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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Red Christmas-Kickstarter. Kim Roberts (Writer & Colours), Frederico Guillen (Art), Chris Allen (Letters & Colours)

Swampline comics have established an enviable reputation for having smart ideas backed by sharp execution. Emerging from under their Tomb of Horror ( a great and wonderfully inclusive horror anthology) banner is a one shot, Red Christmas.
True to form there is a cracking idea, a group of friends knock down Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, deciding to try and hide the evidence proves to be a very serious miscalculation.
The sample pages up on Kickstarter showcases everything very nicely, a brisk and effective set up is established, the art is friendly and engaging with a clear indication that things are going to take an unpleasant turn very quickly. The cast are individual and expressive, already they are more than just bags of blood waiting to be burst open their actions will be consequential for them and the reader.
The colours are quiet and natural, they give depth and solidity to the context, they have a nicely wintery rather than a Chrismassy feel, dark nights will get darker.
I am backing this Kickstarter because I really want to see how the talented creators manage the story possibilities that they have set up.
 I think you should go to the link below and support the project because there are never enough good comics  and encouraging talented people to make them is a great way to get more.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sherlock Holmes. The Spirit Box. George Mann. Titan Books (2014)

A very enjoyable and engaging Sherlock Holmes story. In the summer of 1915 while German Zeppelins carried out bombing raids on London John Watson is mourning the death of his nephew in France. Sherlock Holmes has been summoned to London by his brother, Mycroft, to investigate a trio of suicides and Watson is is reunited with the detective as and they undertake the investigation. One of the suicicides becomes a focus and the investigation leads to a man who is trying to photograph the souls of the living. The investigation is nicely set up and unfurls in a very satisfactory way. Holmes is as smart and observant as ever and Watson is a great companion. The reveals are cleverly staged and the conclusion is sharp and satisfactory.
The cast are as they should be, both Sherlock Holmes and Watson are suffering the dislocations of age and being in a city at war. The investigation reminds them of times gone and is very nicely placed in the war time context. The essential dynamic between the two is revealed and restored through action exactly as it should be. Holmes is pulled away from his bee keeping and Watson is pulled out of his depression at the death of his nephew and they are reminded on the depth of the bond between them.
George Mann does with a nicely set up plot that  creates sufficient room for Holmes to be smart and dangerous and Watson to be competent and capable. The mechanics are cleverly set up with the mystery of the spirit box slowly coming in to view in a very satisfying way. The set pieces are very well set up and give the supporting cast lots of opportunity to engage the reader in their own right. The cast are one of the great pleasures of the book, as well as a sufficiently capable and enterprising villain who presents a genuine problem for Holmes to tackle, the rest of the cast are far more than window dressing.
Sherlock Holmes does not dominate the book, he is a moving force and his willingness to take action is vital, there is a nice wider story about loss that quietly goes on and it provides a great contrast to the investigation.
Smart stirytelling and a generous view of Holmes and Watson make this a very enjoyable addition to the Sherlock Holmes stories. A pleasure.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Voodoo Curse 1. Kim Roberts (Writer), Rienaldo Lay (Art), Chris Allen (Colours & Letters). Swampline Comics (October 2017)

A very enjoyable and engaging horror crime comic that solves the problem of a first issue with confident skill. After a robbery gets messy,Jake Jones is murdered by his companion. This is a problem for his wife, Jake has gambling debts and his employer, who wants what was stolen. So a solution is found, bring Jake back to life via voodoo.
Kim Roberts manages to get the story to the most important point with confident skill, great pacing and lashings of gore. The cast are all suitably angry and nasty, they are all willing to do what they have to to secure their aims. There is a nice layer of betrayal stitched into the fabric of the story from the start that means that the unfolding story has great possibilities.
Rienaldo Lay's art is a joy, the cast are all strongly realised with eloquent body language and they move naturally through their context. The action is loud and splattery, the art catches the dark nuances of the story perfectly and brings them out very nicely. There is no hesitation in the art, it is a flat out as the story requires, the thread of brutal desperation that runs though the story is never overstated.
Chris Allen's colours are great, they give the art depth and reach, allowing for the horror action to strongly pop. The colours are used as special effects and they carry the work with ease, they give the action a increased force that is needed to polish the edge of the story.
This is a first issue that firmly sets up the cast and story and creates a very happy anticipation for the reader of where it will travel to. 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

No Mark Upon Her. Deborah Crombie. Pan Books (2012)

