In Review: Onyx #1

This is an excellent beginning that other publishers might want to look at to see how a series should be started.

The covers: There are nine covers for fans to track down on this premiere issue. The Regular cover, which is accompanying this review, is by Gabriel Rodriguez and it shows the title character walking atop a monster partially submerged in a swamp. The creature’s eyes are showing it was on the losing end of battling with Onyx, and the mighty warrior makes her way over its head. Nice, clear introduction to the character. The Subscription A cover is by Ashley Wood and has the warrior sporting two blades from her hands as she stands against some foliage. It’s difficult to make out some of details in this artwork on this cover, going by the picture in the back of the copy I purchased. Charles Paul Wilson III does the Subscription B cover with a Li’l Onyx flying over some deadly plant-like creatures via a balloon. This is a Scottie Young take on the cover that has become the rage on some publisher’s book. More often than not, I’m not thrilled with them and would much rather have an artist do their own take on the character than this cutesy version, and that’s where I find myself with the cover. Cute, but not for me. The Subscription C cover is illustrated by Alan Robinson with colors by Diego Rodriguez. This is a sensational cover after Jack Davis’ image on Incredible Science Fiction #32. Onyx is standing in the doorway of a backwoods store with weapons drawn. The locals are stunned by her arrival, save the one familiar looking individual (Chris Ryall) concentrating on a game of checkers. I love EC and any cover artist that does a good job on imitating that style wins me over, as Robinson and Rodriguez have done here. The Incentive cover is by Sal Buscema with colors again by Rodriguez, with Onyx standing in the center of a city street just as a storm is coming in. Excellent image by the artist most associated with ROM, Spaceknight. The Yesteryear Exclusive is by Jamie Tyndall with colors by Ula Mos. This is a sweet shot of the hero in space with two planets behind her. Strong image that makes her look powerful. The SDCC (San Diego Comic-Con) Exclusive is by Gabriel Rodriguez, and it’s the one I purchased. This is the only cover to show Onyx’s face next to a smaller image of her suited it up. It’s beautiful and I’m glad I got it. The penultimate cover, a Comixology exclusive, is also by Rodriguez but shows the heroine falling to Earth like a comet, complete with flaming tail. Also beautiful, but the character was too small for me to pick it up. The Boston Comic Con exclusive is again by Rodriguez, with this showing a scene from this issue: Onyx taking flight with Abigail on the ground with gun drawn. I’m glad to see a member of the human squad join the heroine on the cover. Overall grades: Regular A-, Subscription A B-, Subscription B D, Subscription C A+, Incentive A, Yesteryear A, SDDCC A+, Comixology B-, and Boston CC A-

The story: It’s 2083 and the Earth is suffering massive overpopulation. Its space endeavors have been halted long ago to try and solve its global problems. In Lagos, Nigeria, a city with an urban population of 24 million, an object streaks out of the sky and hits a metro-tube, then moves upward to the rural surroundings. This event causes concern for the Global Defense Corp, as its satellites ignored the incoming object. In the jungle, Onyx emerges from the crater she’s created, thinking, ‘After so many failures, I hope against hope I have arrived here in time. And if not, I can at least give this planet’s inhabitants the mercifully quick end that was denied my people.’ Twelve hours later, Team Avin is being dispatched to the area of impact, since Team Zain hasn’t been heard from in all that time. The eight man unit contains the standard mix of quirky characters one would expect in a story like this, though one stands out — Abigail “Loner” Aquino, a member of the PSI Ops Division who’s feeling overwhelmed by the anxious thoughts of her teammates. Something occurs that requires the team to leave their vessel, with Abigail the first to encounter Onyx. Chris Ryall and Gabriel Rodriguez, co-credited “Storytellers”, have a strong handle on this story as they briskly introduces characters, provide the premise for the series, and have plenty of action. I like the type of threat that’s put upon Earth and why Onyx feels compelled to stop it. I also loved the weapons that Onyx has. I haven’t seen weapons like this since February of 1986. With the many different personalities on Avin, it wasn’t surprising that one of them would be speaking to another as they do in the book’s final two panels. However, I’m glad that this is being addressed so soon, because I’m looking forward to more action from Onyx. Overall grade: A

The art: The look of this book is beautiful. Gabriel Rodriguez’s artwork is similar to the work of Ernie Colon, one of my all-time favorite artists, so things got off on the right foot instantly. The city in the first panel makes Mega-City One look like Disneyland in comparison. The destruction of the metro-tube is really well done, with the flame trail being stunning. The second page introduces the men and women of the Global Defense Corp and I like their costumes. They seem the right mix of military and coolness, modeled off of those from The Fifth Element. Onyx gets a full page splash for her first appearance on Page 3. She looks like a silver knight in her armor, and the smoke coming off of her is cinematic perfection. The introduction of Team Avin is very quick, with each member having a specific look, and Abigail getting a nice bit of focus due to her abilities. The arrival of trouble at the bottom of Page 5 is very well done — it’s old school Hollywood thrills that I revel in. The creatures in this book, and there are several, are wonderfully designed. I hope this book goes a long time with Rodriguez’s involvement just so I can see what other horrors he has up his sleeve to attack the heroes. The second panel on Page 10 has a neat perspective shot which will obviously cause some tension in later issues. There’s a nice flashback portion in the book that has me also hoping that Rodriguez gets some more time to go back there to show Onyx’s early life. I have nothing but praise for Rodriguez’s work on this book. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Jay Fotos does the coloring on this book. The story is primarily set in a jungle environment, far from city lights, so it wouldn’t be unexpected to have this book be very dark, but, thankfully, Fotos doesn’t do that. This book has everything nicely lit up so none of Rodriguez’s visuals are lost. The darkest panel is the first of the issue, with the city established, but with the arrival of Onyx’s ship, things light up well. I love the dead blue sky that acts for night for the characters, particularly when they have to exit their helicopter. The cool blue-white of Onyx’s weapons make them instant eye grabbers when they are drawn or used. I also like the cool, frosty colors used for the flashback sequence and hope to see more of them in upcoming issues. Overall grade: A

The letters: Scene setting, narration, dialogue, story title, story credits, Onyx narration and speak, the voices Gabriel hears, sounds, whispers, Onyx’s writing are done by Shawn Lee. I’m incredibly happy to see that Lee was allowed to give Onyx a font different from that of humans to show that she’s not native to this world. It may seem to be a little thing, but I’m so happy when letterers can give aliens alien looking speech. Overall grade: A+

The extras: There are six additional pages to the book: two feature profiles of Team Avin, one on the book’s origin, one on the book’s creators (Nothing on Shawn Lee? Kinda harsh, IDW…), and the final pair showing Rodriguez’s process in illustrating the book. These pages are a nice inside look at how the book is created and reminded me of Ryall’s obsession with ROM, Spaceknight, from which this book is partially inspired. Overall grade: A-

The final line: At this year’s San Diego Comic-Con it was announced that IDW has acquired the license to publish new ROM comic books. I hope this doesn’t mean that Ryall’s focus leaves this book and goes to one of his childhood favorites. This could be just as famous. This is an excellent beginning that other publishers might want to look at to see how a series should be started. If you like sci-fi adventure, Onyx is in your line of fire. Overall grade: A

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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