Nix Comics Quarterly #1

All Stories Written by Ken Eppstein
Illustrated by Ryan Brinkerhoff, Darren Merinuk, Michael Neno, Dave Pickard, and Richard Trask
Nix Comics

The Hells are alive with the sound of music!  In this set of short stories with a musical theme, writer Ken Eppstein, with the help of various artists, tells a variety of stories from a variation on the soul deal to ranting bus passengers to a singer doing the Lord's work.  It's all here in this eclectic but fun anthology self-published by Eppstein as the first Nix Comics Quarterly.

I am a big fan of anthology comics and I am a lover of music of all kinds, so it wasn't really a surprise for me that I instantly took a liking to this series.  Eppstein is a comics and music guy--I wonder if he's ever met Ben Towle?--and even had a record store for a period of time before undertaking this ambitious project.

This enthusiasm for both the medium of comics and the rich history of music--and its potential for interesting comic stories--shines through in the lead outing of this mini-collection, "The Devil & Ellis Church."  A typical white music reporter gets on the case of legendary bluesman Ellis Church for not signing a record deal.  We soon learn that Church's laughable excuse is all too serious, as artist Ryan Brinkerhoff creates a dramatic mood by slowly but surely panning the art camera in on the participants until we get to the big reveal.  It's a great start to the anthology and my favorite in this issue.

A recurring feature, "Bus Stop Ned" begins here, as one-page gag strips that revolve around the type of person you'd prefer not to spend time with but are forced by the democracy of public transportation.  Ned is both uncomfortable and familiar, and those who take a lot of buses (or have in the past) will quickly relate.  It's interesting to see how different artists interpret Ned, even within the same issue.

The weakest story follows, "Alone in the Dark."  It's a fairly standard monster trope that we've seen a hundred times before, and I'm afraid that I don't think either Eppstein or his illustrator, Dave Pickard, really add anything to the mix this time out.  The monster looks a bit like a Muppet, but that's about it.  Not every story in an anthology is going to work for every reader, though, and it's finished quickly, as all jokes of this type tend to be.

Another character that returns in these Quarterlies is a musician that's designed to look a bit like Ozzy (I think--it could be someone else, but I think the metal singer and some-time TV show personality is the best fit), who uses his touring to seek out the supernatural evils of the world.  I like the way this story is set up, especially in the reversal of the bathroom confrontation, and Michael Neno turns in a very solid art job, pacing the story nicely and keeping things as realistic as possible for as long as he can.

"Man Loves, God Kills?" echoes a classic X-Men title, but really is all about a send-up of the Westboro Baptist Church, as a preacher who has a similar message learns that the Lord works in mysterious ways--and doesn't take kindly to people who put words in his mouth.  Darren Merinuk plays this one like an old EC horror comic, which I think is the perfect tone to take.  There's an over-the-top style while still holding just slightly to the edge of reality that fits Eppstein's playful script.

Showing his old-school roots, there's an editorial, letters page, and creator notes within the issue, and unlike some of these, they are actually interesting to read.  Eppstein's thoughts on the process of making an indie comic are worth reading.

I liked this first issue a lot, and it's definitely worth reading, especially for fans of music as well as comics.  If you want to try issue 1, you can even download it here for free.  For that price, what do you have to lose?
(Except maybe your soul!   MWAHAHAHAHAAHAHAAHAHAHAHAhahahahaa.....)

Thanks to Ken for the review copy.