(Redline Comics, 2014)
Writer – Brian Visaggio
Art – Kevin Roberts
Letters – Zakk Saam
Editor – Heather Antos
Cons are special places. If you’re a fan of comics and/or pop culture I would highly recommend attending one, most states have some sort of big con at least once a year. I came to cons a little late, attending my first only three years ago, but in those three years I’ve changed how I attend. Instead of searching dealers, digging through boxes in the hopes of finding that special book to fill a run, or haggling over the price of a Todd McFarlane Incredible Hulk #340, I go right to artists’ alley and begin the long day of talking with all of those fine people, trying to launch their books into the public eye.
Stronghold #5 debuted last week, and it’s writer, Brian Visaggio, will be prowling New York ComicCon this week, doing exactly what aspiring comic makers do at cons, hawking their wares like the tinkers of old, putting their hard work in paper form for the trolls to stomp on. But Stronghold, the fifth issue and the rest, is just as good as anything you’ll find on the wall, and a lot of what you’ll find in the dollar boxes. (There could be a #340, forgotten and forlorn, awaiting a bag and board…) Visaggio has taken his passion for writing and for comics and poured it into his project and the aforementioned fifth issue.
Stronghold is a little bit Star Wars, a little bit G-Force. There are bits of political intrigue and more than your fair share of ass-kickery. The Stronghold world is a conquered world, one that has been under hostile rule for as long as the Earthlings there can remember, and until recently, they’ve had very little to no hope for any kind of relief. The Throne has an iron grip on humanity, and now the Taya, a nearly extinct race, has come to offer help against their ancient enemies.
The Taya have chosen a group of terrorists, called the Stronghold, who already have been fighting against the Throne, to receive the gift of Taya technology, which turns them into weapons beyond their ken. The story is mostly from Marc’s view, a man who until recently was employed by the Throne as a security officer, and was married to the personal assistant of the Throne’s earthly leader, Phanesis. Marc’s wife was killed and her allegiance to Stronghold was recently brought to light.
Issue 5 brings the team to their knees in grief, and explores the way a death can propel a person forward into a situation that they would not normally jump into. Visaggio has a passion for science fiction that is palpable and a grasp of the medium that is undeniable.
The art for Stronghold is provided by Kevin Roberts, whose style matches the vivid imagery that Visaggio has laid out. This is a big cast of characters, five on the main team not including their Taya mentor, and a full cast of aliens with very specific and intriguing physical traits. This is a spot in the artwork that could be problematic, but instead Roberts shines, giving each character the special attention they deserve. And paneling? It’s not so 70’s anymore. I’m not usually a fan of unique paneling in comics, but during the fight scenes in Stronghold the panels are split on angles, in almost glass-shattered patterns, and laid out and filled so nicely that I think it works. The fractured look helps to speed up the fight, make it seem like it’s moving more quickly than my usually slow-moving eye.
Brian Visaggio is making comics. He’s making good comics. And he’s already shown the tenacity it takes to get five…yes five…issues out on his own hard work. That’s no small thing in today’s market.
Here’s the deal. If you’ve not read Stronghold as a series yet, then get on it. Perhaps you don’t’ have it at your LCS? Then have them order it, or go to Comixology. If you are one of the fortunate thousands to be wandering around New York Comic Con this week, seek him out. Brian Visaggio will be prowling the booths there, and with a little luck he’ll have copies on hand for you to buy, but better get them now because I see a future for Stronghold with a bigger company, and then…well, then you’ll have to stand in line to see him.
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.