Review - Warlords of Appalachia #1 (@boomstudios)

"You drawn from the river, big man?"

There are clear, cultural biases based on where one calls home. Many of those biases are typically the reason why wars break out and why one of America's most bloodiest in the Civil War occurred. For Warlords of Appalachia #1 from BOOM! Studios, the fallout from one Civil War wasn't enough. The issue is written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson, illustrated by Jonas Scharf, colored by Doug Garbark and lettered by Jim Campbell.

After the New Confederacy is crushed in a second Civil War, only Kentucky holds out, not recognizing U.S. sovereignty. This leads to a particularly brutal crackdown in a small mountain town called Red Rock, where a mechanic and reluctant folk hero named Kade Mercer rises up to become the first feudal warlord of Appalachia.

There's always been something of a romantic sense of rebellion in the state of Kentucky and Johnson harnesses that well in Warlords of Appalachia #1. The premise behind the book is clearly inspired by the mindset of present-day events and Kade Mercer is disinclined to make a broader statement about anything; rather, he really just wants to protect his family first and foremost. Johnson's characterization of Kade is inspired by other strong, silent types, but his type is very similar to that of Earl Tubb in Southern Bastards. Outside of Kade's character, the world created by Johnson is one rife with mistrust and anger at the world around it. The issue is paced in a way that really spends the most time investigating how strained things are for everyone involved and it's likely things will only get worse from there.

Scharf does a great job of matching the seemingly dystopian environment with artwork that feels gritty. The characters are displayed with an emphasis on sharp lines throughout, giving them a sense of presence that cuts against the Kentucky wilderness. The panels are laid out in a manner that's very organized with few insets and overlays, all of which lets the reader keep up with events as they unfold. Johnson excels at imbuing the characters with a physical heft to them as Kade especially looks like he's a one-man wrecking crew physically. Garbark uses colors that are darker variations of primaries and relies on an abundance of heavy shading for emphasizing the clandestine activities of many of the characters.

Warlords of Appalachia #1 is a bold first issue that sets the table for a lot of chaos down the line. Kade cares for his family and puts them above all else, even if it brings him further into the fold when it comes to the events in Kentucky. Johnson's script is very straightforward and and keeps things moving, establishing the key characters and giving them a world to play in. Scharf's artwork is rife with chaos and effectively mirrors the burgeoning madness that will unfold as the series continues. Warlords of Appalachia #1 takes a very relevant approach to its subject matter that is offered plenty of context by the somewhat angry climate the world finds itself in.

Warlords of Appalachia #1 is in stores now.