Review: Lady Fight: Escalation

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From independent publisher Earthbound Comics comes the latest installment of their Lady Fight anthology, Lady Fight: Escalation. Check out the black and white glory with three original stories featuring EePee, Soverain, and Cat. 5.

LF_Escalation_COVER.jpgTitle: Lady Fight: Escalation
Cover: Robert Nix

Story: Explosion Proof
Written, Art and Lettering by: Matthew Grant

Story: Souverain
Written by: Mike Luoma
Art by: Ben Ferrari
Additional Inks and Lettering by: Matthew Grant

Story: Cat.5
Written: Sebastian Piccione
Art: Mike Dreher
Lettering: Matthew Grant

Independent comics are a different breed.

No, I don’t mean the Dark Horse, Dynamite and Boom Studios of the world, I mean the truly independent. I mean the guys and gals that take their hopes and dreams and put them up bare, naked and shivering before a cold, critical world. Okay, maybe that is a little bit of an exaggeration. But at one time being an independent meant something other than not being one of the Big Two. When I opened my review copy of Earthbound Comics latest title, Lady Fight: Escalation, I was taken back to when I first realized that there where comics that you cannot always find on the local drug store spinner rack. Sometimes you forget.

Lady Fight: Escalation is the second black and white installment of the Lady Fight series from Earthbound.  The Earthbound website describes the title as “…a series of anthology one-shots …short stories featuring the women of the Earthbound Universe.” This particular issue features three (3) stories, Souverain, Explosion Proof, and Cat.5.

Explosion Proof is the first story in this title, and it is as good a place to start as any. The introduction to the story gives you a basic rundown of the character and the ideas. EePee was once a bounty hunter for the Global Government Intelligence Agency who found out more than she was supposed to. After she fakes her own death, she sets out to work on “The List”, a group of bounties that could set her up for life. But not all of the GGIA where fooled by her “death.”  A secret faction called “The Shadow Agents” is out to get EePee and retrieve an object called The Cube. The story begins as EePee bursts in on her bounty, know as Ferrari, only to find him dead and Shadow Agents waiting for her.  They have The List, and now they want The Cube.

The art work here reminds me of early Mike Allred. Maybe it was something about the shape of EePee (especially in the lips), but it just kept echoing in my mind. Writer/Artist Matthew Grant puts a good foot forward here, but the whole story was missing something. I know that it can be hard to introduce a character to a new reader in only eight (8) pages, but there just seemed to be some gaps. I would really love to see a longer, more fleshed out story with EePee, maybe a little more background on why she faked her death and who these Shadow Agent guys are. The story was loose, but it did convey a fun-carefree feel to it. It just needed … more.

The next story has a character that appeared in the previous Lady Fight, Soverain. While stationed in Kabul, Afghanistan, Lt. Lane has been taking matters into her own hands as the vigilante Soverain. But after a CIA agent confronts her regarding her extra curricular activities, she tenders her resignation to the army (rather violently) and takes off as a free agent. We see her taking out a group of Pashtun/Taliban while being watched from afar by an armed man who seems to have an agenda of his own, one that Soverain has helped move along.

The art chores here are handled by Ben Ferrari, and he does a good job, but there are issues. Primarily, his black or white style can make it a little tough on the eyes and there is occasionally a flatness to the page. He does have nice panel composition, and there is a real world feel to the design that grounds it. The writer, Mike Louma, sets up the character nicely, and besides wondering what the future holds for Souverain, you want to find out more about her past. If you like the vigilante with guns characters, this is the one for you.

The last story featured here stars a character named Cat. 5. She is probably the most traditional of the characters, and maybe the most accessible to the average superhero reader. Kathleen Day is the superhero Cat.5, as in Category 5 hurricane, and her friend Amy has talked her into going on a cruise of the coast of Cape Canaveral. As she sits down to play a little poker, she thinks to herself that she would rather deal with a super-villain than the single cruise wannabe that is hitting on her. Cue the super-villain, the aptly named Bull-Shark, part man, part bull, part shark.  Some days it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed.

With art by Mike Dreher and a story by Sebastian Piccione, this is a good little done-in-one tale. I can see Cat.5 being the lynch pin character of a larger universe, and  o the three this is the one I enjoyed the most. It was not deep, did not try and change the wheel, it just told the story with the information you needed to get it. Dreher’s art work has a cartoony style that is a nice change from all the ultra-realism and violence found in today’s comics. But as much as I enjoyed it, the final joke fell pretty flat. Looking forward to seeing more of this character and creative team.

Finally, let me touch on the cover. Robert Nix delivers an excellent image for the cover, and it is worth the price of admission. Oddly enough, I was unable to find any background information on Nix, and can only guess as to his previous works and experience. But this is a great image, and I really liked seeing the characters in color.

If you have never read a truly independent comic before, you might be a little turned off by Lady Fight: Escalation. It mixes the feel of the old 80’s independents and the web comics of today for a different type of experience. I love anthologies and understand the format, but I still found myself wishing that each story had more space. This type of comic is not for everybody. But it is a good example of what the independent field has to offer. I almost think of reading an independent book as searching through a garage sale: there’s a lot of stuff no one wants, but you occasionally find something you want to bring home.  This anthology is like that. All three stories may not be your cup of tea, but you might find something, be it character, artist or writer, that you want to bring home. That said, I am giving Lady Fight: Escalation a 2.5 out of 5. Not for everyone, but a nice little outing for the creators.

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If you want to know more about the title, or other Earthbound Comic, check out their website at www.earthboundcomics.com. They have links to their Facebook fan page, their other titles, and information on how to purchase your own copy.