It is incredibly astonishing, at least to me, how much this website has changed since I first created it back in August of 2015, although I had been blogging reviews since late 2014. But, regardless of one’s own intentions or goals, change can often come fast! what began as an outlet for me to discuss movies quickly grew into a passion– and where I at one time only reviewed movies, I have since expanded to review not only movies, but anime and television as well as write news articles. But even more outside of my box, I also created a Youtube channel where you can see video reviews and, hopefully soon, much more. This list of accomplishments isn’t meant to be bragg-y, honest, but it allows me to gain perspective. Nothing stays the same and things are always evolving and growing. What’s that old adage? ‘Any plan is bad that cannot be changed’? Or something like that.
So in the spirit of growth as well as change, I have the special privilege of reviewing not a movie, television show or anime series, but a comic book! I was recently approached via twitter by Josh Dahl and asked if I would like to review one of his comics called Below Zero. Obviously, I do not do much reviewing when it comes to comics, not because I dislike them– I actually read them quite a bit, but in my infinite wisdom I had simply never thought about it. Weird how that works right? But when opportunity comes knocking, who am I to send it away?
Below Zero is a 12 part super-villain revenge story that follows Icicle, a female super-villain whose crew is back stabbed and left for dead by their jerk of a leader named Coil. Icicle is one of the last survivors of her team and she vows to get revenge not just for her fallen comrades, but also for her now deceased boyfriend who was a member of their crew. But revenge may not be as easy as Icicle thinks, not only does she have to keep her existence hidden, her target Coil is also quickly rising to the top brass of the criminal underworld in the fictional, but extremely unwelcoming, Rapid City.
I was lucky enough to be able to read the first three issues of this series and, I have to say, while not everything is perfect in terms of character development, the first three issues has laid some extremely interesting and compelling groundwork that has me wanting to read more. But let’s start with the flaws before we get into the good stuff! One small issue I had was that not much action, aside from the back stabbing from Coil, occurs in the first few chapters. There is a fair amount of set-up and world building that goes on– but sometimes it just leaves you wanting to see some fighting or action. Additionally, the main character Icicle can be a bit repetitive in the first chapter or so. This may just be a pet peeve of mine, I just cannot stand it when people repeat themselves over and over. In terms of problem solving I just feel like it gets you nowhere. That being said, Icicle did just lose he beloved as well as some extremely close friends, she has NOTHING, so even with this I had to cut her some slack. After all, how would I respond in that situation? Trick question! I would have died at Coils cold dark hands and the beginning of the story.
The artwork throughout the first three issues has me teetering in either camp of liking it or disliking it. It is in black and white for starters, and while that may not be a bad thing, it can sometimes hinder ones enjoyment of the work. Especially in an age where most American comics are not only in color, but are super clean and vivid. Below Zero actually goes against the grain in this case, much of their artwork feels rough and takes on a sketch-style throughout. This works masterfully in certain scenes, particularly when characters are struggling or in some sort of despair, but for the more mundane or casual scenes, it just leaves something to be desired. Also there was some cool colored artwork found throughout each issues that gave you a taste of how much nicer it would have been had the series been in color. One back cover, in particular, stood out to me the most and that was one of the series villain Coil standing in front of a few dead bodies that he presumably killed himself. The floor and his hands are covered in blood and, while most of the art is black and white, the blood is actually colored. Had each comic utilized this semi-colored effect throughout, I think it would have made the sketch-style artwork pop a little more.
Ultimately, a revenge story isn’t all that unique, it has been done after all…countless times! What writer Josh Dahl brings to table is an extremely interesting villain as well as a main character that does show signs of real depth. While Icicle does come off as one-dimensional and having a one-track mind in the beginning, she shows definitive signs of growth by the end of chapter three. And, quite honestly, I had expected this to be a sort of origin story but it really wasn’t. Which is great, origin stories are boring! Icicle isn’t some young girl struggling with what to do with her powers, she chose a path that ended up destroying her and, instead of just laying down and dying, she chose fight. That being said, Dahl gives us brief glimpses of her past and I have to say, I look forward to seeing more… I like seeing how the bitter and angry Icicle came to be, especially when the younger her seems to be quite a bit more optimistic.
But I would be lying if I said that Icicle is the best character in this series! That honor goes to the series villain, Coil. At the beginning of the series he is a fairly unknown, low-level, criminal. But it is clear that he has big plans for the Rapid City and, so far, lets nothing stand in his way. Part of what makes him so interesting is that you know so little about him or his motivations. He is climbing the ranks of Rapid City, but you have no clue as to why or, possibly more important, why now. I look forward to seeing back story or insights revealed about Coil going forward but for now I just have to be content with three chapters.
The bottom line is that Rapid City Comic’s Below Zero is definitely worth a read. Thus far they have set up an interesting super-power filled world with a likable and bad ass female character and a mysterious and unflinching main villain. There are times where the art work suffers due to its rough style, but there are also times where it shines brightly. Just don’t go in expecting a ton of action, this series was created to be a 12 part series, so Josh Dahl is clearly going for the slow burn on this one and is taking his time building a strong world. I look forward to watching Icicle come out of her shell more, either within the confines of back story or while she realizes her goal of revenge and anticipate Coil being a villain the makes this story stand on its own. This series is not without its flaws (what comic book is free of flaws anyways?) but it definitely has a lot going for it and I need more issues in my life!