ADVANCED REVIEW: The Plot #1, horror comic perfection

By Zack Quaintance — The Plot #1 is the newest comic from Vault, the industry’s most exciting indie publisher right now, and, like many a Vault book before it, The Plot #1 raises some heretofore unseen bar for what  the publisher’s line can and will be. Put simply, this is a strong and smart comic, as immersive as it is hyper-focused in the family drama and horror motifs that define its scope. I absolutely loved it, and, as such, this review will be spent mostly explaining why this comic is so damn good.

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ADVANCED REVIEW: Outpost Zero #1 by Sean McKeever, Alexandre Tefenkgi, & Jean-Francois Beaulieu

Outpost Zero #1  is out July 11.

Outpost Zero #1 is out July 11.

By Zack Quaintance —  When I start an original series, I usually have preview text handy to orient myself and keep from wondering questions that might bog down the narrative. I’m sure some purists would say a comic should stand by itself, but I’m fine with this. Comics is a serialized medium informed by its past arguably more than any other storytelling format. Spider-Man has decades of audience familiarization; I'm cool allotting new books a few sentences.

Anyway, with Outpost Zero #1, the preview talks of a small town where people work the land, spend Fridays watching sports, and often lack grand aspirations because survival is so demanding. As a result, I expected this book to be analogous of modern small-town America. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to find that while there are hints of that, the book’s aspirations are much broader.

It’s actually not the plight of resource-poor regions this book is concerned with, not entirely, but rather grander philosophical questions about practicality versus ambition, both as applied to the individual and to society. Do you keep your head down and focus on your day-to-day, or do you fight to change the world? It’s a question I’ve wrestled with in my life, and I’m sure I’m not alone.

A preview page from  Outpost Zero #1.

A preview page from Outpost Zero #1.

And it’s actually a question the creators float early in this first issue, before later applying it to a familiar debate about science. Do we push our economy forward in brief spurts, or do we invest in a culture of innovation and knowledge? As someone whose day job is to write about how local governments deploy innovation and technology, I found this all especially compelling, but I’m sure for those outside my (incredibly) niche industry, it will be of interest as well, given our current national climate.

Philosophy aside, this is just a well-done comic, as I’ve come to expect from the Skybound imprint. The art is top-tier, the character’s faces emotive, and the sci-fi outpost a perfect blend of familiar Earth trappings and tools of futuristic survival. The dialogue accomplishes the heavy scientific and philosophical lifting, and it rarely seems contrived, stumbling a bit during the talk between teenagers (something 98 percent of comic writers fumble).

In the end, though, it's a surprising yet logical character-driven choice that has me coming back for issue two. To say anymore would risk a spoiler.

Overall: This issue does what Skybound books do best: leaves you badly wanting to know what happens next. It seems outwardly simple, but this book is layered, character-driven, and deceptively complex. The creative team behind Outpost Zero #1 has planted some compelling seeds. 8.0/10

Outpost Zero #1 will be available July 11.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.