FINGER GUNS, VOL. 1
Writer: Justin Richards
Artist: Val Halvorson
Publisher: Vault Comics
WHAT IS IT?
The first five issues of Vault's fantastical teen drama featuring out of control emotions, domestic abuse, and finger-based superpowers.
Think Chronicle (2012) meets Archie.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
When Wes and Sadie discover they can manipulate the emotions of other people (and animals) by shooting them with finger guns, they waste no time testing the limits of their powers and becoming fast friends. Whether it's making people furious, calm, or brave, the pair learn the extent of their powers and use them, at first, for their own amusement.
However, when Sadie's parents begin arguing and things turn scary, she discovers she can use her powers to smooth things over and keep the peace. Over time, though, trying to calm her father down gets less effective and her other efforts to keep her mother safe backfire. Worried for her mother's life, Sadie tries to convince Wes to help her get rid of her father. But will they be able to control their powers, and what consequences might arise when they meddle with too many people's emotions?
Richards's dialogue is impressively realistic considering the age of the characters and the strangeness of the situation. There's no awkward exposition or clunky explanation, just convincing, clean speech from dynamic, likable characters.
Halvorson's character work and line art toe the line between stylized and universal. The drawings are distinct even as they have cartoonish qualities that give the reader a sense of familiarity without feeling generic.
Nalty uses an interesting palette of colors that evoke an older style of comics without succumbing to the pitfalls of that era, much in the same way Stranger Things evokes how you remember '80s films without reflecting exactly what they actually looked like.
Esposito's lettering is mostly conventional, but does a good job expressing the emotion of the scene and is never muddled or unreadable, which is ultimately what it needs to accomplish.
The page layouts generally reflect the mood of each page, which is effective considering the subject matter and themes. When things get chaotic, the panels get more unconventional and experimental, which engages the reader and adds visual variety.
The story is fantastical in nature, but isn't afraid to get too real and "go there" so to speak. Heavy subjects and real, urgent concerns are brought up and explored in each issue from neglect and abuse to the emotional instability of being a teenager.
Even when handling heavy themes, the story never gets dreary or over-encumbered with drama. There is always an air of levity, joy, and hope even during the lowest moments of the two lead characters.
Halvorson's fashion game is on point as outfits change between every issue and do real work to visually express the internal workings of each character, even those that are barely on the page.
The core concept is fascinating not only as wish fulfillment, but as a plot device and metaphor for the turbulent nature of adolescence. Every teenager wishes they could have control over their emotions and literalizing that works to create an intriguing comic.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
Big content warning for domestic abuse in this book. The subject is handled well, but explicitly; if you can't stomach scenes of violence between family members, this isn't the book for you.
While the ambitious layouts mostly work in the book's favor, occasionally it's not obvious what order the panels come in which can make a page difficult to read and break the reader's immersion.
The lettering is occasionally laid out in such a way that makes it more difficult to read dialogue in the correct order. Balloons will occasionally hide themselves at the bottom left of the page before jumping to the top of the next panel, subtly encouraging the reader to skip over that balloon. It's more of a speed bump than anything, but it's worth noting since even momentary doubt can often break a reader's concentration on the story.
For a book that is really thematically solid, it's bewildering to me that the characters get a handle on their powers as quickly as they do with such pinpoint accuracy. It seems like a story about teenagers struggling with emotions should show a larger struggle figuring out how exactly to manipulate those emotions.
These first five issues seem lopsided in terms of who gets development and where the story takes place. As much as it is about the friendship between these two affected teenagers, what struggles Wes has always play second fiddle to Sadie's story. As a result, Wes feels a little underdeveloped, something that I hope they address in the next arc.
Though the core concept is wonderful and drives the story deftly, the implications and full scope of the powers these kids possess is largely unexplored. Again, this will likely come up in the next arc, but this first volume comes across as incurious at times regarding its own premise.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
It's unusual to see such an adult story in such accessible packaging. Though the cartoonish art style and retro color scheme present a light, nostalgic comic, the meat of the story is as challenging as it is fascinating. There's enough action and drama to keep even the most basic reader entertained, but for those that crave something deeper out of their media, Finger Guns delivers in spades with dynamic, diverse characters, complex themes about consequences and the nature of emotion, and character-driven dialogue that doesn't waste the reader's time with clunky exposition or melodramatic speeches.
You likely already know the Yeti's stance on Vault Comics, but even in such an impressive list of titles from the publisher, Finger Guns stands out as a compelling, mature story anyone can enjoy. I feel genuinely comfortable recommending this series to anyone; the art is incredible, the story is engaging, and it's almost impossible to walk away from this story without feeling invested in the characters. If you like comics, you'll find a home here; if you're just getting into comics, this is a pretty good place to start.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
We Can Never Go Home by various creators
Teen Titans: Raven by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo
Falconhyrste by Melissa Capriglione & Clara W.
If you like the art:
The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
4 Kids Walk Into A Bank by Matthew Rosenberg & Tyler Boss
Hawkeye by Matt Fraction & David Aja
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Justin Richards (@EmoComicWriter) – Writer
New Face: Finger Guns #1 seems to be his first written comic
Used to be a comic critic and would review comics weekly with friends
On The Rise: I mean, he got his comic published by Vault Comics, that's pretty awesome!
Val Halvorson (@Fishmas) – Artist
New Face: Seems that Finger Gun is his first published work, with him working on another series called, The Sequels
Fan of working on horror and noir stories
Had a short story published in Death of the Horror Anthology
Rebecca Nalty (@rebnalty) – Colorist
Outlander: Lives in Dublin, Ireland
Was a background artist on BBC's Danger Mouse
Prolific: Has worked on a multitude of comics as Colorist
Taylor Esposito (@TaylorEspo) – Letterer
Multitalented: Does a few different comic-related design jobs, and quite a few Graphic Design jobs, all which can be found on his website.
Prolific: Has worked on books for DC/Dynamite/Dark Horse, and now Vault Comics
Second-degree black belt in Koei-Kan Karate-Do
WHERE DO I BUY IT?
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