In Review: Alabaster #1

A fun adventure book as a hero is confronted in a graveyard by supernatural enemies.

The cover: The title character stands tall as she holds back a demon attacking her in a graveyard with her fencing sword and a supernatural bomb. Hopefully she is aware that three more demons are approaching her from behind. This cover is penciled by Jardel Cruz and inked by Gilbert Monsanto and looks great. Alabaster looks powerful, the creatures creepy, and the setting appropriate. The colors are also very strong on the characters with Albaster a standout due to her violet colored togs and the demons popping out in strong emeralds. The background colors are a little dark; they allow the characters to pop, but have all else blob up. Overall grade: B+

The story: D.D. Miller does a quick summary of Alexia Alvarez’s origin on the first two pages of this premiere issue: her parents were killed in front of her when she eight-years-old by the Satanico el Culto. She was raised by her Uncle Arturo who trained her to bring her parents’ killers to justice. She became a detective and learned that the killers were part of a satanic cult. The department thought she was crazy for believing they were satanists, but a “group of Godly women with military backgrounds, known as the W.A.Y. (Women’s Army of Yahweh)…taught (her) the ways of spiritual warfare.” By Page 3 Alexia has journeyed to her parents’ graves, unaware there are demons in the graveyard waiting to feast on her blood. The demons attack and she shows them that she’s more than proficient with her fencing sword, speed, and bombs of a supernatural nature. Just as it seems she will triumph a new evildoer makes the scene — Early Grave. He puts her in dire straits and she has to rely on her faith and abilities to get out of her predicament. I’m not a fan of comics that include religious texts in them, but they are absolutely appropriate in this book because she is a very religious person. It makes absolute sense that she would recall specific verses when she needs strength in several situation. Several comic book characters have been given specific religions in comics over the medium’s long history, but Alabaster really walks the walk. I didn’t feel like I was being hit on the head by the Biblical quotes the character recalled and didn’t feel like Miller was lecturing me, because that’s one way to get me to dislike any type of book. My only qualm with the story is that there are times where Alabaster narrates what’s she doing in the panel; the reader can see what she’s done and doesn’t need her to think what she’s doing. This first appears on Page 7 and occurs infrequently. It’s not a deal breaker on the enjoyment of the story, but it is noticeable. I like that the origin of the hero is quick, but not rushed, and that the action is smooth. Overall grade: A-

The art: I’ve enjoyed the pencils by Jardel Cruz on other books, so I’m more to happy to see other work by him, and his work is complemented by the inks by Gilbert Monsanto. The title character zips into the book on the first page riding a motorcycle. The first panel is from an odd angle, but when the point of view pulls in closer to her she looks better. The remaining panels on the page are flashbacks of her parents’ deaths. They’re pretty simple and clearly convey what’s going on, but a little more detail would have helped. And what’s with the fourth panel on the page — is that the bank exterior? It’s hard to tell. The second page is much better with the pull in to Albaster looking really sharp and her training well done. The third page is her arrival at the graveyard and I like that Cruz placed the demon’s panel the same perspective as the wall. Very nice. I’m a sucker for circular panels that focus on a character’s face and an oval one closes out Page 3 really well. The next two pages have her emotional walk to her parents’ graves, not knowing that she’s being watched. Cruz and Monsanto create a good emotional state for the character, ending with her, naturally, in tears. The demons go into action on Page 6 and they look scary enough for her to have to respond, but no so creepy as to give younger readers nightmares. I like Albaster’s use of her rapier — it always looks good when she’s using it. The eighth page has a really neat layout with tilted and jagged panels increasing the action. Pages 14 and 15 are a double-paged splash that requires the reader to turn the book horizontally to take in villain Early Grave. It’s a great reveal of this antagonist and, in addition to circular panels, I love when books have to be turned and read horizontally. The first panel that follows his reveal is from a great point of view. When the hero and villain begin to truly battle, the layout returns to great shaped panels, but much of the space on the page is lost to the layout. This is really true on Pages 18 and 19. I like what Cruz is doing, but the design of the page seems to be trumping the story. The big moment on 22 is lessened by it being a small panel and tilted for no apparent reason. Much better is the final page which is much more traditionally set up and has some really strong work. I’m liking the majority of what Cruz and Monsanto are doing, though there are a few visual bumps in this issue. Overall grade: B+

The colors: Edward Bola and James “J. Brown” Brown do a solid job on this book. I do wish I knew who was responsible for specific pages so that I might praise the right person. One of the joys of this book is that Alabaster is always a stand out character on the page due in no small part to the violet colors of her outfit. The shades look believable on her and they always catch my eye, having me always focus on her. The majority of this book takes place at night, outside, in a graveyard. Both colorists are more than within their right to make this a very dark book. However, blues are used instead of blacks, allowing every element of the art to be seen. I really like when colorists do this, so my hat is off to this pair. The demons also pop off the page due to their vivid green skin. It’s the perfect color to signify sickness and evil. I’m liking what Bola and Brown do on this book. Overall grade: A

The letters: This book’s text consists of narration, dialogue, and editorial notations (all three are the same font), yells, sounds, and the tease for next issue. All are created by Zakk Saam Studios and they look okay. I would have preferred to see the narration, dialogue, and notes in different fonts. The latter is only differed by its size and colors. The yells/screams look good and add to the action sequences, as do the sparse sounds. The tease for next issue stands apart from the other texts of the book by being in a striking font. Overall grade: B

The final line: A fun adventure as a hero is confronted in a graveyard by supernatural enemies. The origin is solid, the action good, and the visuals clear enough to get across characters’ emotions and movements. The religious aspects of this book perfectly match the character and her origin, with her reliance on the Bible essential. I would be more than willing to seeing what happens next to this hero. Overall grade: B+

To order a print copy go to https://www.crosssectioncomics.com/product-page/alabaster-issue-1-print-copy

To order a digital copy go to https://www.crosssectioncomics.com/product-page/alabaster-issue-1-digital-copy

To see the cover visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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