PopCultHQ received a review copy of STAINED #1 from 451 Media Group. In stores May 3rd, the creative team for this series features writing and colors from David Baron (GREEN ARROW: YEAR ONE, BLOODSHOT REBORN), illustrations by Yusuf Idris (DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE), letters from Simon Bowland, and cover artwork for issue one by Steve Morris (MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER) and Jock (WYTCHES, BATMAN, 2000AD).
Here is PopCultHQ’s spoiler-free review of…
Artist: Yusuf Idris
Colorist: David Baron
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Jock (Cover B)
Meet Emma London: recovery artist and bounty hunter for hire. She is strong, possibly indomitable, and did we mention…part machine. Emma is the type that dives head first into things that most wouldn’t and shouldn’t. Those dark places that no one else will go to track down the subhuman criminals lurking in the underbelly of society and brings them to justice. STAINED first comes to life with Emma trying to take down a pair of international diamond smugglers, but her story explodes forward when initially what was thought to be a hunt for a priceless painting with a record high bounty, leads her to something darker and more monstrous than she could have ever imagined.
From 2016 Harvey Award Nominee, David Baron comes a noirish sci-fi adventure unlike any other.
PopCultHQ’s Spoiler-Free Comic Book Review:
The Law has its limits. Emma has none. You sure got that right! To paraphrase Captain Malcolm Reynolds of Firefly, “You got a job, she can do it, don’t much care what it is.” Emma London is raw, tough-as-nails, and conveys a badass swagger. But you’ll find that her results justify her arrogance. This strong and confident protagonist is simply doing what she does best…collecting bounties.
The internal dialogue from Emma throughout STAINED adds a nice flair; it’s reminiscent of hearing Harrison Ford’s voiceover as Rick Decker in Blade Runner. There are instances where the artwork also evokes imagery of the sci-fi classic, but it also does a great job at defining itself and the feel for the series.
The issue delivers a lot for a single issue, let alone a debut. Beyond what most deliver and certainly a terrific value for the cover price. STAINED will also leave you with a few questions, primarily more about Emma’s past and her being part machine. But the questions raised simply make me want to pick up issue two even more. So that’s a good thing. 😉
David Baron has written an outstanding sci-fi thrill ride with STAINED. Though some may find resemblances to Blade Runner and similar futuristic, gritty science fiction films, that’s not quite a fair comparison. David’s story goes beyond and adds an appealing viewpoint through Emma London. He’s created a captivating lead character who is engaging, a little snarky with a bit of a dry sense of humor (great choice!), and very multi-layered in her charming complexity.
I think what is the most important aspect of David Baron’s writing in STAINED #1 to point out is his phenomenal delivery. He’s coming at you full-force from the very beginning to tell his story, keeps the intensity up, and opens you to this world magnificently within a mere 21 pages. But he also does so in a way that makes this future, and this environment in where humans are part-bionic. a believable possibility. Not over-the-top fantasy, but a smart and intentional vision for this world. Impressive storytelling from page one.
Yusuf Idris has created a fantastic-looking world in STAINED. Its futuristic urban setting, the dark and gritty exteriors, and defining characters. The look Yusuf has given the individuals really adds to the feel of David’s delivery and to the story’s atmosphere. I was also impressed by the artist’s grasp of depth. His depictions as to proximity, distance, range and all, it added to the authenticity of this moving story.
A couple of things which I admired from Idris are things in which I hope readers really give a good look. First, the inks are strong in STAINED and I wouldn’t want to see it any other way. Truly adds a great street vibe and sets a nice tone. Secondly, pay attention to the backgrounds. As striking and alive the characters are in each panel, the softer backgrounds are considerably detailed. It’s almost as if it tells another story at times; the visualization this future culture, capturing the essence of the dreary nightlife in this shady city, giving you more in panel after panel. This is an artist who’ll go beyond what’s expected. Great work, Yusuf!
Back to Baron! The colors in STAINED are well-suited for the genre: matted, earthen, and often dark. But in looking deeper into David’s work it’s evident that he’s pulled back a bit from traditional coloring, instead allowing the strong inks and Yusuf’s illustrations to really be the highlight and focus. The synergy created between Baron’s contributions and Idris’ artwork really makes for one beautiful story.
Simon Bowland had his fair share of work in this premiere issue. With as much as Baron wanted to be able to tell, especially in establishing background and the development of the characters, that meant for a little bit of strategic layout. But Simon proved throughout he was up to the challenge. Bowland also does a terrific job with his placement, really taking into account the illustrations and the background and not detracting from Idris and Baron’s contributions. Nicely done.
PopCultHQ’s overall assessment:
I honestly cannot remember the last time I picked up a sci-fi comic book and was immediately (and I mean immediately) immersed into a fast-paced, action-packed thrill ride as I did with STAINED #1. Pardon my language on this but it’s most fitting…Emma London makes Boba Fett look like a little bitch. This is a bounty hunter on a mission, determined to do what she does best, which is kickin’ ass and collectin’ cash.
The creators of STAINED work quite admirably as a cohesive team. Writer David Baron has an intense narrative and delivers it exceptionally. Coupled with an appealing looking environment and what is a rather unique and iconic look for Emma London, STAINED has all the makings of another hit for 451 Media. With what has been delivered in issue one, the stage is set for an exciting adventure in what looks to become the next great sci-fi action hero.
4.5 out of 5 Stars
Be sure to look for STAINED #1
at your local comic shop and online retailers on May 3rd!
Be sure to follow the creative team!
Writer – David Baron
Artist – Yusuf Idris
Letterer – Simon Bowland
Publisher – 451 Media Group