VENGEANCE, NEVADA #1 comes to us from first-time comic book author B.J. Mendelson. Artist Piotr Czaplarski brings Mendelson’s characters — the whole cast of them — to life through able ink work and selective use of color. Through their work, we get a comic that, although a little disjointed, does promise a story-rich world where superhero pulp meets supernatural justice.

As someone who reviews indie comics, I often see a lot of surprising ideas. Yet comics themselves that actually surprise me are few and far between. VENGEANCE, NEVADA #1 is one of them.

The Art Uses Color to Tell the Story

Although I’m not always proud to admit it, cover art really does make a difference in which comic I will pick up and read from a shelf. VENGEANCE, NEVADA #1 — from the cover alone — got my attention.

Sarah Horrocks Talks GORO, the Creative Process, and More!

It’s a red silhouette of a woman — “Jacobs” — who, by the badge she wears, holds authority. Not only that, but by the confidence of her stance and the weapons she bares, we immediately get an idea of the story we’ll hear. The byline “All Will Be Judged” gives that hint, and the splatter of blood — hearkens the same tone as a Tarantino film.

So understand my surprise when I opened the book and saw black-and-white. I read my fair-share of manga, so it wasn’t the most jarring choice, but it’s been a while since I’ve read a Western comic comfortable with dropping color. Except…not really.

Because as you’ll notice in the preview page, Jacobs’ eyes are blue. As is her speech.

Kristen Jacobs enters a house in L.A. Image courtesy of Earth’s Temporary Solution.

And as you read the rest of the comic, you begin to see that there is color — but only in instances of the supernatural. Even when we meet superheroes — otherwise superhuman beings — they’re just as black-and-white as the mortals.

But besides the judicious use of color to tell story — which was fantastic — the art is well-done in general. Czaplarski shows able talent for detailed close-ups, fast action, and wide, setting-establishing panels. He also commands an equal talent for his character work. The all-women cast never felt like they were drawn for the male gaze. Each looks different, and their postures and facial expressions show careful consideration of their unique personalities.

An establishing shot from Piotr Czaplarski shows command of detail far away and close-up. Image courtesy of Earth’s Temporary Solution.

Women form the cast of characters — and each sounds unique, too

Besides the fantastic art, Mendelson also gives each character a unique voice. This is impressive, because by the end of VENGEANCE, NEVADA #1, there are at least 11 speaking parts. Mendelson knows his characters inside and out. From the pose a character assumes, to their diction, even to the costume they wear — these all show what the character is about. With the final reveal on the last page of the comic, you can truly see Mendelson’s grasp on unique characters.

And as I’ve eluded, it’s of note that only two of those speaking roles are male characters. Not only that, but from the aforementioned demonstrations of each of their characters, it’s clear that they’re not just present for the sake of having women in a comic book. And even better than that — from what I can surmise — each character will bring a full range of emotions and different talents that don’t just seek to assume male roles.

ComicsVerse Collab: The Powerful Women Of The MCU #WomensHistoryMonth

A popular saying is “be the change you want to be;” in this case, Mendelson makes the change he wants. As he states on his own blog, part of his motivation for writing VENGEANCE, NEVADA was to create media that treats women characters with respect. And from what he spent to make this comic, it shows his commitment to this mission. I feel safe to say that we at ComicsVerse support this endeavor.

Although Each Scene is Compelling, the Story is Lost in Confusion

Without giving away too much, VENGEANCE, NEVADA #1 follows a non-linear plot. In other words, it jumps in time and space. Part of this jump is to provide a flashback that gives the reason for Jenkins’ speaking with a blue voice. But after that flashback, instead of going back to Jenkins, we get whisked to another locale with some new characters. This isn’t an issue either. But what does become an issue is when they start discussing an emotionally troubling event…that we never saw happen. About someone whom we never met.

Every scene in VENGEANCE, NEVADA #1 is good. The action and dialogue are tense, and the world-building the characters share — expected for a first issue — comes off sounding natural. However, the threads connecting each scene are very subtle and require multiple re-reads to understand. This is forgivable for a second or third issue — but problematic for a first issue. After my first read, my emotional reaction was confusion.

Although intrigued by what I saw, I was left in the dark, just like Jenkins/Nekoma in her opening scene. Image courtesy of Earth’s Temporary Solution.

Nevertheless, what is apparent is that there is much more to behold in this series. In that sense, I don’t think this flaw would be so obvious if I was reading it in a collected volume. But even despite that concession, I would have felt much more satisfied if the story focused exclusively on Jenkins. Or, at least, if the story gave space to exploring the terror she must be feeling — and expressing — about encountering a supernatural spirit. Especially when that spirit could care less about the friends Jenkins has.

5 Badass Women of Anime

Final Thoughts on VENGEANCE, NEVADA #1: “All Will Be Judged.”

VENGEANCE, NEVADA #1 breaks some conventional trends. When creators do this for storytelling or social justice — done tastefully, mind you — then the tale only benefits. But when it’s done to the fundamentals of a comic book’s plot, it can become challenging to the reader. VENGEANCE, NEVADA #1 has this issue.

But in the end, what is obviously apparent is that B. J. Mendelson has taste*. You can see that in the artist he hired to bring about his creation, and you see that in the representation and treatment of his characters in the script.

And as such, with a little more thought towards the presentation of the story for the greatest emotional impact, this comic — and series — could be great. I’ll look forward to reading VENGEANCE, NEVADA #2 and discovering more of the story Mendelson has to share.

*I mention this because of an Ira Glass quotation about greenhorn creators — if you have any aspirations to create, read this (credit to Russel Nohelty for the suggestion).

VENGEANCE, NEVADA #1 has a lot going for it — great art and even better characters. Yet despite this, the plot can be a bit confusing, as it’s hard to tell how each scene is connected to any of the others. Nevertheless, it’s a solid start for the team of B. J. Mendelson and Piotr Czaplarski. Good things will come from this series.
83 %

Show ComicsVerse some Love! Leave a Reply!