Best Shots Reviews: KIM & KIM - LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD #1, CLOUDIA & REX #1

"Cloudia & Rex #1" cover
Credit: Daniel Irizarri (Lion Forge)
Credit: Black Mask Studios

Kim & Kim: Love Is a Battlefield #1
Written by Magdalene Visaggio
Art by Eva Cabrera and Claudia Aguirre
Lettering by Zakk Samm
Published by Black Mask Studios
Review by C.K. Stewart
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

The Fighting Kims are back with new looks and new problems in last Wednesday’s debut installment of Kim & Kim: Love is a Battlefield #1. Three years later, Kim D and Kim Q are still knee-deep in intergalactic bounty-hunting adventures, only now instead of mob bosses the pair find themselves grappling with a more personal and perhaps more dangerous foe: Kim D’s ex-girlfriend. The original creative team delivers a book that feels familiar and fresh all at once, with the addition of backmatter from by comics critic Elle Collins that perfectly encapsulates the book’s aesthetic and valuable contributions to modern comics in an engaging, accessible essay on “The Queer Universe.”

Artist Eva Cabrera and colorist Claudia Aguirre are the rockstars of the issue. Aguirre’s vibrant, eye-popping palette and the bright silver buildings of Kinna perfectly blend the book’s punk rock sci-fi aesthetic. Aguirre perfectly captures the blinding bright light of the sun on the seemingly endless blue seas of Kastellen, and the glowing reflecting of the city’s ocean of silver-blue building in the night lights and the glow of the moon. Zakk Samm’s lettering is a perfect fit - the vivid blues of Kim D’s dialogue against Aguirre’s colors, and quirky layout choices that reflect the voices of both women (particularly Kim Q’s enthusiasm).

Three years have passed, and in their artwork the passage of time is easy to track without losing sight of the distinct visual styles Aguirre and Cabrera gives the Kims. Kim D’s new hair, Kim Q’s new style, the familiar site of their battered but well-loved spaceship - the changes in the Kims’ aesthetics marks not only the changing styles that occur as years pass but the fact that both women have aged and come into themselves in the wake of the Tom Quilt affair from the first volume. Kim D looks more refined and put together than ever, her subdued but stylish purple outfits grounding her against the bright colors of the book and against Kim Q’s pink-streaked hair and punk rock style, and Kim Q’s looks manage to reflect a consistent, deep sense of style and self as much as they do her impetuous nature.

Visaggio’s script is as strong as ever, her dialogue sharp and snapping and her world-building skills impeccable - through Kim D’s narration, Visaggio creates an entire culture and long-standing history for the planet of Kastellan without ever overloading the book with exposition. The trivia Visaggio drops builds a richer world and gives more depth to the Kims’ actions throughout the book, scattering hints of speculative fiction into fantastical sci-fi environment. Each character has a distinctive cadence and vocabulary, and Visaggio even worked with linguist Kirsten Thompson to create a recognizable but futuristic Spanish dialect that could have found its way to Kastellen over the centuries.

For those unfamiliar with the first installment of Kim & Kim, Kim & Kim: Love is a Battlefield is easy to follow and not so littered with spoilers that it would ruin your reading if you started with last week’s new issue. The Kims are as immediately engaging and relatable as they were in last year’s miniseries, and this second volume benefits greatly from reuniting the same creative team - the art is a little cleaner, the colors sharper, and Visaggio has a very clear and direct vision for this world and the complicated lives of the Kims. Kim & Kim: Love is a Battlefield is a beautiful book that untangles the complicated, messy lives of two complicated and messy women with heart and considerable skill, and a great way to get your fill of drama and blockbuster action this summer.

Credit: Daniel Irizarri (Lion Forge)

Cloudia & Rex #1
Written by Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas
Art by Daniel Irizarri
Published by Lion Forge
Review by C.K. Stewart
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

A mom, her daughter, and her other daughter, a wooly rhinoceros - all suddenly burdened with preserving countless eons of godly history in the face of a supernatural cataclysm. Cloudia & Rex #1 introduces eponymous sisters Cloudia and Rex as their mother packs their lives up for a move in the wake of a family tragedy. As their mother upheaves their lives, an invasion of vicious seraphim upheaves the very existence of a realm of gods from across countless cultural pantheons, and a last ditch effort to preserve their immortal existence leaves Cloudia and Rex as the hosts for a variety of spirits and suddenly responsible for the fate of all of humanity’s spiritual figures.

Cowriters Ulises Farinas and Erick Freitas have created a premise that builds on the thematic elements of book series like Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson or even Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl with a much broader scope. Their young protagonists feel authentically youthful, from Cloudia’s combative relationship and feisty exchanges with her protective mother to Rex’s dreamlike naivete and childlike propensity for outlandish daydreams.

Where similar young adult novels focus on one mythology at a time, Farinas and Freitas have created a sprawling city cohabited by gods and goddesses from across the globe. The deities’ tale centers on Thanatos, Greek embodiment of Death, and his perpetually twin drowsy brother Hypnos, personification of sleep. Together, disaster on their heels, they navigate through crowds of dotted with recognizable figures like Hermes and even Baphomet to find their eventual allies: Ala, the Odinani goddess of fertility from the Nigerian Igbo pantheon, and Zurvan, the Zoroastrian god of time and engineer of the deities’ Memoriam Thanatos is desperate to protect.

The effort from Farinas and Freitas to represent beliefs throughout the ages is evident in the distinct voices they’ve developed for each god and goddess, from Thanatos’ grim intensity to Hypnos’ drowsy reluctance. Artist Daniel Irizarri has done an incredible job giving each figure a distinctive visual look suited to both their position in their pantheons and the culture they represent - sleepy, pillowy Hypnos and his constellations, Thanatos and the wings on his helmet, Ganesh, Sobek, all distinctive and easily identifiable, and those deities who are less recognizable are so carefully designed it would be easy to plug a few descriptive words into your search bar of choice and find more information about them with ease.

Irizarri’s color work throughout the book is beautiful, a deep orange and blue palette that makes the Memoriam appear perpetually ablaze and Cloudia and Rex’s journey awash in the last rays of a setting sun, carrying an unsettling sense of ending throughout the book - for Cloudia and Rex, the end of their lives with their father and the lives they once knew without godly interference, and for Thanatos and the residence of the Memoriam, the looming threat of an end to their very existence. As the two tales cross paths the pages shift into rich fushias and lush, teal-green landscapes, making the world seem as alien as the unusual conflict Cloudia and Rex have found themselves in the middle of. The addition of Thanatos’ skull and helment to the series’ logo is also a charming touch that manages to be cute and grim all at once, a clever and succinct reflection of this debut issue’s contents.

Cloudia & Rex #1 is an engaging start to a promising three-issue miniseries. It’s refreshing to see a series directly aimed at young adult readers - the cover states it’s intended for ages 14 and up, and the dialogue, while not simple, is written in a way to make it easy for young readers to follow themes and potentially new vocabulary from context clues in both the art and surrounding language. This issue would be perfectly at home amidst any young adult novels on the shelves today, and is a thoroughly-researched and beautifully illustrated miniseries well worth adult comics fans’ time as well.

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