On August 22nd, Aspen Comics debuted a brand spanking new series called Artifact One. And guess what? Over here at Nerdbot we were fortunate enough to receive a sneak peek of the inaugural issue, so I thought an appropriate introduction to the run will hopefully motivate you to check it out for yourself.

Again a big thank you to Aspen Comics!

Artifact One was written/created by J.T. Krul and Vince Hernandez. Art by Romina Moranelli. Letters by Dezi Sienty. A basic summary would be an exploratory tale set in a world where clerics preside over the realm, and rule with a strict devotion to ancient decrees. Our main character Remi, a relic hunter, discovers something that may change the course of civilization as she knows it. I’m paraphrasing the press release obviously, but you get the idea. Sort of like a quest for the truth type story equipped with crazy huge insect creatures and vibrant, yet simple illustrations that command your attention.

We begin with our protagonist Remi collecting some rare stones from a cave. Remember the crazy huge insect creatures I referenced? Well she evades one in the first frames of the book. Then it’s off to the market in the Kingdom of Kaladon where she sells various herbs and such from her expeditions. Here we get our first introduction to the landscape, imagine Mos Eisley but with religious sermons held in the streets. While the clerics garner a good sized audience, the words seem to have minimal meaning to Remi. She’s not like everyone else.

Then we travel to Remi’s house where her father is hard at work on what appears to be a table leg. He’s a rugged carpenter with an impressive skill set, just as long as he’s not rushed. “The very nature of craftsmanship stands at odds with speed” is a line he says which speaks to his character as well as provides an example of the solid writing throughout the issue. Then she shows him the stones. It takes going to a secret lab hidden behind a wall but when they take a closer look at the rocks… he determines the minerals are something that has yet to be discovered and those who are “afraid” are the ones to worry about.

Next we get a little more on the bad guys as they break into the home of an alchemist. A group of skull faced clerics, dressed in black robes, confront him. They claim to be servants of the rulers and the practice of alchemy is defiling nature. Even though the man is only claiming to be searching for knowledge, the clerics aren’t having any of it. The lead skull head calls the alchemist a poison then draws his knife of salvation.

And the issue ends… a damn good cliffhanger if I do say so myself. For only featuring two story threads we get enough information to set the scene perfectly. Issue #0 of Artifact One presents a different take on the usual dystopian atmosphere. We’re used to the whole cyber punk thing with four hundred foot tall billboards and humanoid cyborgs, technology overload. By taking the audience to a fantasy style kingdom setting, the dynamic is shaken up which appears fresh. Definitely different from anything in mainstream comic culture.

That’s the beauty of independent anything, movies, music, whatever, is the lines of storytelling can be pushed to new levels. Not every comic has to have a costumed crusader. The concept of dystopia isn’t limited to cyber punk. You can have a religious element without being too in your face about it.

I will also add that a female lead is another beautifully crafted dynamic change. Even though it exists in both comics and fantasy, you rarely see the two mixed together. If the female presence is to become more prominent in pop culture, writers are going to have to find ways to tell what we’re male centric tales then modify them for a different character type. Ten years ago this would have just been another man seeking truth paradigm. But in today’s world, when trying to exceed the norms of the expected, making our protagonist female, of a fantasy comic no less, fringes on the border of pioneering.

Maybe one day there will be an ACU… Aspen Cinematic Universe.

Nerdbot Rating: 7.5 out of 10

By Adam Chmielewski

@PolishKaiju

Photo Credits: Aspen Comics

Did you enjoy Artifact One? Let Nerdbot know in the comments!!