No one's sent me any free stuff to review before, but if you want to, look! I've got a cool banner for it!
But someone has, and so I'll do them them service of putting a little more thought into it than I usually do... At least, that's the plan. Faction is a new comic by self-publisher Erik Hendrix, with Arnie Gordon on art and Michael Nelsen on colors. The premise is a great big genre mash-up: In 2025, there is a battle between demons and God's agents. Our hero, war amputee Master Sergeant Acker Kinney, has just been recruited by the Society of the Enlightened (they're the good guys) largely because he's a reincarnation of a former agent (or many former agents). Think In Nomine with cybernetics and reincarnation.
Issue #0 is only about a dozen pages long, but does include a lot of supplementary material, like concept sketches, character bios and a look at what's coming, which are probably more revelatory about what Faction will be like than the story itself. But those dozen pages have good dialogue and narration, and an intriguing through-line that plunges you into the secret universe of Faction the same way Acker is. It starts as a war story that could take place in Iraq, becomes a well-observed veteran drama, and then the demons and magicians show up. It a bit jarring, but that's exactly the effect it has on Acker. Maybe it's because I recently watched it, but I was reminded of One-Armed Swordsman. Wouldn't be surprised if it was an influence (you could do worse!). Plenty of mysteries are set forth in those few pages, and they don't frustrate, they intrigue. If I have a caveat, it's that many of those mysteries are addressed and answered in full in the supplementary material. Felt like spoilers, and yet, you want to be able to market to the series' actual style, so I understand.
(On a purely "Siskoid's pet peeves" sort of note, Hendrix does a relatively good job with the French coming out of one character's mouth, certainly much better than mainstream comics' usual Babel Fish garble. So thanks for that.)
Faction is a black and white comic with a rough pencil style painted over in shades of gray. Though the effects sometime threaten to overwhelm the art, I think it generally works. Arnie Gordon makes each character distinctive and his action scenes are well choreographed. Some panels are more broadly sketched than others, but I imagine consistency comes with time. In any case, he handles a large variety of subject matter more than competently and doesn't skimp on the quiet, human moments. In fact, these are stronger than the more fantastic stuff.
So You're Interested?
The comic will be available in both paper form (3.50$) and a cheaper PDF (2$) and all the information you need is on THE WEBSITE, where you'll also find some of the supplements and sample pages. I'm not sure 2$ for a PDF is a strong value for a 12-page story, regardless of bonus extras, but I'm also aware that the comics industry has to adapt in today's market, especially smaller, self-publishing projects. PDFs are one way to go, and these guys are also involved with iPhone media. I've bought my share of PDF books (role-playing games mostly), but on comics, I remain more old school (for now, at least).
Bottom line: Faction has promise, especially if you like the kind of genre mash-up comics are so good at. The Middle Eastern setting is one that hasn't been explored all that much in the medium, and so long as the religious aspects of the series don't equate to a crusade against the Muslim world, it should remain a good place TO explore (I'm not saying it'll go that way, but all the heroes have Western names). Acker is a strong character from the get-go, wounded yet unbroken (almost sorry to see him get a cyber-arm). As for the art, it sometimes shines, sometimes doesn't, but the bonus sketches do show what Gordon and Nelsen are able to do at the best of times (hey that Nelsen fella has a funky pencilling style, give him an issue or a flashback or something).