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Down by the Old Mainstream: Action Lab Actionverse #0 Review

When I think of the mainstream in comics, I usually think of the Big Two publishing with some other things mixed in. I think it is safe to assume The Walking Dead is fairly mainstream by now. However, another thought that’s crossed my mind while thinking of mainstream comics is a Wilco song called The Late Greats. In the song, the lyrics mention how “the best bands will never get signed,” and that “you can’t hear them on the radio.”

This particular lyric hits me as I think about how the Big Two books are currently flooding the market and there are some great books being lost or missed due to these churning waters. While I love some of the books being put out by DC and Marvel and those characters have always been close to my heart, I write this with the intention of giving some of those books a little more “airtime” to stick with my Wilco-inspired comic book musings. And maybe if we’re lucky, we might discover the best comic book that is lying outside the mainstream.

Since December 2012, I have had my comic books shipped to me once a month and since that time, my habits and pull list have evolved and changed.  Three years later, and my December shipment had a real gem of a book in it from Action Lab Entertainment. Actionverse issue zero presents readers with the publisher’s attempt to take some of their superhero characters and create a shared universe. In this issue, readers get to enjoy a team-up issue featuring the main characters from the Stray, Midnight Tiger, and Molly Danger series. As the story progresses, we are shown that Gavin Shaw is a young man learning to be a hero as Midnight Tiger, Rodney Weller is the hot-headed former sidekick Rottweiler now known as Stray, and Molly Danger is the level-headed veteran hero who still looks like a child. This all comes through in a funny scene after Molly broke up a misunderstanding between the other two characters. Introductions are made and Midnight Tiger happily points out the comic book trope of the characters fighting and then joining together against a common foe. The single panel of pure joy on his face when he exclaims this is a team-up makes him a great point of view character for the reader and allows us to get excited along with him.

At this point, the characters do indeed band together and go after their common foe who has mutated into a giant monster from an experiment gone wrong. The fight works out perfectly in giving each character a chance to shine and impact the story. On top of that, some more world-building and history is laid out through dialogue between Stray and Molly. I’d hate to spoil any of the finer points of the story, but the ending to the issue is what I would have to call “picture perfect.”

The writing for this issue was provided by Vito Delsante and Jamal Igle, the writer and writer/artist from Stray and Molly Danger respectively, and does an incredible job of creating a primer for readers to jump into each of the three series. The writing helps to showcase the differences between the three heroes and manages to do so without feeling like an exposition dump. Art duties are handled by Stray co-creator and artist, Sean Izaakse, and Midnight Tiger creator, Ray-Anthony Height. Throughout the issue, their art shines with clean lines and energetic storytelling. The facial expressions really convey both the emotion and character of each hero. Best of all may be the fact that each character is easily differentiated with different builds and features. This is especially important for the character of Molly since she is designed to look like a young child. The coloring is by Nate Lovett with help from Ben Hunzeker and Tom Chu changes from a muted palette in a flashback scene to being more vibrant in the main story. This also help to keep the characters identifiable as Stray and Midnight Tiger have some similar colors in their costumes. This issue is lettered by Full Court Press and allows readers to easily follow the story. This whole team has put together a high quality, extremely enjoyable reading experience that more than earns the price of admission.

This book was released on December 2nd with a cover price of $3.99. If you haven’t read or purchased it yet, it may still be available at your local comic store. If not, the issue is currently available on Comixology for $0.99 for all you digital fans. This really is a fun book and you may find that you want to explore these characters in their own series. This again is easily accomplished through Comixology. However, if you are like me and still like your comics in print form, their should be ways to find it on the web through various comic book dealers. I was lucky enough to meet Jamal Igle on FCBD last year. Aside from being one of the nicest pros in the business, he was selling the Molly Danger Hardcover, which I bought for my daughters. Stray has a nice trade paperback collection that I will be adding to my monthly comic order and will likely do the same once a Midnight Tiger is released.

That’s all for now, but I’d love to hear what great books anyone else has found while navigating those constantly churning waters of the mainstream. Until next time, happy hunting.

I can remember being given my first comic before I could read. Thankfully I've learned how to read and continue to enjoy the comics medium. This love has been shared with my wife and two daughters who enjoy the books as well as other comic book…

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