Back in the early 20th Century, a Hungarian author wrote a short story that posited everyone can be connected to anyone else through a maximum of 5 intermediaries. The first weeks of September and October brought two titles having very few intermediaries, but intimately connected to a third and fourth title, which makes this sort of a tale of four comics. This web starts in 2008 with Spider-Man Noir, written by my favorite Frenchman, Fabrice Sapolsky and David Hinds and continued into 2014 with Edge of Spider-Verse, which came in at the same time I noticed that steam punk was now all the rage.
Step into 2016; I’m in my favorite comic shop, and to my surprise this October I came across a new title issued by Dynamite Comics called Intertwined. My surprise stemmed from running into Fabrice at the Baltimore Comicon a month or so earlier. There, he convinced me to pick up the #0 issue of the same title, written by him and drawn by Fred Pham Chuong. Fabrice touted this title as his kung fu noir offering. The intent was to be true to the basic concepts of kung fu, of which Fred is a practitioner.
The story centers on a Chinese philosophy incorporated into kung fu known as the Five Elements. These elements – metal, fire, wood, water, and earth – and their relationship are at the core of the story. In #0 the murder of the Spirit of the Earth by the Spirit of Metal occurs. Now, I know this because I read the prequel, and the noir – the realism and grittiness – is evident in the way the Spirit of the Earth was dismembered and put on display after his murder. Even though I had read the prequel, I was a bit lost with the dream sequence in the beginning, but soon the main character Juan Jin was introduced and we got our obligatory fight sequence as he dodges the local gang as he struggles to make his plane to New York to attend the funeral of his dead uncle-guess who. Oh, you can’t because you haven’t read the prequel.
The art has a natural feel to it, which supports the Five Element theme, but the story takes a real plot leap at the end that feels unnatural. I personally could do without the teenage smart aleck retorts from everyone all the time during the fight scenes, but I’m sure there are teens all over just giggling at the banter, so whatever.
A month earlier Aftershock Comics issued a new title Alters, written by Paul Jenkins and drawn by Leila Leiz. In a time when there are cries for diversity in comics for the major publishers, Aftershock has no problems with ensuring diversity in theirs. In this title, the world is changing as various people start manifesting abilities. Some of these manifestations are good and some are bad. Sometimes they are bad because the Alter does not know how to control their new found ability, and in some cases they can, but choose not to try. One known to take this route is known as Matter Man. Matter Man has destroyed a city and has no qualms about doing it again. Of course, he has a rival in Octavion, who leads a group dedicated to helping new Alters come to term with their new reality.
When a new Alter manifests, Octavion and his team head out to offer their support, before Matter Man appears and forces the Alter’s obedience. Nothing really new here, except unbeknownst to everyone the beautiful woman, known as Chalice, hovering above the ground is actually a young man in the beginning of transitioning to a woman. I’ve always felt that the better super-hero comics transcend the individual to portray a common experience occurring in a very uncommon atmosphere. The addition of gender identity to the coming of age theme, if done well may be ground breaking, and we all know that there are few super-heroes for those kids considering or in the midst of transitioning. However, if not done well, this opportunity could appear more like a gimmick. I have hopes that the best thing about this title will not be the gender-identity of its heroine. Given the diversity of the creative team, I am hoping that they get this right.
What ties these two titles together are Fabrice and Leila, who have collaborated on another title Harem, which is still under development. I read a convention ashcan last year and to date, it is still my favorite work for both of them. I say this due to the difficulty of telling a complete story in 22 or so pages, but still leaving enough mystery to keep you coming back. With Harem, I sit with baited breath hoping that Fabrice will get an offer to publish it so I can find out why his female President of the United States carries a dagger on her person. With both Alters and Intertwined, I struggle with either not enough mystery or too much. As these are the inaugural issues of both titles, there is opportunity to get the balance right, but I’m undecided whether I will be around to find out.
E.Angel is an engineer and holds a BS in electrical engineering from North Carolina A&T State University. She’s a real nerd who loves all things Star Wars and Star Trek, and is an avid gamer. E.Angel can be reached at email@example.com or on either game platform as Bunnehs Sister.