Writer/Illustrator: Fell Hound
Publisher: Self Published
WHAT IS IT?
A semi-sci-fi dystopian revenge-action one-shot with a dynamic art style that changes depending on the context.
Think Rambo meets Aeon Flux.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Kasey "Commander Rao" Cormack is a one-woman army looking to end a decade-long power struggle between the tyrannical Baron Klaus and a guerrilla army of rebels fighting for the people. Having served in the rebel forces herself, Kasey takes it upon herself to take the Baron out alone rather than wait for the rebels to finally make a direct assault.
Using brutal tactics, advanced technology, and nearly superhuman focus, Kasey carves her way through mechanically enhanced guards and overwhelming obstacles, but not without being gravely injured in the process. Will she be able to dispatch the Baron before bleeding out? And what drove her to take such extreme measures in the first place?
Fell Hound is an absolute powerhouse of a creator, balancing and innovating in all of her many roles on this comic. The varying styles and color palettes not only prove her flexibility and skill and but serve the emotional core of the story brilliantly.
Lettersquids's lettering pops off, balancing dozens of different styles of effects, speech balloons, captions, and diagetic text in a way that remains cohesive and narratively satisfying.
The action is drawn in a way that is both fluid and constantly moving, but weighty where it counts. Every slash, gunshot, and punch makes an impact and rolls into the next set of moves.
For a story that is 90% action scene, there's a surprisingly strong narrative core that drives the story and gets the reader invested in Commander Rao's plight.
The art becomes uncolored line art in moments of extreme distress which not only conveys a stark feeling of dread in the reader, but thematically connects certain seemingly unrelated events in a way that foreshadows the ending and ultimate reveal of the story.
The character design is incredible, both in a practical sense, where every outfit is built to enhance the fight scenes and be non-restrictive to the characters as soldiers, and thematically as Kasey goes from everyday soldier to freedom fighter and symbol of the resistance.
The color choices are superb and gorgeously rendered, capturing the absolute chaos of the action while remaining clean and crisp enough to always keep its subject in focus and allowing the reader to follow the action seamlessly.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
This comic has no chill. Right from the second page, the action moves the comic forward and never stops. This means the reader doesn't really have time to breathe and process what's happening or anchor themselves to the story in a meaningful way, diminishing the emotional resonance it's going for.
The first page is a clip from a newspaper that, while written convincingly, makes for a painfully slow start to this action-heavy comic. It's useful for some context, but ultimately doesn't tell the reader anything they won't find out organically, so its placement here is bewildering at best.
As well done as the lettering is, there's almost too much of it with effects on nearly every page, some of which miss the mark and look really flat for the action they're trying to convey. Rather than making a moment stand out, it winds up looking busier than it should.
There's basically no world-building, sense of scale, or character development for anyone outside of Commander Rao. This lack of context makes it hard to care about the overall plot, even when the story is quite compelling.
There are so many good ideas present that it honestly feels rushed, like this should have been a 4-issue miniseries rather than a one-shot. Doing so may have helped the comic breathe and provided some much-needed context for the action.
Though mostly well-handled, there are times the sudden change in art styles looks unpolished, undermining the intended effect and breaking the reader's immersion.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Credit where credit is due, Commander Rao is a singular vision that grabs you by the collar and demands your attention to the last page. It's clear that both parts of the creative team are immensely talented and completely deserve the acclaim this project has brought them.
As much as I would have loved to see some more restraint applied to this project, the comic is compelling, loud, and fun with a narrative you can't help but be affected by. It's pulse-pounding and heartbreaking all at the same time; for all its flaws, it's still more interesting and well put-together than entire catalogs of some publishers.
If you like your action heavy and dynamic, your narratives fast and uncompromising, and your women sapphic and lethal, Commander Rao might just be the book you've been waiting for.
WHAT SHOULD I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Do You Believe in an Afterlife? by Fell Hound
Future by Tom Woodman & Rupert Smissen
We Have to Go Back by Jordan Alsaqa & Sally Cantirino
If you like the art:
Santa Fae by L.A. Chavez & Kal Huset
By the Horns by Markisan Naso & Jason Muhr
20 Fists by Frankee White & Kat Baumann
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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