Friday, November 28, 2014

Comic Review: 7th Wave Comics' Undertow

Review By Joe David Thompson
Undertow #1 cover
After the 7th Wave Comics appearance at the Jet City Comic Show earlier this November, Luke Donkersloot shared his latest project with us.  Donkersloot is the writer and letterer of Undertow, an anthology series currently in its fourth issue with a fifth currently in production.
Undertow writer, Luke Donkersloot

After its inception, Undertow evolved to include two separate stories which split each issue.  Undertow begins with The Organ Grinder, an old fashioned Western meets the Twilight Zone, centered around a mysterious, one-armed musician who stumbles into a mining town, with his monkey and interesting instrument in tow.  Trouble ensues when our hero comes up against some unsavory characters doing unsavory acts.  Undertow's back half is currently occupied by The Forgetting, a supernatural tale about magic, reincarnation, and monsters.  

It's challenging to review indie comics chiefly because these are the creators on the front lines, putting these books together on their own dime and time.  To paraphrase an idiom, if you want to get better at something, the best way to do that is by doing it.  If you want to be a writer, then write.  If you want to draw, draw.  If you want to sing in a N'Sync cover band, we need to talk.  

Seriously, you can see this expression in action looking over the four issues of Undertow.  The current issue demonstrates a major evolvement in terms of writing and art.  Where the earlier issues are overly dependent, weighed down even, on the use of captions, this issue uses more visuals and dialogue.  Comics is primarily a visual medium, so it's a natural think to let the images do the talking.  Besides, this demonstrates a trust in your artist, who in turn, gets her chance to shine.  In the case of the Organ Grinder, Gibson Quarter is doing just that: shining with each panel.  In additon, the language of this book has gotten stronger both in terms of directness and swearing.
Undertow #1 digital variant cover

Donkersloot clearly has a vision and a story to tell in both vignettes.  To me, the strongest of these is The Organ Grinder, which owes a big debt to Clint Eastwood's Man with No Name films.  Donkersloot is keeping many of the secrets of the Grinder close to his vest, and I'm ready to know more about this character.  My biggest gripe story wise is with how women are depicted in this world.  While I can appreciate that this period is definitely not packed with feminism, you're not going to attract a strong female readership with a scantily clad Native American victim of violence.  There is a female sharpshooter who is dressed as a man we we first see her.  We discover the supposed "he" is a "she" only when she strips down and finishes her scenes in a bubble bath with a bouyant bosom.  I'd love to see some strong women add some color to this black and white comic.

The Forgotten is an entirely different animal.  I can get the gist of what's going on in this story, I just haven't had a strong reason to care about this one.  The way in here is through the magical elements, but the better part of The Forgetting's run has been spent on reactions to violent creatures by characters we haven't had a chance with which to connect.  Adam Gorham's art makes great uses of minimalism in rendering scenes both intimate and sprawling.

Still, Undertow is a fine example of passionate creators working and honing their craft.  I fully believe these guys are going to keep getting better.  If you're interested in supporting indie creators, Undertow's digital issues can be snatched up for a buck a pop on the 7th Wave Comics website.

Joe David Thompson has been doing media reviews for websites such as Red Carpet Crash and the 405 Music Blog. For any questions or comments for Joe David Thompson, you can email him at, and plese follow him on Twitter: @jovid52