Crossovers of corporately owned characters are a common occurrence in comics, but Curse of the Cortes Stone is a one-shot team up of three independently owned super heroes. Not so common. Published by Arcana Comics, the book stars The Wraith, Shadowflame and Johnny Saturn. The characters are individually owned by Frank Dirscherl, Joe Martino and Scott Story, respectively. The three heroes come together to stop a powerful otherworldly being from obtaining an artifact of immense power, The Cortes Stone.
Curse of the Cortes Stone is billed as a tie-in to the “War of the Independents,” a crossover event featuring hundreds of independent comic book characters. Written by The Wraith’s Dirscherl, with pencils by Roland Bird and inks from Jeff Austin, Curse is a mostly done in one story, though it makes several references to the regular adventures of the main characters, particularly that of The Wraith, and leads into the next installment of the crossover at the end. The team seems to be fighting one of the overall villains of the crossover, Orcus, but that is not entirely clear. This is actually refreshing if one is only reading this issue and not the overall “WotI” event and, likely, already or soon will know who he is, if following the whole event.
The storytelling is reminiscent of the ’90s, giving the book an instant “classic” super hero feel. Oddly enough, despite being written by his creator, the dialogue of The Wraith is the one cumbersome part of Dirscherl’s script. Though Shadowflame and Saturn have unique and fluid voices, The Wraith is bogged down in lengthy laughably stereotypical dialogue. “Reports also coming in indicate something I can scarcely believe, even while I know it to be true–” is particularly awkward, for example. If Shadowflame or Johnny Saturn heard him say “Foul denizen of evil! What is your purpose,” they’d likely turn from their foe and punch him square in the jaw themselves. Roland Bird’s and Jeff Austin’s art is crisp and on point, directing the reader clearly through the story. Though Bird did not do the original character designs of the three heroes, they are distinctive and visually appealing and Bird represents them well.
Whether following the “War of the Independents” event or just looking to enjoy a classic feeling super hero comic, Curse of the Cortes Stone is a satisfying read.