Death's Left Hand

Article by, Drew Van Genderen

The Black Hand


Writer: Erica J. Heflin
Art: Fares Maese (Issue #1, 2, 4) Edson Alves (Issue #3)

Alterna Comics has been around for a while. In it's time it has published webcomic epics with Kill All Monsters to instant cult classics in The Chair to the space with Adam Wreck. Essentially, it has done a little bit of every genre. That is why it baffles me sometimes that more folks aren't talking about it. Lately I have been reading up on many titles from the publisher and have found nothing but quality. Want to check them out for yourself? Then let me introduce you to The Black Hand, a fantasy story that I particularly enjoy. This series is written by Erica J. Heflin, of Vicious Circus, Dark Shaman, and Wonderland fame. Art is primarily done by Fares Maese (portfolio) who has done color work on the horror series Anathema. Issue 3 has art duties being performed by Edson Alves (portfolio) who has worked on a few very independent titles.

Victoria Addair has felt the icy sting of death and come back from it with no lasting marks but her black hand. After this event, she joined the First Church of the Black Hand, an order of knights who have gone through similar situations and now fight back the undead and monstrous forces of the frigid world. Victoria is tasked with a trip to the kingdom of Amnestall, where the young Fadil is being tempted by a ghost to travel into the freezing wastes, and presumably to his death. Upon arrival, Victoria quickly learns that there is more at play then just a luring spirit, and as a cold front that immediately freezes everything in it's path is sweeping the land, she discovers she doesn't have long to figure out what's going on. The deadly wind leaves frozen corpses in it's wake, with nothing left but the echo of a voice asking, "Where is my boy?"

Erica J. Heflin has written a frozen world that is rife with danger and isolation. Her solution? Writing a group of badass knights to combat everything that's thrown at the unsuspecting people. All of the world seems to be terrified of their environment, and make it very clear that even more dangerous then the creatures hiding in the snow is the cold itself. It is implied that an innumerable amount of people have died thanks to the frigid conditions, and nothing seems to be able to stop the death toll from rising. The sense of foreboding Erica writes into this story is apparent on every page, and very well felt. Between the evil outside of the kingdoms and the questionable/judgmental personalities within, nothing every truly feels safe, particularly for our protagonist. Victoria is the very portrait of a strong female lead, with an unfaltering sense of bravery and a knowledge that she must always do what is right, not necessarily with the permission of her superiors. She is smart and knowledgeable of the enemies lurking in the tundra, while also showing a good amount of care for the kingdom she is trying to protect and Fadil in particular. Many of the other characters, such as Fadil's father, Matim, attempt to become foibles to Victoria's character, however as the story progresses everyone realizes that this death defying knight is an absolute necessity to solve this deadly problem.

Fares Maese is a name I haven't heard of before, but now I'll make sure to keep an eye out. The specialty here is texturing. Whether looking at the wind shifting the frozen tundra or the sheen of the Black Hands' smooth steel armor, Maese has clear intention for every object. In moments of action, the movement feels swift and uses visual effects to further protray the characters in motion. Speaking of the characters, the models are a ton of fun. The main guard protecting Fadil and Matim is an intimidating, hulking caricature of a brawler, while the leader of the Church of the Black Hand is as decrepit as the black hand would suggest. Victoria, on the other hand, stands out amongst her bleak surroundings with glistening armor and long blond hair, all of which move perfectly in the action scenes for some wonderful picturesque panels. The monsters are numerous and demented, making the reader question their origins but more than that, providing a viable threat to the knights. Edson Alves fill in on issue 3 picked up with a similar style to Maese's, providing a cohesive read in an extremely pivotal issue to the series as well as a different emphasis on the facial contours of the characters.

It's a fantasy series where people who come back from the dead become knights and fight ghosts, zombies, and much more. What's not to like? With a steady flow of action and a compelling yet enjoyable mystery, The Black Hand delivers quite the well structured tale. YOU can pick up The Black Hand individually or as a collection on  ComiXology!

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