Aspen Showcase: Ember #1 (Aspen Comics)
By David Schwartz & Randy Green
Spinning out of the recently-completed Shrugged series, this one-shot delves into the backstory of Ember, a woman of the otherworldly land of Perspecta whose half-Elysian, half-Nefarian heritage nearly derails her political ambitions. When she decides to create an enemy to frighten the people of Perspecta back onto her side, she finds out exactly what she’s really capable of. The political allegories here are none-too-subtle, and are in fact so heavy handed that they take away from the enjoyment of the issue a bit. On the plus side, it is a pretty big story for Aspen to tackle, and they handle it in an intelligent fashion. The artwork, by Randy Green, is really good. The demons of the Nefarians look pretty good and balance well against the perfect little Elysians. It’s nice to know that Aspen hasn’t simply forgotten the Shrugged universe. I just hope there are more tales in that world planned for the future.
Title: The Void
Writer: Vince Hernandez
Art: Khary Randolph
Colorist: Emilio Lopez
Letterer: Josh Reed
Cover: Khary Randolph
Editor: Frank Mastromauro
Publisher: Aspen Entertainment
I very much respect Aspen Entertainment. They’re a company that’s not willing to reach out and try new genres and new ideas, and they put some really solid talent on the books. That said, the zero issue of Charismagic is only okay. We get a fairly standard fantasy story about an evil wizard that rolls over into the present-day, where a woman is planning to take a stand against his inevitable return, but she’s going to need a little help. This is actually a pretty good kick-off for the story, but feels very incomplete. Okay, it is incomplete, but it’s incomplete in a way that isn’t terribly satisfying. This experience should make me eager to go out and get the next issue, and it doesn’t quite do that, despite a good script and great artwork. At most, it’s got me curious. I wanted a little bit more than that. That said, I like the overall concept and I want to find some new stories to read badly enough to give this book a little time to grow, so I’ll probably get the first couple of issues. But to keep me around, I’m going to need more meat to the tale, and quickly.
The conclusion of Shrugged has been a long time in coming, although I don’t think anyone can quite blame Aspen in this case. Fortunately, this is a conclusion that really is worth it. As the “angels” and “demons” of Perspecta have suddenly become visible to everyone on Earth, Theo and his friends find themselves in a battle for the very survival of the two worlds. Dev and Ange face off against Ember, and there’s lots of pretty pictures, things blowing up, and heroic coolness. I’ve really enjoyed this series for the very beginning, and the conclusion is exactly what I hoped for. It’s not great literature, but it is a really original idea with a really fun, action-packed ending, with great art to boot. And at a time when certain publishers are starting to slap $3.99 price tags on books with just 16 pages of story, it’s worth noting that this book is a beefy 40 pages (of story — that doesn’t count ads) for the usual $2.99. Aspen has most definitely given us our money’s worth. The book ends in a way that’s very satisfying, but still leaves the door open for a possible sequel or spin-offs, and frankly, I’d be fine with that. Apparently an Ember special is coming soon, along with the paperback edition of the entire series. If you haven’t read Shrugged before, this last issue probably wouldn’t be a good purchase, but if you have and you’re wondering if you should come back after the long gap in publication, the answer is yes. And if you never read it at all, just queue up for the paperback. It’ll be worth it.
Theo is juiced up with power, Ange and Dev are down for the count, and Ember Silva finally makes her move. This series has had serious ups and downs — the first few issues were some of the most original, most entertaining fantasy comics I’ve read in a very long time. The last couple of issues have strayed a bit into more generic territory, being less about the boy and his twin “advisors” and more about the battle between the forces of good and evil here. Now, with this penultimate issue, we see the convergence of these two storylines. The early promise of this series still has time to be fulfilled, but it’s a little disappointing that the creators will only have eight issues in which to do it. I think there’s a lot of really clever ideas that haven’t even been brushed upon here, and hopefully these creators will come back and toy with them again in the future.