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Hugh Likes Comics: Test

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Test01

Test #1
Written by Christopher Sebela
Drawn by Jen Hickman
Colored by Harry Saxon
Lettered by Hasan Orsmane-Elhaou
Published by Vault Comics

The Skinny: Aleph Null is a test subject on the run. But what is he running towards?

Laurelwood, USA is the town where They are making The Future. Runaway professional test subject Aleph Null is on his way there, as soon as they can figure out what state it’s in, and evade the corporate recovery teams on their trail. But Aleph is a self-surgery junkie with schizophrenic tendencies, and possibly an actual cyborg.
Test is a difficult first issue to wrap my head around. We get flashes and stutters of reality as Aleph wanders their way through a warped and twisted American heartland. The story plays in to the unreality, showing Aleph’s journey in disconnected panels over two distinctly different narrations. One is Alpeh’s semi-lucid narration as they make their way to and observes Laurelwood. The other are reports from the corporations they escaped from, detailing their mysterious past and trail of violence.
Hickman’s art does a great job of framing the story. Everything feels a little off and unreal, and the reader can never be completely sure what is happening, and how it connects to the narration. Everything feels a bit off, in the best way for the comic. Saxon’s colors assist tremendously in setting the mood.
Test #1 is a post-modern medical thriller that is the kickoff to something great. You can find it digitally on Comixology, or in print at your local comics shop.

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Hugh Likes Comics: Invisible Kingdom

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Invisible Kingdom #1
Written by G. Willow Wilson
Art by Christian Ward
Lettered by Sal Cipriano
Published by Dark Horse Comics

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The Skinny: The captain of a space freighter and a religious initiate each make a startling discovery in the first installment of this gorgeous space opera.

Invisible Kingdom follows to seemingly unconnected space opera stories. The first follows freighter captain Grix as she and her crew are forced to make a crash landing on a desolate moon. The second follows Vess, a novice member of a religious order called ‘the Siblings of Severity.’ The book switches from one point of view to the other, seemingly at random, but using visually rhyming panels to transition from Grix to Vess and back again, and the reader doesn’t really understand the relationship until the end of the first issue, but when it all comes together, it works beautifully.
Wilson’s story is, for lack of a better word, very human. Confined to the point of view of the two protagonists, we only get teasing hints of the world building. Grix is trying to hold her ship together after Lux, the monopolistic shipping company she and her crew work for, fails to do her ship’s necessary maintenance. Vess faces ridicule both inside and outside the order she joins due to her heritage. Both parts of the story feel lived in and real as a result.
Ward’s talents are on full display here as we are treated to a world of floating monasteries and neon alien cityscapes. His design work is impeccable, and does so much heavy lifting for the story, as the arch of the inside of a ship’s hold echoes the dome of a floating monastery.
Wilson and Ward are both superstars of the current comics generation. Wilson co-created the groundbreaking Ms. Marvel, and Ward illustrated 2017’s critical smash Black Bolt. Invisible Kingdom has the potential to be truly great, and this first issue doesn’t disappoint. You can find it in print from your local comics shop, or digitally from Comixology.
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Hugh Likes Comics: Calamity Kate

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Calamity Kate #1
Written by Magdalene Visaggio
Drawn by Corin Howell
Colored by Valenitna Pinto
Published by Dark Horse Comics

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The Skinny: A recent divorcee moves to California to start over in the high-stakes world of professional monster hunting.

Kate Strand’s life just fell apart. After going through a messy divorce and withdrawing into her shell, she’s ready to reinvent herself. And she’s going to do it by becoming the world’s greatest monster hunter, much to the chagrin of her former best friend and single-parent Vera, whose couch she’s going to be surfing on while she does it.
Visaggio has stated that this is an almost biographical story, dealing with her own divorce and the self-destructive urges that came with it. While the monsters may be metaphorical, who hasn’t been tempted to leave their messy lives behind and start again rather than face a scarier reality, even knowing that you’re carrying your problems with you?
The thing I love about this issue is the manic sense of tension that pervades every panel. The focus is less on the cool monsters than it is the consequences Kate is running from. This is best expressed in an early sequence where Kate asks Vera if she can stay with her until she gets back on her feet, and they are interrupted by a bunch of monster skulls toppling out of her duffel bag.
Howell’s art and Pinto’s colors sing. Howell does both great expressions and pleasantly scary monster designs. Pinto’s dark colors are a perfect tonal match. Even on a bright, sunny, morning, there is the pervading sense of impending catastrophe.
Calamity Kate #1 is a bold new first issue to another deeply personal story from a rising star in comics writing. You can find it digitally through Comixology, or grab a physical copy at your local comics shop!
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Hugh Likes Comics: The Long Con

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The Long Con
Written by Dylan Meconis and Ben Coleman
Drawn by E. A. Denich
Colors by M. Victoria Robado
Published by Oni Press

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The Skinny: The Comic Con at the end of the world

What happens when The End of the World happens during a major Science Fiction convention? Five years ago, a cataclysmic event destroyed the city of Los Spinoza, and, presumably, the Los Spinoza Convention Center, home to Long Con, the world’s largest and greatest comic convention. But what makes a better bomb shelter than 600,000 square feet of Brutalist concrete? When evidence emerges that something survived, struggling reporter Victor Lai, who barely escaped from the Long Con minutes before the disaster, is sent back in by his editor to investigate.
The Long Con is a delightful look at the apocalypse through the lens of pop culture fandom. It’s a clever microcosm of fans, some of whom are literally eating each other once they get cut off and have to figure out how to survive. The book seamlessly shifts between the last day of the convention and Victor’s return, with his friend Dez guiding him though the twin mazes of Convention culture and the survivors. Meconis and Coleman’s wit is sharp, Denich’s designs are charming without being too cartoonish, and Robado’s use of color is spot on. The past is a riot of bright colors, and the future is just the right touch of grimy.
The story weaves in a third layer, a fictional Star Trek-inspired media property called “Skylarks” that does a lot of great storytelling work and a delightful piece of parody all on its own.
The Long Con just released its fourth issue, and you can find it on Comixology or at your local comics shop. I highly recommend it.