(Capstan Comics 2013/2014)
Book One: The Arrival
Written by Tim Kenyon
Artwork by Gerry Kissell
Lettering by Bernie Lee
Written by Tim Kenyon
Artwork by Rob Garcia
Indie comics have gradually become a passion of mine over the last year. The tenacity it takes to not only build a small business, but to build it in a market that is dominated so thoroughly is enough to make it seem a Herculean effort just to put out your own, self-published book. To take that idea, and actually build a business around it…well, let’s just say that you have to have a spine laced with adamantium to consider this a viable option.
Tim Kenyon, founder of Michigan-based Capstan Comics, has such a spine. Capstan, founded in 2010, is in the comics business specifically to find those artists and writers who haven’t made it mainstream, but whose work is such that it should be shown to a comics buying public.
Endtime, released in 2013, is Capstan’s first original graphic novel. It deals in a sort of pseudo-present, just slightly altered, where the country, perhaps the world (insert maniacal laughter here) is run by a shadowy government called The Warden. Zoom in to a hospital, where Dr. Cole Ramsey is on the cusp of committing his wife to the Warden’s care. Even at this early juncture, knowing very little about the overall premise, this seems like a bad idea, but he signs the papers anyway. As if this weren’t hard enough, his wife is then admitted to the hospital, and his son is missing, the only clue a bloody car seat. (More on this later.) Also appearing on the scene is Jack Kurgan, mysterious, seen earlier in a flashback to WWI trenches (and looking pretty good for over 100), who stumbles into the emergency room with a gunshot wound. We find out later that he is a somewhat confused angel of death, sent forward, or perhaps back, in time to change the future, (Or the past) and plagued by a black-eyed spectral nurse. As with all stories involving time-travel, it could get messy without a flow chart. What unfolds over the course of the book is a complicated narrative that weaves singular lives and choices together under the watchful eye of The Warden.
I really dig this book, and before I get too deep into it, know that my mind was making the Twelve Monkeys connection even before I saw it in print in the third chapter. (It really is referenced in the text.) Even with that similarity, the story holds up by itself. Kenyon has a unique ability in his restraint, seen also in Paradise Prison (also coming later). As a writer, one of the main purposes is to get the story across. It’s one of the things I struggle with in my own writing. A constant question, “Am I making them understand? Is that kernel that birthed the story in the first place planted?” In both of these comics, Kenyon has the faith in his own story, the knowledge that it will come across in the end, that make it unnecessary to include useless expository pages. I was a little confused about the role of The Warden, but it clears up. I didn’t know what Cole was up to…you find out. This method of storytelling is far more work, but it in turn builds a far more intricate story, and that story ends up grabbing onto you much harder. You can tell that Mr. Kenyon is an educator, because he makes you work for it, and you end up loving him for it in the end.
The art, to match the story, is great. Gerry Kissell (Lou Ferrigno: Liberator, Army of Two) has a sketchy quality (the good sketchy, not the bad) to his figures, but composes them in a setting that can be crisply perfect at times. His characters are expertly drawn, and he infuses them with great emotion. You can see how conflicted Ramsey is; you see his struggles wrought in his expression, and Kurgen’s almost constant dismay. In a story that is not heavily action-based, Kissell finds ways to make the panels still jump out at you, weather it be coloring choices or points of view. It all adds up to make for a great looking book.
I don’t know when Endtime Book 2 is coming out, but I’ll be keeping a wary eye out for it, because the story is just too good to miss.
And that’s not the only book Capstan has, Paradise Prison #1 was released this year, also written by Kenyon with art by Rob Garcia.
Randall Flood is the victim of a society that has imposed a strict sentence on repeat offenders. His third strike was in defense of his wife and child, but the blind eyes of justice sent him away despite that. In this future, the Grid is the new prison. Convicts are uploaded into the grid, where they then live a charmed life. Beautiful women (if you’re into that) parties (ditto) etc. and all you can ask for are provided in the prison of your own mind. But occasionally people are paroled, and Flood has seen it happen in a way that makes him anxious to stay.
Kenyon has a fantastic mind for the “almost” future, and this is just another example of how he weaves a story slowly, dragging you along until it’s too late for you to escape. I really liked Rob Garcia’s vision on how the inmates were “paroled”, a digitizing of their bodies in front of the others.
Though a small company, Capstan Comics has already produced a full-length graphic novel and has begun a comic series. And that’s the real test isn’t it? Anyone can say, “I’m going to make comics” but there are those special few who actually do it. Tim Kenyon and the folks at Capstan are making comics.
Learn more about Capstan Comics and their titles by visiting them at www.capstancomics.com
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.