Sentinel issue 5 – ‘Kazana The Slayer’.
Art, Cover and Story by Ed Doyle.
Script from Alan Holloway.
Pin-ups and Variant Covers from Ed Doyle, Morgan Gleave, Ian Beadle, Paul Spence, David Metcalfe-Carr, Filippo Roncone, Steve Austin, Andy Lambert, Hunt Emerson, Neil Sims and Mark Montague.
Full Colour – 64 pages – Digest Size – Perfect Bound – £6.
The Story – A group of children are playing at being great warriors when they are told to drop everything and run. A regiment of skeleton soldiers have arrived at the borders of their village. Ragnar the Blacksmith rounds up all the men that he can to defend the village as a lone warrior called Kazana The Slayer appears at their rear.
Turns out that these demons are not the easiest things to kill and after resurrecting themselves they insist that the village hands over their children or die. How will this end and what part will Kazanna play?
The Cover – I backed this on Kickstarter in November and was immediately taken in my the variant cover by Mark Montague (see below). Had I actually taken the care to properly read the Kickstarter I would have realised that this was only available at a slightly higher pledge level than the one I had hurriedly paid for. The £6 pledge got me Ed Doyle’s painted cover which isn’t bad but I think in retrospect I’d rather have grabbed the more iconic and Starblazer(esque) Montague version.
Ed employs a technique he uses on the interior pages on his main cover version of having a face in the foreground and facing the camera. You can see from the tiles above that this is used a lot. On a cover it works well to communicate drama. These painted covers suit the format and the fantasy setting.
The Review – There is a history to the creation of this book that requires mentioning before beginning the review of the comic itself. I first heard about it on the Mega City Book Club Podcast where the artist Ed talked about this being a comic he created back in 2004 long before he began this project. This was published in a 20 page larger format comic that was then reconstructed and cut down to suit this digest sized project. Fast-forward to 2020 and along with Alan Holloway the art was spruced up and released after a successful and nicely prompt crowd-funding campaign.
The story and art are not perfect. For example, after a big build up to the initial battle it is over far too fast at only one page of three action panels. The ending also seems a little like it was retrofitted to suit some cool images of someone flying on a dinosaur. It totally feels like a story written by someone just having fun and perhaps focusing a little too much on some kick-ass looking action panels rather than pacing it out with some more articulate storytelling techniques. We are used to that with nineties comics from Image and a few Small Press comics these days but it could have done with a little bit more of a tinker that showed linking sequentials and some character development. So far I haven’t read the other books in the Sentinel line so can’t comment on their narrative styles.
What the comic lacks in plot it does pay back in energy and deserves credit for that balls to the wall shouty/fighty/macho fun that jumps off the page and you can imagine had the creators chuckling along as they put it together. It is a ticked-off list of Sea Monsters, Roman Centurion Skeleton Zombies, Sword and Axe-wielding barbarian warriors and more. Sure some of the art is a bit clunky. There are far too many posed moments and they do stilt the flow, especially in the action scenes. Some of the characters are also pressed up against the camera lens far too often. But, honestly, I do find myself admiring the underground feel of this issue. Having made use of the digest or ‘Commando’ format myself recently I also really enjoyed the reading experience this size of page and rate of page-turns provides.
The design of the whole package works well. I’d have loved to have seen a title/number on the spine but acknowledge fully that the original Starblazer that Ed and Alan are homaging here didn’t have that either. The back matter does feel a little padded out perhaps and the page count relies a little too heavily on pin-ups and alternative covers that occasionally don’t hit as high artistic standards as others do. A couple of the alternative covers seem to have little to do with Kazana but I suppose we are used to that these days. But to have both Hunt Emerson and Steve Austin in your small press comic both looks great and gives added credibility. A worthy mention should also go out to Neil Sims with his gorgeous Issue 4 variant and Morgan Gleave for his more cartoony take on Kazana (and a little Stan Sakai flourish that was great to see).
Having also been partly responsible for a similar style/format of comic recently I also need to comment on the price. £6 for a regular copy and £8 for a variant seems a little high? And the £3 for the digital version is certainly a price point that I personally consider to be too much.
I’ll be keeping an eye out for future issues of this series and will be reading the small print more carefully for a change.
Many thanks for reading.