Digital Ash 1/22/14: Novas and Owls

A comic review article by: Derek McCaw, Jason Sacks

Digital Ash

Nova Phase #1 and 2

(Matthew Ritter / Adam Elbahtimy)

4 stars

On an Earth not too far in the future and probably just to the left of our own, young Veronica Darkwater dreams of getting off-planet. Despite growing up to be a bounty hunter, and a good one at that, somehow the expenses of her life keep outweighing the profit that would make her dream come true.

And then one bounty looks to make the difference. If only Veronica could hang onto this mysteriously crucial gold coin...

And if only she weren't so clearly a video game character...

Nova Phase

Actually, in Matthew Ritter's space adventure, that 8-bit magic, rendered by Adam Elbahtimy, is a plus. Nova Phase feels like a story heavily influenced by an early '90s childhood, but filtered through a slightly more adult sensibility.

It moves crisply and economically. Ritter introduces Veronica's target in the first issue, telling us everything we need to know about him with just a few well-chosen lines of dialogue. Some of that might also be familiarity; Elbahtimy's portrayal of the thug feels like a cut scene from a great Nintendo space game. He might not be the level boss, but he's threatening enough.

And then the second issue (both currently available on Comixology, then to be combined next month into a print edition from SLG) shifts the narrative to our obligatory lovable rogue. But it's also clear that Veronica, when she crosses paths with him, will be the much stronger character.

It's a fun book, and one that I might recommend works better as a digital comic, just because of its clear intention of feeling like an old-school video game. But unlike an 8-bit game, Nova Phase has a strong story that echoes its influences politely, but looks to be carving out its own territory nicely.

- Derek McCaw

Whether digital or print, give it a look. Today on Comixology, #1 is free, #2 is 99 cents.


Owlgirls #1

(Robert J. Sodaro / Rachele Aragno / Dave Ryan / Wilson Ramos Jr.)

4 stars

Every once in a while you read a comic that's almost completely different from what you might expect, a creation that takes chances, provides mysteries and creates a holistic and fascinating world all its own. Robert Sodaro and Rachele Aragno's Owlgirls is one of those sorts of comics.

Owlgirls

Owlgirls takes place in a sumptuously illustrated New York in the 1940s, a world created in thoroughgoing detail by Aragno in a wonderful sepia-toned, ink-washed style that gives his tale a pleasant sense of atmosphere and well-depicted sense of location. It's striking that Sodaro has the confidence in his story and storytelling – or perhaps his concern with scene-setting – to allow this account to take its own sweet time to get started. The book begins with a slow tour around the city until it lands on a city block – where the first surprise of the issue happens.

If you've seen the cover above, you know that the surprise is that there is a group of owl-faced women in this ordinary-seeming 1940s New York; but if you look inside the book, you'll see that this isn't one of those stories where ordinary people are anthropomorphized. No, there are mysteries abounding in this story that is aptly titled "Strange Days."

Owlgirls

These Owlgirls have special magical powers that allow them to detect illnesses and see the dead. But it appears that these powers have terrible consequences, containing the potential for bringing about their own downfall.

Owlgirls stands out from its peers in Comixology Submit because of its originality and professionalism. Indeed, this sometimes seems more like a Vertigo first issue than a self-published book gone digital. Seeds are sown in this issue for many future plotlines, and the deep scene-setting, riddle-creating and character-building are wonderful indicators that this book will pay off its storylines in very interesting ways.

One note: though Bob Sodaro sometimes reports for Comics Bulletin on Kickstarter material, this review was written independently. If this book had been terrible – which it isn't – I would have slammed it.

- Jason Sacks

 

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