Words: Chris Dreier
Colors: Chris Dreier
Publisher: 215 Ink
Freaks & Gods and I have an interesting history. I randomly saw my friend Dan McMahon tweet something about 215 Ink on Twitter. Once I saw that they had trades in the store I knew that’s the direction I’d be going. But part of why I wanted to support them was because they were throwing in free comics with every order. 2 guesses on what one of those free comics was.
All totally fine with me, I’d been eyeing Freaks & Gods anyway. Plus who am I to complain about free comics? Only a monster would do that. The kind of monster only a copyright lawyer could love.
Speaking of copyright lawyers, one of the things I find really interesting about Freaks & Gods is the use of public domain characters. Not everyone though, our main characters here are original creations from Chris Dreier. Steve-Steph is the quantum fusion of two people from alternate realities who blink between the two, which really makes them the same person depending on how you look at things. Atum is the beginning of the Egyptian pantheon of gods who has had his body put back together using parts from various creatures and just wants to die. Barghest is a knight from the Round Table who was cursed to turn into a wolf beast but has been able to somewhat control the curse even though he’s stuck in that form. It’s a really nice mix of characters that bring with them some innate conflict to a variety of situations.
Where the public domain characters really kick in, especially in this first issue, is with the villains. I’m really loving Chris’s expansion of the villain’s stories, a move that takes them from one dimensional 1950s creations that read to my 2020 sensibilities as characters who were never meant to be seen again so little thought was put into them, and instead now are fully fledged characters. Not being up on my old school horror comics, I thought that a reference to Eerie #1 from 1951 was just thrown into the book to make things look like the character King of the Living Dead had a history. Spoiler alert: he does, the issue is real, I’ve grabbed a panel and put it here for comparison.
Yes, this reads stylistically like the old school comics from the 1960s and 70s. There’s no getting around that, and if it’s a turn off for you then there’s no getting away from it. Fortunately for me I don’t have a problem with that, which is good because it’s done really well here. It’s just Chris’s style and it works well with the characters he’s playing with and the stories that he’s telling here.
No, your brain isn’t deceiving you. This is a first issue that just reads like there’s a ton of backstory. You’ll get to learn more stuff eventually. And to be perfectly honest, I like not being spoon fed every bit of information. I appreciate that I’m given a chance here to make guesses for myself about what’s going on with these characters and how they got to be the way they are. You could certainly go back and read the old public domain stuff that gets referenced in the panels if you’re curious, but you certainly don’t have to. I definitely didn’t until I’d read some more of the series, but I’ll write those reviews later.
What you have here is a fun comic full of fun characters that doesn’t have everything just thrown in your face. It’s an ensemble story that clearly knows where it’s going and has a plan for the characters, but there’s no inherent reason why we couldn’t see any of these characters leave the team or new ones join up. This and other issues I’ve read all work as self contained stories but seeing things as a whole leads to better connections that just make the universe richer. It’s a throw back to the days when every comic was printed as if it was someone’s first experience and companies didn’t want to take the chance on losing out on a new reader just because they missed out on getting an issue.
Things like this are why I really like indie comics. Don’t get me wrong, the big boys over at Marvel and DC are the big boys for a reason and they (mostly) know what they’re doing. But the real joy for me is finding a gem like this and knowing that I’ll be able to show my friends something they probably wouldn’t have otherwise found.
If you’re reading this before November 4th then I think the best way to get your hands on the first 3 Freaks & Gods titles is to support the Tales from the Dark Tunnel Kickstarter. After that you’ll probably have to go to the 215 Ink store and get them there. The only thing I can really complain about with this series, and really 215 Ink as a whole, is that they’re such a small publisher that I have to preorder a book if I’m going to get it through my shop.
But really, if that’s all I can complain about then I think everyone is doing pretty good.
One way or another, get your hands on this book. You’ll get a great story and support a smaller publisher and creative team. What’s better than that?