Once again, the Indie Comics Spotlight shines out from its not-so-secret installation here at the MRC, and once again its light falls upon another excellent offering from that paragon of publishers: Atomic Pulp!
If you’ve been following the Spotlight, you already know how much I’ve enjoyed each every book released by this outfit.
If this is your first MRC rodeo, and Mitra knows it probably is, then know ye this, oh princes and/or princesses:
Atomic Pulp is a the brainchild and sole property of one Christopher Mills, writer and letterer extraordinaire. Through this entity, Mr. Mills hopes to fulfill his dream of publishing the kinds of 1970s-flavored comic books that are sorely lacking in today’s new comics ecosystem.
Well, we’re several titles into the Atomic venture, and so far, every release has hit that target with a surety that would make a 70s-era bystander say “Solid!” very loudly and raise their hand in anticipation of the slipping of some skin. (That’s not as dirty as it sounds, kids. But, in this era of COVID, it’s probably more dangerous!)
And, since we’re here, I should mention that their latest release hits that target perhaps even more solidly than all that have come before it, and with a nice, meaty “THUNK” sound, to boot!
That latest release, my boon companions, is:
Savage Sagas #1, Starring the Mighty Crom!
Behold the covers three!
Cover A: You’d be forgiven for thinking that this cover was somehow rendered by the late, great Joe Kubert himself, somehow, eh? Sergio Cariello does an amazing job here, and I am a sucker for covers with word balloons on them, especially when the words (barely!) contained within them are this much fun.
Cover B: Paul Pelletier provides us with this one, and hey, ain’t it great? I should also mention that all three of these covers are actually very representative of events that transpire within the book itself! What a truly savage era we’ve stumbled into!
Cover C: Jeff Cram is the artist here, and I’m not familiar with his work, but I like this example of it quite a bit! This is definitely an artist who can fit into the Atomic Pulp environment, I’d say, eh? Also, this is the only cover that mentions the Cave Girl back-up story; looking at the other two layouts, though, I can kind of see why.
And just who are these Hardly-Hyborean (for legally distinct reasons) Heroes, you ask?
Well, let’s jump ahead to the later pages of the book and check out this extremely handy historical summary, shall we?
So, yes: no less a personage than the legendary Gardner Fox created these characters!
And since now we know from whence they came, let’s see what they’re up to now, eh?
In the opening pages, our story begins….
Just in case you didn’t catch that, “Etrebor” reversed is “Robert,” and “Drawoh” is the mirror image of “Howard.” Mills gets you ready for this sort of thing early, and you’d better settle in, because there’s more where that came from (and I freaking love it).
Next up is the always appreciated title box, packed with concise and enticing expository info:
And, right up front, some credits to the creators of Crom:
Followed by an absolutely awesome story title logo and credits scroll:
I don’t think I’ve mentioned this enough in my previous Spotlights, but the lettering work of Christopher Mills is not to be slept on! It would be more than enough that he was able to write these titanic tales and recruit all of this amazing artistic talent, but the fact that he can also provide such excellently executed and tone-perfect lettering just makes it even more of a crime that Mills has to produce these books on his own and release them to a small (but appreciative!) audience.
Get out there and buy these books, people! And tell your so-called friends to do the same!
I mean, if you don’t, I’m not saying that Crom will come by and swing you into a tree by your tail like he does to this Panteran Were-Cat in the opening scene:
But, you know, that’s because you (probably) don’t have a tail….
Yes, Crom does indeed save a wandering woman from death at the claws of some ferocious feline fiends, and it is definitely fun to watch, but I do have one nitpick with the encounter:
Okay, if that’s “bronzed Aesir flesh,” I’d hate to see the ones that don’t get out in the sun that often, eh?
Seriously, though: Crom is colored in very pale hues throughout this book, and sometimes even seems to be downright pink to the gills, as it were. (Or as it would be if people said that…whatever!)
But hey, far be it from me to point that out to a guy who’s got an axe named Skull-Splitter that he needs to clean a bunch of were-cat gore off of at the moment, eh?
But that’s okay: this is one barbarian that can be distracted by certain offerings of liquid refreshment:
(Just look at the “bronzed” face, tho)
Moving on: take a gander at this incredibly excellent splash panel, will ya?
Now, I like all kinds of comic book art, but I gotta say: That’s some kick-ass classic-style comic book art right there! Artist Rick Burchett sets the scene, filling it with life and heaps of visual context without making it feel cluttered at all. In fact, the work that he does here draws you further into the scene, and Matt Webb’s coloring fills it all with just the right light and seals the deal for good.
Not only is that scene filled with people, it’s also populated by characters. By that I mean that the art team is as good at depicting expressions and “acting” as they are at setting a scene. Just look at this group when they discover the identity of their newly arrived visitor:
And, in case Crom thinks that they just say that to all of the wandering were-cat slaying warriors, the group proves it by performing one of those tunes on the spot!
The performance is depicted on a simply stunning two-page spread, a small portion of which I will share with you here:
You really need to see that entire image, folks. There will be links at the end of the article. Heck, jump down to them now and buy the book, and I’ll consider my work done, eh?
