Pullbox Reviews: Impure Blood #1 – Gladiators, shady deals, & the worst birthday ever…

Dubbed the “Abomination” because of his appearance, enslaved gladiator, Roan, carries within his human body the blood of a mystical and nearly extinct race known as the Ancients. He jumps at the prospect of freedom when a mysterious girl named Dara appears at his cell and offers him a chance at a new life in exchange for his help. Together with the aristocratic Caspian, roguish Elnor, and grease monkey Mac, they embark on a mission to track down an artifact that Dara believes may be connected to Roan’s ancient, impure blood.

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The mighty gladiator, known throughout the city of Turien as The Abomination, lays waste to his opponents while Lord Caspian watches on. Elnor of the shiny daggers & flashy style and Dara with her very cool spectacles & calm demeanor stand ready at Caspian’s side. There is a game afoot and they just need one more individual to see it through. To secure his help, an ancient oath will be sworn, a slave will be freed, and an ill-timed birthday party will be crashed (bad luck, Rodney).

I ran across this awesome fantasy comic in a batch of preview pdf’s that came with the Kickstarter rewards for the Wailing Blade collected trade. A few of them I’d read already, but this one hadn’t popped up on my radar. Now that it has, my life is just a little more complete. Okay, so it’s probably not that life-altering, but it is a pretty damn good comic. The creative team of Nadja Baer & Nathan Lueth have crafted an interesting steampunk/fantasy world, populated with intriguing characters, and my only problem with Impure Blood is that it was originally released back in 2010 but it took me this long to find it.

Nadja Baer has a talent for giving readers just enough to wet the whistle, without fully dousing them in information. Little by little, as the opening issue went on, she shows the characters doing their thing without fully revealing what the ultimate goal is. I like that. It creates a connection with the characters, gladiator Roan (aka The Abomination) in particular seeing as he doesn’t know anything more about what’s happening around him than we do. By the end of the first issue, we all know a little bit more about Cassius & company’s ultimate goal, but not exactly what it all means or what Roan’s role is in the caper.

Also, Baer’s use of dialogue to tell the story really impressed. Every character has something going on in their lives, their own motivations for throwing in with Caspian. Some of it pops up naturally in conversation but still leaves much of the backstory to be discovered. As for the character interactions, I think it’s kinda fun when a group is brought together through necessity and they don’t all necessarily like each other. There’s a job to be done, they’re going to do it, and if the why and what for isn’t somebody’s business that’s all there is to say about that.

In the realm of illustration, Nathan Lueth’s style reminds me a little bit of Shawn Daley (Samurai Grandpa), with a touch of Comfort & Adam (The Uniques). That’s an awesome thing because I happen to a big fan of all of their work. Despite a tendency in fantasy comics to present a grim, gritty world of heavy shadows and gore filled alleys, Lueth wants the reader to see everything, everyone. His color palette is bright for the most part, revealing several character details for the discerning eye to pick up on. When a panel is cloaked in shadow, it’s something integral to the scene and isn’t the overall tone of the book. Bottom line, Lueth’s style is just really easy to look at.

With interesting and unique characters, in both personality & design, and a solid sense for scripting and choreographing dynamic action sequences, the only thing that could really nail Baer & Lueth down as a creative team to watch would be a sense of comedic timing.

Rotten luck, Rodney…

Okay, moving on…

I can’t really sell Impure Blood any harder than I have. As a debut issue, this has more than done it’s just, as I’m ready to commit to tracking down the rest of the series. I’m not saying that you should go all lemming and dive off this particular cliff with me, but if you’re a fan of fast-paced fantasy action with good writing that follows a “show, don’t tell” ideology, this is one you’ll want to take a look at. Don’t let Rodney’s sacrifice be in vain.

Final Score: 12/13

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