A very engaging and enjoyable crime story. Detective Chief Inspector Rebecca Meredith is murdered while rowing early in the morning. Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid is assigned to the case and soon comes under pressure to close in on DCI Meridith's ex-husband who was in need of money and benefited greatly from her death. As the investigation continues information about DCI Meridith comes to light which pushes the investigation into a different and very hazardous direction.The reveals are cunning staged and the conclusion is wholly satisfying and sharp.
There are two story threads in the book, both delivered with impressive, confident skill, the investigation itself and the lives of the cast  that run alongside the investigation. The investigation is set up and managed with competent thoughtfulness by the police team lead by DS Kincaid. They are careful and thorough and when critical and potentially explosive information comes to light handle it with care and attention to detail. The cast members who play a part in the investigation only are given a chance to make an impression on the reader swiftly and they do so. They are never reduced to being just plot devices, they have weight and depth.
The leading cast are given much greater room for lives that run alongside the investigation. The murder and the investigation intrude on their lives , there is a very strongly developed sense that they have had lives prior to the murder and they will continue to do so after the investigation is closed. Duncan Kincaid and his wife, Detective Inspector Gemma James are deeply involved in the investigation, their domestic life also gets a lot of attention. It is a complicated life, both are active police officers who greatly value their careers and also greatly value their children. Gemma is on leave to look after their newly adopted daughter and Duncan is due to take leave to do the same and allow Gemma return to work.  The adoption has created problems within their family which already has some credible difficulties.
The difficulty of balancing a commitment to work and family as well as the dynamics of marriage are all quietly played out in a natural and engrossing way. The pressure of the investigation serve to make the pressures of family clearer and more potentially divisive. The situation never feels set up or forced , it is a natural outcome from the circumstances and the way it is resolved is also natural and unforced.
Pessimism is a natural tone for a great deal of crime writing, Deborah Crombie sidesteps it without ever loosing sight of the appalling nature of the events in the story. There is a welcome optimism bubbling under in the story as the cast reorient their lives to take account of the circumstances and determine that the living should continue to live while mourning the dead. One does not preclude the other. A great story and a deep pleasure to read.

Not Drunk Enough Volume 1. Tessa Stone (Writer, Art, Colours and Letters). Oni Press (2017)

A wonderfully engaging and enjoyable horror story delivered with a light touch. Logan Ibarra and Abraham Lorhel are repair staff called out to a laboratory where they quickly discover that something very bad has happened. After Logan is knocked out and when he revives finds that he is with the few survivors from the recent events including Clement Varker, the CEO of the company who has undergone a serious transformation. As the group try to navigate a way out of the building and encounter a selection of monsters along the way, the background to the events is slowly revealed.
Tessa Stone takes a classic horror set up, a group of strangers trapped in a building struggling with each other and trying to survive and escape and has give it a thorough overhaul.The group are not strangers to each other, except for Logan, they do have a a nice dose of conflicts among themselves. The context is superb, a building full of horrifyingly transformed people who have retained their characters while having their physical being twisted in astonishing ways.This means that the monsters are not stupid nor careless, they are still are fully aware of their circumstances are are actively trying to control the, Exactly the same as the group of survivors which makes the struggle considerably more interesting as they are fighting with their minds as much as with nail boards, the nail boards do come in very handy at times.
The cast are full of energy, determined to survive or succeed, they demand the reader's attention as they try to impose some control on their circumstances. No is simply fodder, every is going to go down fighting to the end. As much as those who have been transformed are find themselves so the survivors are discovering themselves under the pressure of the fight. The cast a nicely developing and growing across the story as they respond to the circumstances. The cast is nicely and naturally  diverse.
The art is stunning, it is wonderfully confident from the great array of different transformations to the tremendous expressiveness of all the cast human and monster. Each of the cast are very individual. The action scenes are violent and gory, suspense is carefully generated across pages as the cast respond to looming threats.  In particular the management and control of the panels is outstanding, they are confidently used to expand and contract the focus of the story exactly as they should to serve the content.
The colouring is at the same standard, it brings out and emphasizes the story nuances and beats with considerable subtlety while being loud and vivid at the same time. The lettering is easy to read and never calls attention to itself, the sound effects on the other hand are gloriously loud and intrusive, they add greatly to  pleasure the story.
Tessa Stone has created a superb comic that exploits the possibilities of the medium to really capture and engage the reader.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Water's Edge. Karin Fossum (Writer), Charlotte Barslund (Translation). Vintage (2010)

