In Review: Artifact One #1

I was taken by the visuals and surprised by the story's turn.

The covers: Four to pick up for this introductory issue. The first is the A cover by Romina Moranelli. Remi is in the foreground, her staff strapped to her back. She’s only shown from the waist up, considering the reader with a slight smile as she holds forward a wrapped package. Behind her is one of the city enforcers, a fearsome looking entity with an odd skull-white face, broad shoulders in black, a blood red design on grey chest armor, and an ebony outfit complete with cape. He wields a staff that features two tan ribbons caught by the breeze. The background is composed of two shades of violet, endowing the characters with a supernatural tone. I really like this and would have picked it up had my local comic book store had one. The B cover is by JP Mavinga and Romina Moranelli and it shows Remi sitting on a grass covered outcropping of rock. She holds a staff in left hand and in her right she dangles a flask and two crystals. In the foreground are some plants, with two resembling spines. It was this cover that caught my eye and got me to pick up the book and peruse it. This isn’t a typical fantasy cover due to the art and unusual faded colors, with pink dominating. I like this. C comes via Alex Konat and Beth Sotelo. Remi looks the youngest on this cover. Her staff is resting on her left shoulder as she looks up to her right. Her skin is lime green, her hair a bright red. She has a long dirty brown scarf around her neck and she wears a tan tunic. Her hair and part of a bracelet sleeve is caught by a breeze. Completing this exterior view is a wonderfully odd looking plant — a tree? — behind her featuring strange leaves and fruit. Simply beautiful in every way. The D, the New York Comic Con Exclusive (limited to 200 copies), hails from Pasquale Qualano and Enrica Eren Angiolini, and also features a youthful Remi. This time the character is sitting on a branch that makes an arch over a body of water. She dips a foot in the pool as she looks to her right, her staff in her right hand. The tree looks incredibly interesting as do the flowers and leaves that sprout from it. The sun is visible just under the arch, creating some sensational colors on the water and in the sky. This is really well done. Overall grades: A A, B A, C A+, and D A+

The story: On the planet Adenia, Remi’s father asks her what she sees. She gives him answer from their planet’s mythology instead of the stone he’s discovered. She is able to identify the item when prompted, pleasing him, leading him to give her a wrapped package. Keeping the item closed, she asks what it is and her father responds, “Something beyond my understanding. The greatest of all mysteries that perhaps we will solve together. But, we must be careful. For while you need never be afraid of the truth…you must be cautious of those who are.” The city of KaLadon is shown next where several religious leaders have gathered along with a crowd. They tell the populace to pray for the world, which they do not own. “We do not control it. Never shall we venture to deform or manipulate or sully that which the Elders have provided. To do so would be an unholy perversion — a heresy of the highest order.” The focus returns to Remi and her father, with the latter making something for a sick friend. They go to this person, something is done, and then the story kicks into overdrive. I wasn’t surprised by what happened to a character on Page 16, as it was foreshadowed. The final panel, though, is a jaw-dropper. Everything that occurs before this reveal had me thinking that co-writers J.T. Krul and Vince Hernandez were going to go in a different direction with this series. Everything is completely flipped upside down by what is shown. I was considering following this series because I hadn’t read an Aspen book in some time, but this last page absolutely cemented my interest. I told my local comic book store I wanted every issue. Yep, ya’ got me, Aspen. Overall grade: A

The art and colors: This is my first exposure to the art of Romina Moranelli and just by flipping through the first few pages, I knew I would want to purchase this book. I’m always interested in books with aliens that look different from others I’ve read. The first page is a full-paged splash of Remi looking at a waterfall that’s composed of a giant creature pouring liquid from a container. Whether this was an actual living being or was created by someone else, it captured my interest immediately. Remi and her father also looked unlike other characters I’ve seen before; though they are humanoid, the males of this world have wonderfully shaped craniums, while the women have a slighter forehead, but are unique for their eyes and ears. The forest around the pair is also unique looking. There’s no stated colorist for the book, so I’m assuming it’s also by Moranelli. The color scheme for the opening three pages is fantastic: with light pinks and violets dominating. This was a wonderful combination, and when used on this artwork gave the visuals a very special look. It was practically a fantasy look for the book, though the opening text states this is another world. The city of KaLadon looks straight out of a fantasy, were its inhabitants not so different looking. The people and architecture of this setting are wonderful, and had the pair’s journey to someone’s dwelling taken longer I would have been perfectly happy. The full-paged splash on 8 is dramatic, with the antagonists for the issue introduced. Their garb and weapons are striking. The action on 13 is good, with the movement in the third panel impressive and what’s shown in the fourth reminding me of my favorite friendly neighborhood superhero. The last panel on 15 is ghastly — it was awesome and perfection! The next page shows an action indirectly and I was grateful for that. Pages 17 and 18 contain no text, relying solely on Moranelli’s skill to tell the story and they are terrific. There’s great action and great settings. There are two panels on the final page. The largest shows Remi taking an action in a new location. She and the setting look great, with the colors adding to the darkness she now lives in. That final panel is a WOW! moment, with art, coloring, and lettering giving the reader a gut punch that will last until the next issue. Moranelli is an outstanding artist. Overall grade: A

The letters: Dez Sienty is the letterer for the issue and he’s created some very cool texts for this book. The scene settings have no balloons or boxes to hold them, instead standing out for looking as though they are handwritten. The dialogue includes lower case letters, though all the ms are capitalized. This sets the speakers apart from the speech of others in comic books. There are also some yells and they are put in italics or increased in size to show their volume. There are no sounds, but the story doesn’t really need them. Given how good Sienty does this issue, I hope that some appear in installments that follow. Overall grade: A

The final line: I was taken by the visuals and surprised by the story’s turn. This is a wonderful science fiction tale with elements of fantasy that will delight and surprise and readers. I’m so glad I picked this book up and I cannot wait to see where the creators are headed with this character. More please! If you’re looking for something different, give this a try! Overall grade: A

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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