Weekly Reading Round-Up : 03/15/2020 – 03/21/2020, The Upshot Of It Is —

Don’t look now, but there’s a new publisher on the scene. AWA (short for Artists Writers & Artisans) is the brainchild of a pair of former Marvel head honchos (Axel Alonso and Bill Jemas), and right in the midst of the COVD-19 pandemic they’ve rolled out their Upshot comics imprint with no less than four titles in one week. Let’s take a look at ’em —

Unquestionably the “flagship” release of the company’s first wave is The Resistance #1, featuring the return to comics of one-time “fan favorite” writer J. Michael Straczynski, here teamed with superstar artist Mike Deodato Jr. This book has one of those immediately “ready for Hollywood” type of premises, centered as it is upon a global disaster (seem familiar?) that suddenly and inexplicably causes several thousand survivors across the globe to manifest super powers in its wake. I dunno, the story’s competent enough and plenty interesting, but it has a workmanlike quality to it that I found both difficult to put my finger on precisely and somewhat uninspired at the same time. Deodato’s art is anything but, however, and he’s pulled out all the stops here to make sure this series — and this line of books in general — lands with a huge splash. As a general rule where he goes, I follow, so chances are I’ll be picking up all six issues of this one.

Hooking itself upon a “religious vigilante” premise that doesn’t seem completely thought-through, Archangel 8 #1 is a bit of a mixed bag. Michael Moreci is the writer and co-creator of one of my favorite series going at the moment, Vault’s Wasted Space, but I dunno — the idea of God’s own version of The Punisher kicking ass in the ongoing war between heaven and hell just seems a little goofy to me, and the wooden dialogue doesn’t really help, even if it makes a kind of thematic sense. The art by C.P. Smith — a name I confess I’m not familiar with — is pretty damn solid, though, and kind of has a low-rent Bill Sienkiewicz vibe that isn’t especially original, but is gritty enough to get the job done, reminiscent of early-days Sean Phillips. I’ll probably give this one more month to impress me, just ‘cuz why not.

More up my alley was Red Border #1, a timely and topical horror book (one of two in Upshot’s initial roll-out) about a pair an idealistic young Mexican couple on the run from the cartels who cross over into the US only to end up “rescued” by someone who says his family will take care of them — but odds are that his family is probably reminiscent of the Sawyer clan from Texas Chain Saw Massacre . Jason Starr’s script is tight and dramatic, his characterization is pretty well spot-on if very much done in broad strokes, and Will Conrad’s art is detailed, crisp, and maybe a little too slick for its own good at times, but still has plenty of personality under the moody sheen.  Probably my favorite book of the foursome.

Or not? Because the new imprint’s other horror debut, Hotell #1, is pretty damn solid, as well. The script by John Lees has a definite EC vibe to it, but thoroughly updated for modern readers, with the owner of the dingy roadside Pierrot Hotel (off Route 66, no less) serving as our Crypt Keeper stand-in and relating stories about his guests, anthology-style. The subject of Lees’ first stand-alone yarn is a young pregnant woman named Alice on the run from her abusive husband — but it’s what she can’t outrun that’s even more dangerous. To say anything more would be to say too much, but this is actually creepy AF and Dalibor Talajic’s suitably low-fi art is absolutely pitch-perfect for this kind of material. Pass on this one at your peril, it’s really good.

So that’s AWA/Upshot round one. All in all, kinda promising, especially as far as their horror comics go. The one bummer about the line is that despite its co-operative sounding name and their pledge that they offer creators “the best deal in the business,” these books actually aren’t creator-owned. But that’s a topic I’ll be tackling in more detail in a day or two when I devote a write-up to the inner workings of the company itself on my Patreon — which I always close these columns by reminding you to check out, anyway. Here’s the link : :https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse


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