After the tantalizing performance is complete, a tempting offer is made, to which Crom responds thusly:
But try as he might to avoid such encounters for reasons pretty much spelled out in the very song that these people just finished playing, a blind oracle lets Crom know in no uncertain terms that he cannot avoid his fate:
Hey, remember when I said there would be more of that “Etrebor” sort of thing?
Well…here you go:
Gotta admit: “Foxgard” is the kind of thing I wish I’d thought of first, eh?
Now, I’m really trying not to give too much away, here, but you know how pretty that campsite looked a few paragraphs ago?
….Let’s just say that “mistakes were made.”
However, the young woman that Crom rescued from the were-cats survived, and was taken by whoever laid waste to her troupe.
The hero, of course, follows the villains’ trail, only to find:
Okay, first he exclaims a far more forthright (and totally righteous in my opinion) piece of meta-tribute dialogue, then he finds:
…This awesome splash panel! That, of course, is just a lot of fun to look at. However, my favorite is how the vulture-like bird up front is obviously eyeing over Crom to see if he is meal-worthy or not.
The weird snow buzzard doesn’t get a chance to make up its mind on the matter, though, because before long:
Crom gets jumped! And I feel like I should recognize where the exclamation “Kuno Dal!” is from, but I just could not Google anything up on it. Needless to say, our hero puts up quite a fight (natch), but in the end, he awakens…
….all tied up and very nearly stealing one of Thundarr’s favorite epithets!
Not to be left out, one Crom’s assailants let loose with a direct tribute of his own:
Eventually, however, the name-dropping needs to end, as there’s a horribly unspeakable terror to summon up from the depths of the Earth:
Okay, with a name like that, I guess the homage-a-rama isn’t quite finished after all!
And, not that I’m judging or anything, the MRC is a safe space and all that, but ol’ Nu-Thugg-City-Style seems to be kind of into feet:
This irritates Crom to no end, and before you started thinking that this wasn’t a comic book about barbaric adventure:
We have a use of the word “Thews!” Huzzah!
In case you haven’t noticed, folks: this book has it all, and all of it is GREAT.
And hey, remember how I was praising the lettering in this book? Well, let me ask you a question about the panel below:
That question is: what do you think is underneath that “THOK” up there? If you said “nothing but air and a decreasingly healthy arterial spray,” you’d be right!
Brutes and abominations take note: Crom does not mess around.
I mean, if you don’t get the hint, you may very well end up with a doom dropped down on you that is much bigger and cool-looking than you could ever hope to handle….like so:
Did I mention that lettering in this book is great? Because let me tell you: it is great.
Of course, after all of the blood settles into the cracks of the temple floor and the thunderous echoes of DOOM finish shaking the foundations, Crom once again demonstrates that he knows how to give a lady some space:
Crom is one hero that won’t ever disappoint you by getting on the wrong side of the
Me Too hashtag, eh?
Now, before we get to the back-up story, we have some seriously cool-looking house ads to check out:
And a letters page to peruse, entitled:
Near the top of his multi-page letters column is a bonus bit of cartooning by Rick Burchett, featuring a more animated incarnation of Crom:
And, look at this: one of the many letters submitted to this issue from advance readers is written by none other than that guy who co-created the DNAgents, the Exo-Squad, and many more cool things, and whose last name you don’t know how to pronounce!
(It’s pronounced “Min-Ee-Oh” by the way)
This column also features a very handy and exciting-sounding Next Issue Box:
And it even some more well-presented biographical information about mister
Gardner F. Fox:
After absorbing all of that, it’s time to feast your eyes on some more illustrated entertainment in the form of this issue’s aforementioned Cave Girl back-up story!
Being a back-up feature, this one’s only a few pages long, so I don’t want to share too many pictures from it here. I will, however, let you check out this utterly lush splash panel penciled and inked by Neil D. Vokes:
Really, there isn’t a bad or boring panel in this entire book, but I mean, come on: that’s a great splash panel, right? And again, the lettering and logo work there is just perfect.
I should also mention the coloring by Matt Webb. He does all the color work in this book (and for the whole Atomic Pulp line, I believe), and, as you can see, it is stunning stuff. Webb’s colors add to the work of the other artists without obscuring or overpowering it. What’s on display here, and across all of the line, is the kind of teamwork that comics are supposed to rely upon. It’s a synergy, an alchemy, that you can’t really get anywhere else.
And, in keeping with the retro-70s theme, there’s all kinds of other cool little touches, like these bombastic exclamations running along the bottom borders on some of the pages, saying things like:
We also get a great full-page ad for the next issue of this very series:
And another installment of Atomic Pulp’s own version of the “Bullpen Bulletins,” called:
Near the top of this section is a very clear statement of Atomic’s mission:
Followed by another great-looking house ad for one of Atomic’s other titles:
And, in the end, a presentation of ad for the entire line that I would really like to buy as a poster:
So….there you have it, folks! What more proof do you need that Atomic Pulp is doing everything they can to give you the kind of comic books that you say you want to read?
If you want action, self-contained stories, likable heroes, and classic-style art with a modern polish to it, you need look no further!
Well, actually, you could look at these links I’m about to share below, where you can buy these impossibly fun comic books in print or digital format!
The home of Atomic Action Comics:
Buy Savage Sagas #1 on IndyPlanet here:
Also, check out (and buy) all of Atomic Pulp’s offerings here:
Okay, people, you know the drill: I am Max. I read comics. And you should, too!