The 90s in comics represents perhaps both the darkest time and the brightest time. 1991 saw the birth of Image comics. A publisher packed with superstar artists ready to challenge the dominance of Marvel and DC. It worked! They broke into the top selling comics list with Spawn and Young Blood leading the charge. Then we had the plethora of McFarlane and Liefeld imitators popping up at the plethora of new independent publishers hitting the scene wanting a piece of that speculator pie. But these independent comics sparked something in both readers and creators. The industry evolved and what they spark was a creative energy that screamed things can be different. Better even! There is a world outside of superhero comics. There are countless stories to be told.
Still today Marvel and DC hold the monopoly. Image Comics still are classed as an indie and along with the like of IDW and Boom kind of represent a second tier before we get to the true indie spirit of modern day comics. Which brings me to an overdue review/report on TKO Presents. They came across my Twitter feed before Christmas and only now am getting to give them some spotlight. TKO’s missions statement is to be the first modern day comics company. When you go to their website tkopresents.com you are immediately presented with “Epic Stories. Top Creators. This is TKO.” a bold and to the point declaration set on a collaged back drop of their titles. The website itself is clean and easy to navigate. The icons for Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are front and center. That’s that modern game plan showing its head already. To meet their mission statement the powers that be at TKO are using their knowledge of what they loved about comics growing up combined with new additions to the industry that have made it arguably better/more accessible. So when you purchase you TKO comics you can get either a 6 issue box set, a trade paperback or the full six issues in digital format. All options are reasonably price to make them competitive in the market place. Check out this video to see TKO co-founder Tze Chun run through their product range (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpuHrrbPBCw). I saw on Instagram the other day my LCS is on their second stock of the first wave of trade paperbacks so the UK market has been cracked.
They currently have four series available with four more following this year. Each first issue for the current four is available to read for free on the website so what follows is a brief review of all four opening issues.
Writer: Garth Ennis * Artist: Steve Epting * Colourist: Elizabeth Breitweiser * Letters: Rob Steen
Sara is the story of a group of female Russian snipers during WWII. There may not be a better creative team in comics for this setting. We have seen Epting do the whole noir/Col War homage in his work on Captain America and we have seen Ennis bring realism to The Punisher in Marvel MAX. Essentially we have three creators have the creative freedom to play to their strengths. While this issue may not be as violent as Ennis’ work on Punisher it does have the same level of realism and the horrors of war. There are splatters of blood which Epting and Breitweiser render beautifully in the selected colour pallet. It really pops of the cold winter scenery. I keep using the word realistic, but as you read it you can feel the chill of the Russian front! The group of female snipers fill the roles you would come to expect from a standard superhero comic book. So there is the serious one, the funny one, the motherly one and so on. It will be interesting to see how the characters are fleshed out over the six issues and how the group dynamics evolve with the story. Ennis delivers a solid internal monologue for the story. His dialogue is economical and I mean that as a compliment. It feels like real conversation not over the top comic book fair. This opening issue sets the stage nicely and as it is in the hands of a very competent creative team I don’t think you could go to wrong in investing in it.
The Fearsome Doctor Fang #1
Writers: Tze Chun & Mike Weiss * Artist: Dan McDaid * Colourist: Daniela Miwa * Letters: Steve Wands
This comic takes the heart and soul of early pulp magazines and delivers a pulsating adventure. The story is set in 1906 and I always love period comics. It can take all the positives from the old pulps and with modern day sensibilities tell a really fun and interesting story. The opening to the story stake place two years prior to 1906. In this plot setting opening the writers flip the conventions of what you expected from the blurb and the conventions of pulps on their head entirely. It sounds cliché but the pace of the story makes it a page turner. Beautifully rendered throughout matched by exquisite colouring. I like how the feel of old pulps is offset against the animation style of the art work. The bright colours and washed out backgrounds lend themselves to the mystical elements of the story. It feels like there is a twist on every page and by the end it definitely leaves you wanting the next instalment, which with TKO’s clever marketing strategy won’t be far behind! Out of the four series this is the one I can see myself indulging multiple times. There are strong characters and unlikely allies which will make for great development in future issues. It mentioned how it flips pulp magazine conventions, the biggest being giving the readers a strong female adventurer co-lead, rather than a femme fatale. I would recommend this both story wise and stylistically to fans of The Sixth Gun.
