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Octal is described as a “curated catalog of comic pitch packets”. What does that mean exactly? Well it’s a nifty way to say “hey here are pitch packets put together for publishers (Image, Marvel, DC, IDW, etc) to take a look at”. As described by series editor Mike Schneider (Known for his Steampunk Originals Anthology series at Arcana comics), what OCTAL is doing is getting together various publisher submission requirements, and with editor feedback creating a template for creators to follow so they can appease the most amount of publishers with one single pitch. While this pitch packet is currently in circulation amongst publishers (with story Sane6 already picked up for a summer release), I will be reviewing the mini pitches from each of the stories inside and giving readers a chance to learn more about these upcoming stories and what OCTAL is.
Typically I would just review one issue as a whole; here I will break down each story and give a truncated version of my review style along with ways to learn more about these series.
(Robert Mengegus –Writer/Letterer, David Brame - Art)
After a hapless divorcee is mistakenly given necromantic powers, he must get his life in order before he can master the powers of death.
This was a fun snippet from a promising story by Robert Menegus. We meet Bill (or William as he’d like to be called), a down on his luck, self-loathing but seemingly lovable oaf who accidently has been given necromantic powers. To watch over him (and make sure he doesn’t do any irreparable damage), the governing body of death and transcendence has sent a wise cracking raven named Larry. The dynamic between the two is very funny, and I can easily see this being an entertaining series. Helping it out is the great cartoony art of David Brame, it’s reminiscent of Sandford Greene’s work which is both good and bad. It works for the series but sometimes the art can come off a bit muddied and awkward (such as a pawn shop owner in a weird angle on the floor). Mostly though the story and art mesh well together and Necromancer Bill is definitely something I hope to see more of in the future.
When a group of contract criminals sign on for the biggest job of their careers, they soon unearth disturbing facts, which indicate that there may be more to their client’s agenda than they thought.
So I need to preface this review with a reminder that this series has been picked up by a publisher for a summer release but I just couldn’t get into the story. The artwork was way too loose, and the story and plotting seemed incoherent to me. It felt like big time jumps were happening, and the placement of characters seemed off. The “180 degree rule” was broken a few times and gave the book a chaotic feeling that just kept pulling me out of the story which I also wasn’t fully following. In essence what I was able to gather is two low level criminals (cousins) need to pull off a job by stealing an item for a wealthy influential client, the job goes bad due to a pretty dumb accident and somehow this turns into the thugs needing to face off against the client in a showdown. The payoff felt a bit weak, as did the plotting and pacing. Even though it’s getting published, I think this will be one I skip.
(David Hailwood-Script, Brett Burbridge-Art, Ken Reynolds –Letterer)
The finger of suspicion falls upon an eccentric detective when his prime suspects in a case of apparent vampirism are murdered under peculiar circumstances.
I feel like Daversham Rex is like the comedy counterpart to Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, except here David Hailwood and Brett Burbridge have crafted a much better story combining classic Victorian literary figures and Monty Python style humor. Burbridge’s art took a bit getting used to, and I think he will grow more comfortable with perspective and panel layout as the book continues, but none of that really detracts from his handle on these characters. For this story, we’re given an excellent sneak peak into the detective world of Daversham as he tries to find out who murdered his client (a re-animated corpse). All fingers point toward Dorian Gray but nothing/everything is as it appears (see what I did there?). I’m looking forward to seeing more from this team and how they grow together, along with the further cases of Daversham Rex.
(A.J. Fulcher-Story, Joseph Canave-Art)
After a devastating event leaves a once-great nation in ruins, an angsty teen finds himself endowed with supernatural powers and stalked by a mysterious figure.
Maybe it’s because I’m not the biggest manga/anime fan but something about Sin just wasn’t doing it for me. I didn’t really understand what the point of the experiment in the beginning was. Nor did I get why some characters have powers, or, what were those “zombie” like creatures, and just what was the devastating event that caused all this. My hope is that in a fully fleshed out series, writer A.J. Fulcher would be able to explore this. My fear (from brief anime interaction) is that plot points tend to get tossed to the wayside for big action pieces, and unnecessary “intrigue”. That brings me to my next point; the art. Joseph Canave definitely brings that Attack on Titan vibe here, with his heavy shadows and cell shaded colors. The asian animation influence is strong, and works well with the overall tone of the story. Still, much like most anime styled art, there are extreme leaps in anatomy, character facial expressions and a bit of disorientation when it comes to the big action sequences. For my taste I’d pass on Sin, but it might be something some Japanimation fans could get behind.
