Sass Effect: Solomon Azua Vol 1, Ch 1 / by Erik Sugay

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  Most people would view being possibly cosmically blessed in a positive light. The titular Solomon Azua, designated as having been “born under a good sign,” considers it a nuisance. Any and all of his accomplishments are attributed to this luck and he is seemingly known more for having good fortune than his incredible feats. Somehow hoping to prove that luck has nothing to do with it, Azua engages in increasingly dangerous ventures.

The first chapter sets up the latest and biggest prize Azua is seeking. So valuable, rare, and sought after is this bounty that many consider obtaining it an impossible goal. Unsurprisingly, only a few individuals are actually willing to share in reward for finding the prise. And Azua has a lead to finding it. This means that much of the story’s dripping tension would seemingly stem from Azua’s interaction with his plentiful enemies. Unfortunately, there is one line in the exposition that contradicts that classic set up. Without supplemental information, the way the line reads undermines the gravity of these dynamically displayed conflicts.

The combat scenes are lively and energetic, but not fluid (drastic changes in perspective and zooming make following the action a tad difficult). But the space-faring backdrop is a goldmine for spectacular, literally out-of-this-world designs. There are some original spaceship designs here, but outside of that, rather than immediately jumping into the otherworldly, the first chapter opts to ease the reader into the setting with familiar scenes.

It is then left to the character designs to really sell this universe, and the ones that do, do so exceptionally, but not without difficulty. Jake Ekiss’ style is a promising work in progress and the majority of the established alien characters are conceptually polished and well executed. However, their choice of clothing throws a wrench into the overall atmosphere. One cleverly constructed individual dons clothes that bear a striking resemblance to a Green Beret uniform seemingly in an attempt byt the artist to help substantiate his abilities and career choice. Unfortunately, the attempt misses the mark, as various recognizable garments (seemingly inspired by different aspects of human culture) imply that the universe is either very small or very uninteresting.

Where the story truly excels, though, is in the character development. Each character's personalities shine in the writing. Azua’s first scene exemplifies his combat-oriented abilities, inherent luck and playfully overconfident attitude. (While his reputation with luck is generally an annoyance to him, he surely enjoys utilizing both this and his list of accomplishments as a sales pitch.) When Azua toots his own horns a little too loudly another character is introduced to scale him back a peg. Her practical inquisitiveness (sometimes asking questions I also had) and wisecracking nature help ground Azua, and their banter should prove a fruitful source of sly comedy.

With a cocky roguish thief as the protagonist, it’s a shame that the focus on exposition overshadows the likeable characters.  Given its brevity, the first chapter moves almost too quickly and some elements fall into place much too easily to be believable. (This can be seen as either an indication of deeper plot threads or overexcitement and unpolished storytelling. I'll leave it up to you to decide.) It’s established that Azua’s got luck and he likes to push it. Considering how effortlessly otherwise difficult situations are diffused, hopefully something pushes back.

TL;DR : Some original character and spaceship designs provide an acceptable foundation to the universe. There’s a fair balance between showing and telling and, despite some fairly large snags in the narrative, the character interactions are absorbing.

A 2011 Glyph Comics Awards nominee, Solomon Azua is written and illustrated by Jake Ekiss, a founding member of Space-Gun Studios. You can read it from the beginning for free here.