Article by, Drew Van Genderen
Writer: Justin Jordan
Artist: Juan Gideon
Colors: Tamra Bonvillain
Letters: Rachel Deering
Aftershock keeps throwing out hits! Their repertoire gets more impressive with each title and they have proven to have an exceptionally strong talent pool. Strayer is created by Justin Jordan of Shadowman, Spread, the Luther Strode trilogy and many more, with expert illustrations from Juan Gideon of Ghost Racers and Tomb Raider fame (check out his portfolio here).
In a peculiar technological/apocalyptic/fantasy setting, we see a cloaked woman, Mala, trying to enlist help to bring the world back to it's previous, pleasant state from a tough guy in a tavern. On the other side of the tavern, the rambunctious Strayer is selling his skills to any that will hire him, but no one will. When the woman is threatened, a large metallic creature known as a Titan awakens and approaches and these two strangers work to pacify it, Strayer with metal knuckles that morph into sword light weapons and Mala with... strongly worded commands. Will they defeat this behemoth? Will anyone hire Strayer? Who is Mala and how will she return the world to it's previous state? Read and find out!
Justin Jordan is a real triple threat in this story, giving us world history, character history, and excellent context. Right off the bat Jordan gives us the history of this planet and some hints of the people who previously held the power in a way that informs the reader and provides Mala with backstory to attempt to enlist help. Immediately we know that Mala is a mysterious woman with unique and undefined abilities. Strayer is introduced soon after and we instantly get a hold of his gruff, boisterous personality. Both characters have very efficient introductions that give the reader a chance to know just enough about them to know their intentions but not so much as to give away all of their motivations. Their dialogue is incredibly appropriate for both of them and Strayer is clearly going to be a badass protagonist as well as the comic relief. The Titan and the nature of it's being present a whole mess of questions for the reader, particularly pertaining to the state of the world. It's presence raises just as many questions about Strayer and Mala as we begin to see their abilities. The characters and the world of this story give the feeling of a fantasy story, but the flashback at the beginning hints at a technological past, all of these ingredients combine to create an enjoyable read that mixes genres and invents some instantly well fleshed out characters.
Juan Gedeon matches Jordan's action packed story very well, leading to a book that looks just as incredible as it reads. The starting town of this story and the haggard townsfolk that inhabit it set the stage for a massive battle with fast paced action panels and the sense that Strayer is truly as good as he claims to be. The Titan itself seems massive and destructive and the resulting battle cements the feeling, but has some added aesthetic with thick vines cover it's metal body. The effects used to show Mala's abilities are vibrant and unique, almost like luminescent tattoos coming off of her body, whereas Strayer's knuckles/swords seem just as threatening as they are promised. The actual character model for Strayer also benefits the image he's trying to sell. He is drawn as a hulking man with long hair and a great beard, covered in scars and constantly ready for battle. As I mentioned earlier, the history lessons hints at technologically rich environments, but this world has sense been taken over by foliage with the exception of towns that mix wild west style storefronts and mideval thrown together architexture. Suffice it to say, the book looks cool... real damn cool. A big part of that, of course, is also due to the colors of Tamra Bonvillain, who colors a relatively sepia toned world, further making Strayer and Mala pop out.
Dreaming Eagles, Replica, Insexts, Super Zero, American Monster, and now Strayer. With every title Aftershock puts out, they cement a location as one of the great independent publishers. It copuldn't go any other way with some of the names they are getting, Justin Jordan and Juan Gideon being no exception. Mixing a few different genres with some epic illustrations and an action packed story is a recipe for success, and this team has it. Strayer #1 came out this past week and can be picked up at your LCS or digitally from the Amazon link below!