(Red Line Comics, 2013)
Script and Story – Brian Visaggio
Story, Art, Letters – Kevin Roberts
Story – Martin Krause
The business of comics is not easy to break into, and was even harder to do so a decade ago. But with the advent of new sharing technology, the popularity of sites like Comixology as a medium for comic reading and transfer of data, and the rise of social media like Twitter and Facebook, it has become possible for people to put their own projects out there.
The creative teams of Brian Visaggio and Kevin Roberts have just released their three-issue run of Stronghold on Comixology. Prepare to take a stand.
This is a near-future story, and humanity is, while not enslaved by the Ouranians, not exactly free either. When the aliens landed there was a war which humanity quickly lost. Now we are twenty years past that, and living in a relatively peaceful state. The Ouranians, despite being brutal during the occupation, have brought new technology to Earth. Now we are a space traveling race. There are humans on Mars. The brief period of war seems a small price to pay for all of the benefits the Ouranians have given them. But there is a contingent that doesn’t believe the status quo. They are the Stronghold, a group of freedom fighters and domestic terrorists who fight against the oppressive regime of the Ouranians. They believe that there are things their rulers aren’t telling them and will do anything they must to regain the freedom their fathers and mothers lost.
The story takes the point of view of many different kinds of people. There is a slacker, a cop, a high-level aide in the Ouranian government and her husband, a member of the Redbacks, the security force. Each of these people has a stake in the events unfolding, individual and specific. They receive a gift literally from the heavens in the form of a “transformation gear” which gives them a type of battle suit. It was design by the T’Aya, an alien race that has been opposing the Ouranians for years in other parts of the galaxy.
It’s interesting to see the evolution of this book. Because the creation was spread out over several years, you see the change in the confidence of the artist, as well as the honing of his craft. I don’t think it takes away from the book at all to have a different look to the issues because they’re close enough to each other in style that you can see and appreciate the change in his talent level.
The design seemed familiar to me, and when I read the postscript I understood why. Once the heroes get the transformation gears and use them, they each are encased in a different colored battle suit, which evokes a familiar design. They remind me of a cross between the Power Rangers (who are cited as an inspiration) and the G-Force cartoon from the mid-80’s.
The poignant thing about his book is a feeling I couldn’t shake as I read it. The Ouranians have many similarities to the way our own government is viewed throughout the world. They are the “bringers of peace” through short and brutal war. They bring technological advancements that they give for the price total domination. It also puts into sharp focus the idea of how terrorism is view depending upon who is doing the viewing. To those people who are oppressed, terrorism is seen as a brand of patriotism. To the ruling party it is the attempt to push a political agenda through violence. This book puts people on both sides of the issue and explores their reactions to a single terrorist act. The morals and ethics of a situation depend entirely on which side of the issue you’re on.
Stronghold is a futuristic story that lays out the issues in multiple levels, making you see the story from more than one point of view. The platform is in a science fiction world, but there is less fiction in this story than you would think. These are real problems faced in the real world, and Stronghold is a lens through which we can see the reality.
Stronghold is available on Comixology at http://cmxl.gy/1ibHI7o
Both Brian Visaggio and Kevin Roberts are on Twitter at @StrongholdComic and @kemiroart respectively.
Brad Gischia is a writer and artist living in the frozen Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He is married and has three kids and a dog, who all put up with his incessant prattling about comic books.