On a whim I picked up Babyteeth #1 this week and I can tell you I’m glad that I did. In a comic book world of rehashed stories and stale characters it’s great to read something painted with a fresh coat of originality. Babyteeth (which is an awesome name for this book, by the way) takes us on a dark ride from the get-go and doesn’t let up. And by the end we’re given a glimpse of the even darker avenues approaching.
Babyteeth opens with our heroine, Sadie Ritter, alone and scared among desolate ruins of some sort, recording the story of her pregnancy and the birth of her son, for her son. (This here be a spoiler free review so you’ll have to keep scratching your head at that until you read the book.) She recounts her misadventure of being 16 and hiding her pregnancy from her parents, of her sister taking her to the hospital, how she almost died giving birth and, most telling, the sinister earthquakes that accompanied Sadie’s contractions and then the cessation of the tremors after Clark (named after Superman no less!) is born. There are a few references made as to what and why the earthquakes happened and what Clark might be but nothing is certain at this point.
Writer Donny Cates has crafted a tale that hooks with the first issue, no mean feat in the vast, modern day swamp of comic books. There’s not one thing in particular that stands out other than it’s just good storytelling. He’s taken, essentially, a short story about a baby being born, and through the eyes of the mother, made it, quite literally, a page-turning affair. Babyteeth kept me on the edge of my seat at every turn and Cates’ scenes left me wondering when the floor was going to fall away and show the Big Reveal beneath it. This being the first issue and all, the payoff is yet to materialize obviously, but the tension being played with in Babyteeth is quite virile. And in Sadie, Cates has created a very believable leading lady, full of fear and self-doubt but who is also instantly likeable and relateable as she relates the plight of her teenage pregnancy and the inexplicable darkness that obviously surrounds it. However, in juxtaposition to Sadie’s strong characterization, I found the supporting cast weak and nearly purposeless; a factor that Cates will, hopefully, flesh out in subsequent issues.
My only real complaint about Babyteeth is small: Sadie’s death/dream sequence when she’s in the final throes of labor. In almost any writing format, scenes like this are either pointless or boring, at best, and the real estate could be used to move the story along instead. Still, it’s a short part and more of a personal airing of a grievance of mine than any real hindrance to the book or its tale.
Babyteeth is a dark book and the art reflects that consummately. While not the most remarkable work you’ll find out there, Garry Brown gives us shadows and blackness throughout a story that cloaks itself in shadows and darkness. The opening scenes of Sadie among the ruins look especially good and feel as grim and lonely as you’d expect such a place to be. (Obviously, colorist Mark Englert has a hand in this well-executed mood-setting as well.) Brown’s work is rough-hewn and raw which, I believe, was a wise style choice; anything cleaner-cut may not have worked as well.
Indie publishers’ bread and butter is that comic book landscape outside the world of capes and tights that make up Marvel and DC and Babyteeth is a fine example of one that stands out. It’s nice to get away from the mainstream, to take in a title that has a fresh idea to explore. The problem with first issues is that they sometimes fail to connect or, conversely, they set the bar too high for future ones to reach let alone surpass. But since I plan on checking out at least the next few issues, here’s hoping the Babyteeth crew can top themselves again and again.
Editor’s Note: Missed a chance to pick this up at your local comic shop? Head here to see about ordering online!
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Garry Brown
Colorist: Mark Englert
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
Reviewer: Tyrel Kessinger
Summary: Sadie Ritter is sixteen years old, nine months pregnant, and scared out of her sweet nerdy mind. Having a baby that young is tough, but with the support of her loving family behind her, everything should be okay. OH YEAH, and also her baby is the antichrist and it’s going to break open the barriers between the earthly and demonic planes and unleash eternal suffering to all of humankind. Other than that, though…should be fine.
From Donny Cates, the writer of Buzzkill, Paybacks, Redneck and the break-out hit God Country comes a pulse-pounding new series with art from THE REVISIONIST’s Garry Brown!
Summary: It’s tough being different, especially when you’re a teenager, but Rochelle Planeta is a survivor like none other — a human cockroach! Get ready for a Mind Crash as Rochelle journeys into cyberspace to battle Terrorbyte and stop him from drawing addicted players into his domain!
Review: Rochelle is a book I’d been eying for quite some time. I really liked the design of the character on the covers, and the concept of a teenage cockroach out there fighting crime sounded like too fun a thing to pass up on. As soon as the first three issues were added to ComiXology then I snapped’em right up and devoured them. Who knew cockroach could taste so good?
The first three issues read like a finely tuned Saturday Morning Cartoon with fast-paced stories featuring likeable characters, an odd amount of large, muscle-bound men (and women), strikingly fun scenarios and no overly complicating plot lines that deem to span half a year of storytelling. The first issue is a done-in-one that introduces us to Rochelle herself, and the next two issues are a two-parter that introduces us to her crime fighting best friend and super genius, crime fighting best-friend.
Just like action/adventure cartoons that I grew up watching. It was nice to feel like a kid again.
Now, there’s lot to unpack in these first three issues to be sure, but what I want to discuss first is how Crowther takes the idea of a teenaged superhero with powers – namely insect-laden abilities – and creates a scenario that completely turns the cliché setting on its head. One thing that took me by complete surprise going into this was how everyone is so openly aware of Rochelle in this world, of her past possibly – that she’s the genetic experiment of a human mother and an actual cockroach – but definitely of the fact that she’s the crime fighter of the same name.
