting a demon-possessed toddler with a bottle of… milk? (I actually don’t know what’s in the bottle, because the preview ends there, but that’s beside the point.)

Gregori utilizes a classic comic book art style to great effect, with distinct line work that emphasizes the exaggerated features of the title’s villains. Smith’s colors are similarly excellent – I think the colors really shine in the rain-soaked prologue set in Guatemala, providing the right tone and atmosphere for the scene without sacrificing the vibrancy that helps the details stand out. Lewis’s strong writing rounds out the book, with dialogue establishing critical background information without stalling the action or plot.

Karma Police has a firm hold on my interest, and I’m definitely going to be checking this title out when it hits shelves. I can’t wait to see Jack in action, learn more about the book’s bad guys, and find out how a magical dagger ties everything together.

FailsafeFailsafe Issue 1 Cover

Failsafe’s creative team consists of writers F. J. Desanto and Todd Farmer, with Federico Dallochio as the illustrator and colorist. The premise of the book revolves around U.S. soldiers being turned into cybernetically enhanced sleeper agents, meant to blend into the country’s civilian population and respond to terrorist attacks on domestic soil. Unfortunately, the cybernetics program has unforeseen side effects, driving many of these agents mad and causing them to go on rampages, prompting the government to commission hit squads to hunt down and exterminate these rogue super soldiers. When the details of this black ops program leak, the country is understandably outraged at the framing of mentally unstable U.S. soldiers as terrorist “insurgents” and their summary state-sanctioned executions.

The premise behind Failsafe is strong, and Dallochio’s art style is clear and crisp. Visually speaking, this is one of my favorite titles in Vault’s preview lineup. Unfortunately, the last page of the book soured my reaction to Failsafe, which had been strong up to that point. The final page introduces a blonde woman who, based on the cover art, I suspect will be a main character of some kind – which is fine on the surface. The introduction, however, includes her planning to file a false sexual harassment claim in order to secure a promotion at work.

Now, it’s possible this woman isn’t the character we see on the cover, or that there is some other explanation for her characterization, in which case I’ll happily admit that I was wrong. However, if she is a main character, and if we’re supposed to be rooting for her as a hero, then she’s immediately lost any support I might have had for her. Similarly problematic is the fact that there are no women on Failsafe’s creative team, meaning that if the blonde is a stereotypical manipulative “bitch” masquerading as a strong female character, there are some serious implications of sexism among the writers.

Again, I could be totally off base here. Only the full first issue in February will confirm one way or the other. I’m definitely intrigued by the book, but the team’s handling of the blonde will determine if I stick with Failsafe past the first issue.  Obviously we’ll have to wait and see, and I’m willing to give the book the benefit of the doubt, but I’m a bit leery about it at the moment.

Colossi Issue 1 CoverColossi

Writer Ricardo Mo and artist Alberto Muriel bring us Colossi, a comic with a decidedly retro feel. The book stars Carmen, aka “Cee”, a futuristic shuttle driver (I want to say it’s a trans-atmospheric shuttle but that’s purely speculation) with truly impressive hair. When her shuttle is abruptly and inexplicably whisked away to an unknown location, we discover that the book’s premise is a cross between Lost in Space and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids when Cee and her passengers wind up as miniature versions of themselves in small-town America.

While not the most visually impressive title in Vault’s initial slate of comics, Muriel’s style is strong, with distinct lines and a ‘60s/’70s feel to the character and set designs. The coloring is solid too, though the muted grey cast to everything didn’t quite sit well throughout the preview. I don’t know if Muriel was trying to set a particular mood with that approach, but I’m not sure it worked as intended.

The writing is also good, with Mo establishing fairly distinct voices and personalities for the various characters. Almost immediately, we’re introduced to a couple of opinionated characters, one of whom butts heads with Cee and the other of whom tragically doesn’t survive past page six, establishing the dire situation that everyone is in. The interplay between Cee and the unnamed business man is entertaining, with Cee firmly identifying herself as a no-nonsense leader.

A minor detail that I quite liked as a moment of character building is when Cee wakes up and reprimands the shuttle’s onboard synth for failing to treat her wounds, only to discover that a young passenger required more urgent attention. It shows that Cee isn’t perfect or infallible, but the minor error doesn’t compromise her command of the situation, nor is it treated as a major character flaw – it’s just a mistake in assessing the situation, the kind anyone could make in a moment of stress. I love small moments of human flaws or errors in protagonists – it helps me to connect and empathize with them on a deeper level.

Colossi is a title I’ll definitely be checking out when it hits shelves. The light retro stylings mixed with the classic sci-fi premise have definitely snared my interest, and I want to see where the story goes and how Cee and company handle the whole situation.

FissureFissure Issue 1 Cover

Finally, we have Fissure, written by Tim Daniel and illustrated/colored by Patricio Delpeche. This title opens with an interview between an unseen woman and her source, regarding the mysterious events in El Sueno, Texas. A fissure (roll credits!), emitting green lurid green light, opens up in the middle of this tiny border town and starts drawing people towards (and into!) it. A pregnant woman, whose name isn’t divulged within the preview’s pages but I presume to be Avery Lee Olmos based on the back cover’s synopsis, wakes up in the middle of the night seemingly unsurprised by the presence of the massive hellish rupture in the Earth’s crust. Instead, she seems more surprised and concerned that an old man, Mr. Taylor, is sleepwalking right towards the massive fissure.  This makes me wonder how long the residents of El Sueno have been living with the fissure right outside their windows, but not much is revealed in the preview – which makes sense, as I’m sure Vault (not to mention Daniel and Delpeche) would prefer folks pick up the first issue to find out what’s actually going on.

The art style and coloring on this title are fine, but frankly they’re not to my tastes. Maybe it’s because of the coloring – the preview’s omnipresent green lighting really robs each panel of any emotional weight. It could be that the surreal, detached vibe is what Delpeche was going for with his color choice. If so, it worked like a charm! Unfortunately, it also meant that I felt disconnected from the characters and the book as a whole. That could very easily change once I have the full issue #1 in hand to garner some more clues about the premise, characters, and story.

Ultimately, this one caught my interest the least. Not to say that it’s bad, just that I wasn’t left feeling like I need to see what happens next, unlike some of Vault’s other titles. I’ll still give it a chance and see if Daniel can convince me to stick around, but for now Fissure isn’t high on my list of priorities.

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There you have it, a sneak peek at the five titles Vault Comics will be releasing early next year!  Did any of them catch your interest?  Which ones will you be picking up come February?  Let me know in the comments!

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