(Red Line Comics, 2014)
Story by Brian Visaggio
Art by Kevin Roberts
Return to the Earth of the future, just one of thousands that are caught in the midst of an inter-planetary struggle for supremacy, and for once, we are but caught up in someone else’s storm, dust motes in a galactic struggle we neither provoked or denied. Created by Brian Visaggio and Kevin Roberts, Stronghold is the story of both sides of an imperial war, with Earth as the battlefield.
On one side are the T’Aya, the good guys if you will, allies of the human race, but without a discernable motivation, other than their hatred of Earth’s current non-human occupiers, the Ouranians (or…”the bad guys”). Now the battlefield has come to Earth, and Earth’s rebellion is on the cusp of becoming a full-fledged civil war. The T’Aya are all but extinct and the current Ouranian occupiers think of them as legend. Now they have reappeared and are using the natives (humans) in their ongoing war.
Brian Visaggio builds the story with the people in the first three issues. He focuses on the their individual trials, the strange paths that take them to a point where a T’Ayan named Marveller hand picks them to become an elite fighting force powered by T’Ayan technology. Visaggio preps each character in a way that is seldom used, and until issue four, two of them still aren’t on board with the rebellion. Even by the end, there are major concerns within the blossoming group. Marveller is their Dungeon Master, just like the little guy from the 80’s toon, who seems to have all the answers when they’re needed. At the same time Visaggio is building up sympathy on the Ouranian side by introducing Euprophone, an Ouranian free lancer who specializes in all things human, from 80’s culture to the quickest way to make a person squeal. (As portrayed in the book, the squeal looks as if it could come in any manner of pleasant or unpleasant ways.) She certainly adds a real aspect to the cold Ouranian’s, a personal aspect, one which shows the alien occupiers as passionate warriors rather than the cold bureaucrats they’ve been shown as up to now. Rest assured that issue four shows us that the Ouranians gained the galaxy for a reason, and they intend to hold it by bloody means if necessary. (And maybe a little blood even if it’s not necessary.) They aren’t your garden variety Empire, waiting to bungle the next mission and leave a perfect opening for the rebellion. Their response will be vicious and effective.
Kevin Roberts’s art keeps getting better. His feel for the characters, both alien and human, is stronger than ever. With such a large cast with such different variations of structure he makes everyone, even the aliens seem individual. The action sequences in this book are few, but the ones that are there made me want to go back to the first three issues and re-read. (Chock-full of aliens and lasers and armor.)
Just as the first three issues introduced us to what will be the much longer story arc, issue 4 is the prequel to the next round of action. It sets the stage for the battle to come, and with Visaggio on the story and Roberts on the art, you can be sure that Stronghold is here for the long run.
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.