SAFE WORD: INSIDE THE VAULT (WEEK OF FEB. 10, 2020)
Vault Comics puts out more and more high-quality comics than any other publisher. That's the opinion of this site, anyway, but it's an opinion we share with more and more readers, critics, and pros in the industry.
We'll keep doing full reviews for new arcs and/or trades and OGNs for the publisher but, in an effort to prevent ourselves from ONLY reviewing Vault titles and to keep up with their growing catalog, we'll curate some briefer reviews of Vault's issues in lists like this. If it's not a collected volume or the first issue in an arc, you'll likely find it here. It's not an exhaustive list of everything they've put out recently, but it's what we've read, along with some highlights of our favorite parts of each issue.
(Unless otherwise noted, Adrian F. Wassel edits each issue, and Tim Daniel does the design work.)
MONEY SHOT #4
Review written by Matt Ligeti
W: Tim Seeley & Sarah Beattie
A: Rebekah Isaacs
C: Kurt Michael Russell
The XXX-plorers thought it was gonna be Easy Street, flitting about the galaxy, banging aliens and each other for that sweet, sweet streaming money to fund their scientific endeavors. But, as they say, it's all fun and games until someone's orgasm destroys an army.
Because of this massive boner (meaning "blunder," folks!), Christine and Omar are forced to watch as the rest of their party fight Bweedt, an alien murder monster. Luckily, the latter has a friend on the inside, and he's got a surprise or two in his sack. Or...adorning it? It's probably best if you see for yourself.
This issue's an action-packed thrill-ride, and we don't want to get off. Here's hoping this title stays around for many more arcs!
Every issue of Money Shot does double duty to help us remember what happened in previous installments. And honestly, I love that. If you read month-to-month, it can be really easy to forget what happened, even in the last issue, so this helps as a runway to get you up to speed again for the current issue. Also, the "favorite" gag in the opening scene and how highly specific it was is a hilarious wink-and-a-nod to people's individual kinks.
Literal line from my notes, verbatim: "Oh God the spiked testicles and the SFX they make are glorious." The great thing about a book like this one is every issue blazes new territory and does its own thing, so you have no idea what to expect. Because of this, every story beat is met with surprise and joyful aplomb.
The "reluctant hero" archetype is a favorite of mine, and Omar clearly wants no part of anything going on in this comic. Not only does that bring humor and authenticity to the page, it also builds character. He's here for Ocampo, even when they're on the outs. That says a lot about who he is.
Rebekah Isaacs draws Omar in similar prison garb to Christine's, and I am here for such sexy equality when it comes to bone bikinis.
As mentioned earlier, it's a high-action issue, which gives Crank! some great moments for big, fun sound effects, like "VIBRA TOOM!"
Kurt Michael Russel's palette for this bright and dry planet has a lot of bright yellows and oranges, which makes sense, right? But I like how he uses the darker, cooler colors to give the eye a break and balance the book, but also to lend a bit of gravity to the more serious moments in the issue.
I really appreciate the writers' attention to sound in this comic. In comics, the only time we really get hints at the way something should sound is from the letterer. And we get that! But we also get a little line from Supermassive Black Hole about the sound of his voice. Bonus points for the creators and publisher having the cojones to name-drop "Frozen."
What Doesn't Work?
Reader, this issue can only be described as "Testicle-forward." Likely, if you're reading this comic, you're probably fine with that and honestly, the versatility of that ballsack is hilarious. In fact, it's nearly a deus ex machina, playing a key role in one part ("deus ex scrotum"?) But if you have a problem with giant balls and their happy holster being used like a flail or life net, you might want to read a less...nutsacky comic?
I think I imagined more planet-hopping in the series, but it looks like our sexy, scientific team of adventurers will remain on this planet for at least one more issue beyond this one. Which is fine! But if you're like me, you might need to adjust your expectations for the pace of the narrative's interstellar XXX-ploration.
FINGER GUNS #2
Review written by Jason Jeffords, Jr.
W: Justin Richards
A: Val Halvorson
C: Rebecca Nalty
L: Taylor Esposito
Finger Guns #1’s first half focused on Wes and his daily life, up until the latter part where he met Sadie. In Finger Guns #2, Richards flips the script and shows the audience a day in the life of Sadie for the most part. With this mirror change in narrativee, Richards and team show how alike the duo are, but also where the differences lie.
Yes, there is still finger gun action, but it acts more as a side-development to the everyday life of the teenagers in this issue. This is where Finger Guns' strongest suit comes in. The first issue introduced one character’s world, while the second introduced the others while opening up a few different plots. Now, the story can just about go anywhere while still making sense. It seems like it’s going one way, then bam, it’s going another way.
Through the way of parallel storytelling, the issue shows how the two teens are alike in their family predicament, even though they may not know it. All that while building tracks for the future.
Whoa, is Jason talking about a cover again? Yes, yes he is. A) Every creator is listed! A fair amount of times, the letterer isn’t listed (sometimes even the colorist), yet Vault Comics is always on top of this. B) The cover really reminds me of The Creation of Adam painting. Fun fact: I had no idea what that painting was called.
When opening Finger Guns #2 the first-page may seem vaguely familiar. That’s because it is! The panel structure is the same as the first issue, down to the same colors in the middle panel and the final long panel having a character smack-dab in the middle. As the story mirrors the first in taking its time to show how alike the main characters are, this page makes a lot of sense.
Total conspiracy, but could Mr. County (Guidance Counselor) be Wes’s dad? The way a panel focuses on his name. The last panel is seen from a long distance could be a metaphor for him not always being there for his son. Add on to the Employee of The Month (loved the gag – felt very Hot Fuzz) showing how he is always busy with work. You may ask, “Well, wouldn’t he get off with his son?” Yes, but he probably holds a second job because teachers don’t make a lot of money. Finally, Wes County would be a cool name. Alas, conspiracy theories are fun!
The fantastic mix of drama and fun moments still stands out in the second issue. This mix of genres can be hard to do, much less one based around teenagers. Even more so, Richards's characterization for the two main teens is great and hyper-realistic, the way they are written is a great representation of (some) real teenagers.
I knew an Urban Dictionary joke would happen, so that makes me happy.
Halvorson’s art is still a perfect match for the story being told. The continued use of breaking the gutter (white space) makes each page that much more dramatic. And the double-page-spread of the teens is hilarious and balanced and a great way to showcase them testing their abilities even more, which totally makes sense as something they'd naturally want to do. Plus, the two kids' reactions when watching our heroes was comedy gold.
Nalty’s color usage for emotion helps sell what each character is feeling in said panel.
It’s hard to put it into “elegant” words, but Halvorson’s art and Nalty’s colors work perfectly together and are futzing drop-dead gorgeous.
The scene with Chester was MASSIVELY endearing and joyful.
Esposito’s lettering is still top-notch. When a character feels emotion, Esposito makes sure you feel it in the lettering. Not only that, but he makes sure the bubbles never cover the art.
Memorable Quote: “I guess the grass is always greener.” – Wes. For such a “simple” line, this hit hard while summing up a lot of Finger Guns. Plus, it shows how, for all their similarities, there's still an ocean of difference between Wes and Sadie in some ways.
What a great damn cliffhanger!
What Doesn't Work?
Unless I am losing my mind (I may very well be), but it seems that Guidance Counselor is spelled wrong on the first page. There it’s spelled, Guidance Councelor with a C, not an S. (This was likely fixed before print, but after we got the review copies.)
Yet again, I’m hard-pressed to find anything that doesn’t work in Finger Guns #2. Per usual, Vault Comics continues to produce works of art in the comics medium.