Krachmacher #1
By Jim Campbell
Self-Published; $6.50 USD

Good cartooning and exquisite colouring by Xeric-winner Jim Campbell make this compact, digest-sized graphic novel worth a look, but there's not much impact from the three stories it contains. The best is the cover feature, "At The Shore," about a group of young people going to the beach. It's to be continued, and the art is good enough to justify investigating future issues in the hopes that whatever Campbell is trying to convey in the script becomes a little clearer. An intriguing but not great start. Grade: 3.5/5

One Step After Another
By Fermin Solis
Published by AdHouse Books; $5.00 USD

Andi Watson's minimalist slice-of-life stuff doesn't really capture my interest, but Fermin Solis seems interested -- One Step After Another could easily be confused for a Watson title, and Watson even contributes a brief introduction. The story is about a young woman who goes to work in a factory and experiences a series of unfortunate events, all the while carrying a secret about herself. Perhaps the fact that this is a translated work contributed to my not caring much about the story, or perhaps it's Solis's appropriation of a style I don't find engaging to begin with. Either way, One Step isn't for me, but if you're a fan of Watson's work, you might find it of interest. Grade: 2.5/5

The Hardy Boys #1
By Scott Lobdell and Lea Hernandez
Published by Papercutz; $2.95 USD

Manga-style art drawn by Lea Hernandez (and beautifully coloured by Lovern Kindzierski) is the key appeal of this all-ages effort at reviving the boy detectives. Lobdell's script includes an odd swipe at animal rights activists and a heavy-handed insinuation that the government "must have a reason for what they're doing," so there seems to be an agenda at work.

The lightweight mystery plot and lovely, feminine artwork aren't enough reason for me to ignore concerns over the propaganda in the script, though, so I wouldn't let my kids anywhere near this. Rush Limbaugh's would probably love it, though, if he had any. Grade: 2/5

By Marc Sobel and Leigh Gallagher
Published by Autopsy Press; $1.50 USD

Eerie, disturbing stuff about the unlikely survivors of a nuclear apocalypse. Writer Marc Sobel (a reviewer for Comic Book Galaxy, it should be noted) comes up with a particularly weird reason why these people should happen to escape destruction, and seems committed to exploring the ramifications of his strangeness. The story feels like it needed much more room to be told, though, and more detail about the nature of the experiments being performed would be welcome. Gallagher's Wrightsonesque art conveys the terror perfectly. The ending is the weak point, seeming more like the conclusion of a chapter than the climax of a story. Grade: 3/5

Gravedigger: The Scavengers #1 of 1
By Christopher Mills and Rick Burchett
Published by Rorschach Entertainment; $3.50 USD

First-rate hard-boiled caper comic much in the spirit of His Name is...Savage, Sleeper and Catwoman: Selina's Big Score. Mills delivers a note-perfect script full of treachery and double-dealing, and Burchett's gritty Pop Noir stylings puts him in the same class with Darwyn Cooke and Sean Phillips. The only complaint I have about this issue is that it's a one-shot -- I'd love to see more of this, now, please, and also the horizontal format is a bit irksome, but the high quality of the story and art allowed me to overcome my annoyance.

You know, I see a lot of comics throughout the year, but Gravedigger: The Scavengers #1 of 1 was one of the best surprises to arrive in my mailbox; comics need to be this fun and exciting again. Grade: 4.5/5

-- Alan David Doane

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