Cold Cut Distribution's Feature Spotlight #8 - June 1995

Circle Weave: Apprentice To a God

Publisher:	Abalone Press
Story & Art:	Matthew Kelleigh
Cover Price:	$2.00 
Frequency:	bi-monthly


A bleak, desert-like landscape on an alien world and a series of nomadic towns provide shelter for a young lad named Rowan and a middle-aged gentleman named Morrim. Morrim is hustling, getting the boy to certain places at certain times, but Rowan doesn't understand what all the rush is. Then one day, when they find themselves in a den of iniquity run by an amoral skinflint named Cruet Forx, Morrim reveals himself - as a powerful near-deity or perhaps just a large cog in the upcoming tableau.

Regardless, Morrim has certain powers, and Rowan is traveling with him to learn from him. What Rowan doesn't know is that Morrim is allowing him to tag along because of a prophecy, and because Rowan has a fate in store for him - a fate in which Morrim plays no small part himself.

When they end up sheltering from the forces of darkness with a mystic, nomadic race of women called the "Pogues", from whom Morrim gained his powers, the real adventure begins. Such a shame that Morrim can't help him in certain areas...

Writing Review:

Matthew's writing skills seem solidly based. His plotting is full and not too obvious (always a plus), and though his scripting occasionally falters, I notice he is improving every issue.

Matt sent along a copy of the first five completed issues of Circle Weave for our review; they were fully scripted, penciled, and inked, and he was finishing issue 6 at last report, so one can be reasonably assured that at least the first year's worth of issues will be coming out on a regular schedule (more on the scheduling in the Solicitation section on the next page).

I mentioned that only to explain that I've read the first five issues, and can say that his scripting improves notably between issues 1 and 3, and stays solid from there on.

The basic setup and a few of the scenes owe a debt to Star Wars, but it seems more a friendly nod and a borrowing of a character than it does a "Xerox". Morrim comes across as an Obi-Wan Kenobi to Rowan's Luke Skywalker, acting as a benevolent, strangely-empowered mentor to a young man with a Destiny. I kept expecting him to zoom up to a guard on their "sandsail" (not unlike an aircar, eh?) and say "You don't need to see his pass... move along." *heh*

Matt also handles teenage romance well, that awkward, stumbling attraction of the young, and it comes to the fore in issue 3 (available in August!). By the end of issue five, we have a full-fledged Adventure going on, and the plot keeps you grabbing for that next book.

Art Review:

Matt has been working on Circle Weave since 1992, drawing pages and just generally getting better with practice (not surprisingly, practice really does make perfect!). He takes a few risks with layout on occasion - sometimes they work, and sometimes they don't. But overall, the different layouts work as a diverse and interesting feature.

His figure work varies as well - occasionally, people are rendered quite well, other times, less well. Some poses look natural, others, forced. The hero has an unfortunately bland face, which occasionally devolves into blockishness. Morrim is done well throughout, as are Forx and other characters, but faces on a few still apparently give him some trouble.

Matt does do a good job on backgrounds, filling them with some amount of detail rather than leaving them blank, and his shading is quite well-done, varying from cross-hatching to stipples and solids. He favors cross-hatching mostly, which provides a healthy, textured look to most of his grays.


Circle Weave will be popular with readers of light fantasy and light science-fiction as well. Technically, it's more of a science-fiction book, but the setting is fairly fantastic and mystic, appealing to fantasy fans. Try this with readers of Thieves & Kings, Wandering Star (the spaceships in #5 I would swear are Teri Wood-designed...), A Distant Soil, Greymatter, and Strange Attractors. Also, give it a try with fans of Star Wars and see what they say - the parallels should be an attraction.

Matt has set the cover price at $2.00 for at least the first couple of issues to encourage "sampler" sales, and it's probably a good move.


Circle Weave was originally (back in 1993) going to be a digest-sized comic, and after publishing a couple of issues in that format, Matt discovered it's much harder to market and sell a digest-sized b&w comic than a normal-sized one. So he stopped the book, and regrouped. He continued working on the story and art as he considered what to do.

His eventual choice was to plunge ahead with a comic-sized version of Circle Weave, so he issued solicitations for issue 1, to be published in April 95. Unfortunately, since he had previously published a book called "Circle Weave" issue 1, Cap and Diamond considered this a "Relisting": Diamond listed it as "still available" and Capital didn't list it at all. Issue 2 suffered a similar fate. Matt wryly notes that he learned too late he should have called it "volume 2" or something, in order to indicate it's a new book.

So ordering from Cold Cut may be your only chance at ordering issues 1 and 2, depending on your distributor. Issue 3 should have been in your June order forms (although it may have fallen under "Indigo Bean Publishing", Matt's former publishing company).

Meanwhile, Matt had production problems with the first issue, so it's now two months late. But issue two is on-time - so both number 1 and 2 are coming out this month! Take a look at the story & art represented here, and give the book a shot - we think it'll work!

If you like Circle Weave, take a look at:

A Distant Soil

Publisher:	Aria Press	
Story & Art:	Colleen Doran
Cover Price:	$2.50 (only $1.75 for #1-8)
Frequency:	Occasional - about 3-4 issues a year.
 [ panels from A Distant Soil ]


Liana is a young girl with a secret she doesn't even know. Her father was an escaped prisoner from another world, a criminal because of his psychic abilities, who had come to Earth to find sanctuary but to his surprise found love instead.