A deeply engaging and pessimistic crime story where the ripples for a terrible crime spread destruction through numerous lives. In Norway, a couple out for a walk in a local wood discover the body of a young boy, clearly he has been murdered. The police launch an investigation lead by Inspector Sejer and they work carefully and competently following the possible leads as they arise. The disappearance of a second young boy adds to the pressure on the investigation and on the inhabitants of the small town. The story unwinds carefully, showing the widening impact of the murder and the disappearance of a large cast, the investigation is thoughtful and well managed, the reveals are well staged and the bitter conclusion is natural and horribly credible.
Karin Fossum has an wonderful confidence as a writer, there is a large cast in the story and the crime itself is less important that huge impact that it has on the cast. The victims are never overlooked, their absence is a vital as their presence as the rest of the cast reshape their lives.
The couple who found the body, the wife who is horrified and her husband who becomes obsessed by the crime. The fault lines in their relationship steadily become more are more unavoidable as the wife starts to come to life altering realizations about their marriage.
The mother of the boy found in the forest who finds that she has lost far more than her son.
The mother of the boy who disappears, a young obese boy who is vividly established before he vanishes, cling to the wreckage the mother finds that even that may be not what she thinks it is.
The gay teacher in the school where the two boys went, he is caring and thoughtful and manages to be willfully blind to the possible reactions and interpretations of his actions by people who are frighted at the events.
The murderer himself, a pathetic man who is caught in the storm of his own desires and the results of his actions, alternately self pitying and defiant.
All of them are treated with sympathy and none are spared, there is no judgement of them, there is a pessimistic unfolding of events that allow for the worst to happen in the most natural of ways. The story is quiet with a carefully controlled storm wreaking havoc in lives that will not recover. Karin Fossum's astonishing skill is developing her cast and allowing them to present themselves to the reader is why the book is not a grinding catalogue of destruction. It is grim and ultimately bitter, it is never depressing or dispiriting.
Charlotte Barslund's translation is transparent and natural, the whole sense of the cast and context is delivered with care and confidence, the setting is fully Norwegian, it is never foreign or awkward. This is superb crime fiction, a deep,very dark pleasure.

Family Man. Jerome Charyn (Writer), Joe Staton (Art). It's Alive (2017)

A gripping and very engaging noir crime story. In a crumbling New York City -"One hour into the future" a war between the mafia families has brought destruction upon them. Alonzo, a top assassin for one of the families is being hidden by his brother , Charles, the Monsignor to the New York Police Department. Alonzo, whose wife and children were murdered, chafing at the restrictions decides to visit some old friends. New York city is in turmoil as police and gangs fight over the spoils. Alonzo is given the task by his Don to find the killer of the other Don's and Alonzo sarts to look and finds that there is something very nasty going on and that Charles is up to his neck in it. The story unfolds carefully, the reveals are very nicely set up and the layers are steadily uncovered as the struggle for control of the future of the city emerges.
Jerome Charyn has created a very strong context for his vivid and determined cast to move in, New York city, steadily crumbling but still a vast prize is a looming presence in the story. It is the background and the foreground for the story. From the Mayor in Gracie Mansion and his rich supporters to the homeless destitute rooting in the garbage for scraps, the city hold everyone in its grip. The mafia families were a powerful force in the city, now they are waiting to be captured, the police have more ex-officers prowling the streets than active officers. In the middle of this there are those who are ready to seize an opportunity to  assert their control. Alonzo and Charles are playing and being played in this game for the city.
They are not alone, Jerome Charyn has a gift of creating characters instantly so the walk on parts are all full of life and demand the readers attention as much as the leading players. With the leading players the determination to be themselves and take control of their lives pushes them forward with tremendous force and when they collide with each other it is always a full speed. This gives the story great forward energy and depth as the cast move and maneuver to survive and gain the advantage they seek. The multiple possible meanings of Family are quietly explored as loyalty is tested and pushed to the limits.
Joe Staton's art is a joy to read. It creates the context vividly and the cast move through it naturally and effectively. The cast are all eloquent in their body language and their actions while they use words to hide and disguise.  From quiet conversation to savage action the art is confident and powerful, the every nuance of the writing is brought forth naturally and clearly. This is great crime fiction, there is a colossal crime at the hear of it with a cast that is bound together and pulled apart by loyalty, family ties and greed. The cast are never less than true to themselves and that gives the drama a cutting edge.