Goodnight Paradise #1
Writer: Joshua Dysart * Artist: Alberto Ponticelli * Colourist: Giulia Brusco * Letters: Steve Wands
When you read the blurb of a comic you rightly or wrong make a lot of assumptions. We all like to act open minded but we often assume if we will like something or not and in our heads what we read about a story will play out differently to the actual story. I don’t all of that when I read about Goodnight Paradise. As I read each page of this comic I was happy to admit all my assumptions were wrong. A lot of time in the first issue is dedicated to setting up the main character, his world and the supporting cast. However at no point does the story feel bogged down by this. There are a lot of plot points threaded through this opening issue and you get the feeling by the series end they will all be very important. At times I did find myself re-reading panels as I found the street lingo verging on heavy going. Just a personal complaint. Like with Sara this story has a very realistic vibe. I assume Dysart done a lot of research into homeless life in California. The art brilliantly compliments the realistic feel to the story. The art complete a very fine balancing act. By which I mean they capture the feel of a very unique setting like Venice Beach. The backgrounds in daytime scenes do have a very sunshine feel to them. But on the flip side they also capture the grittiness of live on the streets. The sunshine pallet gives way to a variety of muddy pastel shades for night scenes or when our lead character is alone. I don’t want to put readers off when say it is a realistic story about homeless life in California. The story is not in any way preachy to a preventative cause, also it carries no outspoken political message. If you like your mystery stories in a real world environment then this is the comic you have been missing.
The 7 Deadly Sins #1
Writer: Tze Chun * Artist: Artyom Trakhanov * Colourist: Giulia Brusco * Letters: Jared K Fletcher
Strap yourself in for a wild ride with this one! Talk about balls to the wall action! It has the vibe of a good team book like Suicide Squad or Marvel’s recent incarnation of Weapon X. Unlike those two comics this is for mature readers, there is plenty of colourful language. It’s not a problem for me and I feel it the language is true to when the story is set. It isn’t simply there because its a mature comic and it can be there. The art style really compliments the setting and the tone of the story. The art style is what with my primitive art critics hat on would call rough, jagged edged animated style. A great fit together with the colourist for portraying the murkiness of the Old West. Its perfect for when the action ramps up and the blood starts to fly. Out of the four series this one feels the most like a super hero comic whilst be something completely different. You learn just enough about the seven titular characters in this opening issue to leave you wanting more. They are a colourful bunch indeed and all bring different qualities to the story. Being a ensemble cast gives plenty of room to manoeuvre the story in the next five issues. I really like how even though it is a period piece the writer taps into the readers knowledge of team comics to give the story a very modern feel. I have been on a bit of Western kick lately so the title jumped out immediately. Its a nice little homage to a classic Western whilst also setting up the theme of the story. If you do nothing else after reading this review at least read the first issue of this comic. You’ll want to read the rest I bet.
So they are the first four titles available from TKO in single issues, trade paperbacks or digital. Head over to the website now. Later this year four my series launch and the top talent and diverse story telling continues with…
The Banks: Writer: Roxane Gay * Artist: Ming Doyle * Colourist: Jordie Bellaire * Letters: Ariana Maher
Sentient: Writer: Jeff Lemire * Artist: Gabriel Walta * Letters: Steve Wands
Eve of Extinction: Writers: Salvatore & Steven Sieone * Artist: Nicole Virella * Colourist: Ruth Redmond * Letters: Ariana Maher
Pound For Pound: Writer: Natalie Chaidez * Artist: Andt Belanger * Colourist: Jordan Boyd * Letters: Serge LaPointe