(Curtis M. Lawson-Script, Tony Rodrigues-Art, Angel Aviles-Colors)
Pursued by feudal warlords, crime syndicates, and dark magic guilds, a teenage vagabond and her companions embark on a magic and mayhem-filled space odyssey.
Escape Velocity is definitely trying to appeal to the high-fantasy tabletop genre. You got a crazy crew of space pirates pulling off a poorly planned heist, showcasing a combination of space tech and oddly enough, magic. Curtis has a strong sense of these characters and each embodies a personality commonly found in role playing groups (especially when it’s a vagabond crew). We get a glimpse here of a short mission (and I guess recruitment of a new member) and the early start of what the series will be about, centering on the crew landing on a ghost planet. Tony Rodriguez’s art works and is for the most part on point, but still feels unpolished and lacking the extra detail that could really help this story stand out on a professional level. Aviles’ colors help a lot giving this story some life and vibrancy, making the ship and the world itself feel like a unique character. There is some disconnection between the initial story and how the crew winds up heading to the alien ghost planet, which I hope Lawson will address if/when the series is picked up.
(Diogo Carvalho-Story & Art, Nimesh Morarji-Colors)
There’s no job too large or challenge too great for Free Lance. Trolls, witches, and demons: nothing will stand between him and his payment... at least, not for very long.
Free Lance by Diogo Carvalho takes all the fun jokes gamers make when playing dungeon crawlers and brings them to life! Light hearted and fun, the story follows a literally freelance mercenary named Free Lance, who pretty much embodies everything a Knight shouldn’t. This time around he’s hired to rescue a princess from a castle and evil ruler. Yep! Just another boring day for this guy! While the story is fun and moves well, I kept wishing Carvalho’s art would be more consistent. Sometimes he’s got characters down perfect, with great facial expressions and perspectives, other times things fall flat and seem less dynamic. Morarji’s colors however, excel beautifully in this series and really help give Diogo’s art some pop! I’d love to see more adventures of Free Lance, and hopefully some more parody of the dungeon crawler cliche.
(Paul Bradford-Script, William Allan Reyes-Art, Erik Korsgaard-Colors/Letters)
Hurtling through uncharted space, a battalion of crusaders wage war against a new breed of aliens while questioning their very own existence.
I noticed a running theme in this OCTAL series, quite a few of these stories seem to be inspired by gaming to some degree. Here in Astral Crusaders we get the Starcraft/WarHammer vibe from writer Paul Bradford. The story focuses on an army of human crusaders who land on a planet looking to help the local “Sapiens”. Bradford constructs a great self-contained story here which works as a set up for potential future adventures of the crusaders. William A. Reyes art is great, and really gives a lot of kinetic motion to the action scenes. Erik Korsgaard’s colors work beautifully with Reyes’ line art, letting the characters stand out and the action feel clean and big! A potential stand out from this series, Astral Crusaders is definitely worth giving a chance!
(Scott Melrose-Script, Denise Vermesse-Art, Ken Reynolds-Letters)
Cursed with immortality, Drust must hunt the beings born of his demonic blood. Only after his family has been exterminated can this antlered warrior find his peace in death.
Drust writer Scott Melrose has a strong concept here, an eternally cursed being who will only find peace after he has killed all of his kind. The problem for me is the art from Vermesse. I get that it's very stylized, but that doesn’t always mean it’s the best option for a story. No matter how interesting the plot may be, I had to really push myself to keep looking over the panels eventually finding myself just quickly glancing over them and just reading the wording. Perhaps Drust would serve better as a novel, or maybe a different artist. That reason alone just doesn’t give me much confidence in suggesting this to others.
I should give mention that OCTAL is not limited to simply newly created series, and as per editor Mike Schneider “Octal welcomes proposals for English translations of foreign language comics, collections of serialized comics/strips, print editions of web comics, reprints of out-of-print comics, etc. Depending on what materials the team has already produced, they may be able to redux most of the components from that previously produced material.” With that all being mentioned, I think the concept is great, and this first outing while far from perfect definitely showed the range of stories and content that can be showcased in a sort of “anthology/pitch” package. Some stories felt more fleshed out than others, but a lot of credit has to be given to all the teams involved, as making a comic (even a small short eight page story) is never an easy task. I will be looking forward to the next Octal and the new stories it will be presenting.