Liana and her siblings all have remarkable powers, but now the alien government has traced the renegade's path and tracked down the family. The alien fleet's mission is to destroy the renegade and his line, for their psychic powers are of types too dangerous to allow. The various alien factions, however, all have different agendas. And Liana and her family just want to stay alive. Alive, and together.

Unfortunately, Liana and one of her brothers have been discovered by the US government and are being "studied" by an institution. During their attempted escape, Liana ends up finding unlikely friends (or at least allies) in a street tough, a hard cop, and a young teenage knight from another world who ends up catapulted into our world.

What happens next? Read it and find out!

Writing Review:

Colleen has been writing this story in one form or another for over ten years now - she's got the bugs pretty much worked out by now. The tale is tightly plotted (except for the bizarre juncture of bringing in the young knight and spending an issue to do so, which seems to slow the entire book's pacing). Scripting is top-notch: realistic dialogue, sparse yet piercing. And having the knight-from-Avalon speak a language unrecognizable to our main characters, yet having it be a real language is a touch virtually unheard of in comics, a field famous for its marks or complete lingo-babble. It's a shame ADS can't quite sell enough for Colleen to devote herself to it fulltime - those outside projects she does (things like Valor and Sandman) may pay the bills, but they interrupt the frequency with which ADS can come out. Oh, the pains we suffer in comics-fandom!

Art Review:

This is Colleen Doran, folks. Do we need to say more? One of the more accomplished renderers out there, especially when doing her own stuff. Looking at the loving care she gives each page is wonderful. And the light-and-airy style found on the backup tale (telling the story of Liana and her family when Liana was just a child) provides a lovely fantasy-styled look.

Sales Overview:

Initially straight science-fiction, the series attempts to fit in some fantastic elements as well by tying in the knight-from-Avalon and spending an issue in his vaguely-medieval world. Don't know if Colleen quite pulls it off, though. The sci-fi/psychics-on-the-run elements are what give the book the "genre hook", but it's the people and interesting relationships that will keep them coming back. Try this with fans of Private Beach, Wandering Star, Anima, and the old Disney film "Escape to Witch Mountain" (ha! I had to make that ref in here somewhere; "psychic teens on the run" was too neat a tie). Even fans of Strangers in Paradise or Elfquest may find the fascinating folks in here too good to pass up.

If you like A Distant Soil, take a look at:

Buster, the Amazing Bear

Publisher:	Ursus Studios	
Story & Art:	Tommy Yune
Cover Price:	$2.50 on most issues, $2.95 on #4 and 6.
Frequency:	Occasional (2-3 times a year).  Issue 6 is due in July.


The year? 2008. The problem? A giant mutated cockroach full of hyper-mutagenic-DNA is busting up part of California. The solution? Well, see this little bear they were experimenting on with the hyper-triple-helix-DNA stuff has gotten really big. And strong. And smart. Oh yeah, and he talks, too.

Good thing he's on our side!

Writing Review:

Tommy has the best darn feel for a funny-action-adventure story this side of Phil Foglio. The humor is situation-oriented and the story is chock-full of scientific detail and "future history" tidbits (use of petroleum fuels was banned in 2004, for instance).

In fact, that's one of the high points of the series for me - the footnotes. Every issue has five or six footnotes detailing background or further explanation of something in the book. In one, he explains what gas turbines are; in another, he describes an "eye flutter" test and why it's used. It's all in fun, but still full of info.

Then, in addition, in the back of each book he has a couple of pages of mechanical design specs for the aircraft and other devices featured in his book. This man does his homework! Maybe he just does this design stuff in his spare time for fun; I don't care - it's great fun to read!

Art Review:

A heavy manga influence will appeal to manga fans, especially those of the "Ninja High" school. But it's not so manga-esque to turn off lots of American fans. The art in the main reminds me of the wide-eyed open style of a Phil Foglio meshed with the technical detail and fiddling-design-bits of a Ted Nomura. Tommy has fun drawing anything at all mechanical, from fire hoses to fighter planes to VR equipment. His characters are fairly completely manga-influenced humorous interpretations, which is interesting to see over a technological background. Imagine early Ninja HS with real designs on Asrial's spaceship and you'll get the drift.

Sales Overview:

Buster has a great cross-field appeal. Every fan of early Ninja High School and Gold Digger today should love Buster on sight, with its similar art style and story in the same vein. Also, fans of Buck Godot will find Tommy's attention to detail in the science-fiction fulfilling as he tickles their funny bone with the action and humor.

Buster's occasional issuance does cause people to sigh plaintively between issues, but Tommy's outside work on a number of popular CD-ROM games leaves him little time for doing Buster on a regular basis; we have to be happy with what gems he can put out.

Note that the book has a much higher production value than practically every other independent book out there, with UV-coated, glossy cardstock covers, and really nice-quality, thick and white paper for the interiors, which make the book really stand out. How he can do it with a cover price of only $2.50 for 32 pages on most issues is beyond me ($2.95 for 40 pages on #4), but more power to him!

If you like Buster, the Amazing Bear, take a look at:

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