Once again, it’s time for the Indie Comics Spotlight to shine out upon another excellent independent comic book for the the enlightenment of the MRC community (and, hopefully, beyond)!
This time out, we are taking a look at Century Man #1, from Sandstone Comics!
As you might recall, I’ve covered this publisher before, in my post featuring (among other fine independent books) Indestructible #2.
Century Man is yet another feature that has broken out from the publisher’s initial anthology, Sandstone Comics Presents #1, a title which I believe I acquired some time just before I started getting “serious” (shush) about this here blog. I really should write something up about that issue at some point, because it was pretty great.
So, hey…how about we take a look at this issue’s cover, eh?
Now, unlike Indestructible, Century Man opts to start out issue #1, rather than counting its first post-anthology issue as #2, but hey: independent types, right?
As far as creative teams go, this book is pretty much a one-man show, and that man’s name is Sandy Carruthers.
Sandy is an artist/writer/etc that I first became familiar with via his work for the pretty much now defunct “Charlton Neo” and “Pix-C” entities, with his update of the classic “Spookman” strip being a definite standout.
Sandy’s art style and storytelling sensibilities are very much what I’d call “Bronze Age” in my loose definition and usage of such terminology.
By that, I do not mean that his works looks or feels “dated,” at least not to me. What I do mean is that the art serves the story; it’s always clear what is happening, and the art helps pull you in and lead you through the story rather than trying to “dazzle” you at all costs.
For example, check out the page shown below: there’s seven panels here, and one of them takes up an entire column. In another artist’s hands, this kind of layout could look and feel like a cramped, confusing mess.
Here, it feels as though each panel is exactly the size and shape it needs to be in order to frame the scene or the moment at hand, and each panel is also exactly where and “when” it needs to be placed on the page:
Not to mention that the drawing itself is just excellent. No shortcuts are taken here, either: we have real, detailed backgrounds, and even (gasp!) different “camera” angles during a plain old conversation! Didn’t Sandy get the memo about simply copying and pasting the same head-shots until the dialogue comes to an end?
Now, I’ve said that the book does not feel dated, but I’ll grant you that in a book called “Century Man,” the fact that a human man who is possessed by a random cosmic entity ends up covered in star-field-body-paint with what can only be described as a big ol’ letter “C” drawn across his chest is well, pretty old school:
Ah, yes, the plot! This issue does follow up on the mysterious abduction/disappearance of one Allison Carr, the man who now floats before his understandably startled wife in the panel shown above.
It seems that Allison’s personality is subsumed beneath that of the nebulous being that is possessing/empowering him, but there is at least one way to let him come back to the surface, at least for a moment or two:
Now, nice as that moment may be, it’s soon interrupted by a hostile alien entity intending to separate Allison from his new situation permanently…and by force!
We end in the midst of that conflict, with our protagonist not having a good time of it!
For a title story, it’s a bit brief at 9 pages, but it doesn’t leave you feeling short-changed by any means.
It is a little odd, though, that the “backup” story is two pages longer than the “lead,” but when that backup story is as good as this one, I don’t really mind so much.
“Leap Frog,” much like the title story, continues on from its debut in the aforementioned anthology, but whereas a reader could start with this issue and not feel too lost about the Century Man story, I’d say that reading the previous installment of Leap Frog is absolutely necessary in order to get the full impact of the story being told.
So, naturally, in the new (and final) chapter of a story that more or less requires the reading of the past outing, we begin…with a Prologue:
It may seem like I’m picking on this story, but I really don’t mean to. This, combined with its earlier chapter, is a classically entertaining (and chilling, in fact!) science-fiction tale that would right at home in the pages of Analog or even Creepy magazine!
Also: Sandy draws the hell out of this thing. Just look at that splash panel up there! Domed cities, hints of a long-discarded wasteland below, and a tempestuous atmosphere raging around the aircraft hurtling into the scene!
I really don’t want to give too much away, as the plot is truly clever both in conception and execution, here. Suffice to say that it’s a “humans meet aliens out in deep space” story, or at least it seems to be, until it very much isn’t, and when the final twist(s) are revealed, they are as surprising as they are sinister!
Honestly, I can’t show you much more art from this story without giving things away, so, how about we just look another great city-scape by Sandy, along with a shot of the humans hanging out with some, well, non-human types?
Now, I highly recommend that people who like good comic books go out and find a way to get their hands on this one, but I can’t stress enough that one would also need to pick up Sandstone Comics Presents #1 in order to get the most out of this issue.
To that end, please direct your browsers to the Sandstone Comics Facebook Page and inquire about how to get yourself ALL of their books! The PDF files that I’ve been reviewing our only offered to their Kickstarter backers, so those of you who want in on the action now will have to acquire some good old fashioned physical copies from the fine folks at Sandstone!
If you do end up checking any of their books out, be sure to come back here and let me know that you thought of them, eh?
Until then: I’ll be Max, and I’ll be Reading Comics!