And it doesn’t make her any less popular, or put her family in danger, and overall she’s able to lead a pretty normal life. She’s got girlfriends she hangs out with, she goes to school every day. She openly suits up when she needs to, defeats the bad guy, and goes home. Repeat. Everyone in this world plays it pretty straight laced and no one bats an eye. It’s honestly a really refreshing take on the whole thing that began with Peter Parker/Spider-Man way back in 1962.
I was also surprised to see that the stories themselves were so short. It does mean that the villains that currently inhabit Rochelle’s world feel more two-dimensional and cliché themselves in their wants and needs. There’s a running villain throughout the few issues called Byrne Time, he’s sort of the Norman Osborn of this world it seems. I look forward to see what other villains he ends up throwing Rochelle’s way, but I also hope he becomes a bit more well-rounded than he is right now.
Let’s discuss the side characters as they’re just as important in these issues as Rochelle herself is. In the first issue we get only Rochelle by herself, in the next we meet a young girl who’s just transferred to Rochelle’s high school and is being bullied pretty heavily. They call her Lopside because she seems to do everything with only one side of her body while the other stays hidden under a cloak. It turns out that hidden side contains an arm that’s massively muscled and after Rochelle shows her kindness the two decide to team up to fight the bad guys off, with the girl charmingly taking on the name of Lopside. A great way to own your bullies and not let them hurt you.
I like Lopside quite a bit, she has a gothic aesthetic not unlike that of Raven from the Teen Titans and is a good girl at heart. We don’t know much about her right now, nor her reasons for having such a unique appendage, but I look forward to finding out. I have a sneaking suspicion many of the characters will eventually tie their stories back to one Mr. Byrne Time…
Secondly, there’s Dylan Sparks, the super genius who the two girls recruit to help fend off the villain Major Mess by having him whip up some gadgets that might help them in battle. He doesn’t have a superhero name yet, but I’m curious to see what he comes up with. He’s a pretty nice kid but ultimately he doesn’t get to do much in the battle. He has no powers and is knocked out pretty quickly. But his gadgets definitely come in handy in the end. It’ll be fun to watch him – all of them – grow as characters.
Finally, I talk about the art by Dell Barras. I like it. It’s not overly complicated and it definitely has that indie vibe. Where it’s not super polished but there’s a certain vibe to it that just draws you in. I think his artwork fits the series quite well. All the characters look great, the action is still quite vibrant and fun. Though there are moments later on in issue #3 that I had to do a double take on what I was looking at on the screen, ultimately I had little problem reading Barras’ art throughout these three issues.
Rochelle is a really fun book that I can’t wait to continue following and see how it progresses. Things are still in their early stages so it’s no surprise that everyone isn’t completely fleshed out yet, and the world itself is still being built. But I look forward to see it all grow. If the issues themselves were episodes in an actual Saturday Morning Cartoon, then I could see this going for a good 50-75 episodes. Which is great. And if things stay great, then I hope it happens.
Go check out Rochelle, dear readers.
Final Score: 4.5 Human-Insect Hybrids out of 5
Reviewer: Steven Leitman
Summary: When scrawny Marty Spencer is drafted into the Vietnam War, he finds himself smack dab in the middle of the heart of darkness. But Marty has a secret. A secret even from himself. And Vietnam is a hell of a place to find out you’re a werewolf.
First let’s give a huge shoutout to Eric Powell for relaunching his indie company. If I’m not mistaken I think this is the first book that isn’t his the company is putting out. So in an industry full of “little guys” and the “big two” floundering (in my eyes) it’s great to see talent being given a chance to shine. Besides if you’ve followed me you know I’m a huge proponent of the little guy because some of the best things i’m reading come from the most unexpected of places.
Well I have to say this intrigued me just hearing the title. Wasn’t hard to figure out it was Werewolf in Vietnam and the idea kind of struck me. I like Image’s ‘68 and this while in a similar vein has it’s own unique point of view and approach. I love that this takes place in 1970, a very good year to be born by the way, and that Marty has been drafted and isn’t shying away from his duty though his father really wishes he would, after all he won’t be there when the family secret is revealed.
Logan and Brennan do some really fun and smart work on the interiors. First the nose on Marty and his dad, yeah that’s kind of Jughead amazing and it kind of brings the all-ages element to this horror book that makes it truly universally accessible. I love that the violence is there but muted so we get the effect without the gratuitous gore that can be so upsetting. The creativity and imagination on display is superb and I really have to give major props for the utilisation of page layouts, angles, perspective and even the use of backgrounds here to bring this all to life.
Fabian doesn’t waste any time in showing us and his new squad the family curse. It’s an approach I wasn’t expecting but the reaction all around is perfectly done. I think a monster is a monster regardless of what side it fights on is an interesting way to see this right now. Can Marty win over the guys in his squad and make a name for himself in ‘Nam while fighting the good fight and coming to terms with who and what he is? We’ll see but the fact that Fabian manages to weave into this so many questions begging to be answered is brilliantly done. It guarantees that i’ll be back to see what’s going to happen next.
Also I do like the idea of actions having consequences. Exploring some Vietnamese lore or voodoo depending on your point of view was an excellent touch. Why should the West have all the interesting little behind the scenes stuff? I mean Asia has it’s own set of mythology and creatures of the night and darkness that we never see because we don’t live there so it’s nice that someone recognises that and brings that point of view across.
Alright go ahead and step away from the regular and discover the world of all-ages horror that should be taking the world by storm!
Editor’s Note: Head here to the Albatross FB page to find out how you can acquire your very own copy!