I recently attended the NICE comic convention and had the pleasure of talking with a couple of the Mark Buckingham and I.N.J. Culbard about their comic work. Please check out the main Podcast feed for these interviews.
In addition to this, I checked out several of the independent comic creators. I will always have a look at the long boxes of comics from the big companies, but I find that some of the most interesting and progressive work is being done by self-publishing writers and artists.
In the next couple of blogs I’m going to talk about some of the books I picked up.
First up is a couple of books from a writer I ended up talking to for ages, Matt Garvey. Matt is a true blue comic fan and it was a joy jaw jacking about the creative process, what inspires him and many other geeky things. No doubt, Matt will be joining me on the Podcast at some point in the not too distant future. Here though I’m going to review three of his books.
All reviews will be as spoiler free as possible as the books contain some twists and reveals that I don’t want to ruin. To find out more about Matt and his work visit www.mattgarvey.co.uk and follow him at @MattGarvey1981 , So let’s jump in with the books:
The Devil in disguise:
I read the collected edition of this story, collecting the 4 issues that make up the first arc. The principle idea is of a satanic powered superhero, half man, half Satan wanting to prove to God he’s not as bad as everyone thinks he is.
The premise is strong and and has the potential to explore the concept of good and evil and how we perceive it in society. This first arc is an origin story and is laced with comedy and horror, unfortunately they never quite get the right balance. There are excellent moments through out the book. Some that between Nate, the protagonist and Satan, that made me really smile. Others are good horror with some gruesome moments and concepts.
I think the issue is the art. While not bad, it never feels like it suits the material. Robert Ahmed’s style is reminiscent of Michael Oeming. It’s dynamic and bold but coloured with the tones of orange it never feels like the story has weight. The concept also raises comparisons with Spawn (Todd McFarlane) and Haunt (Todd McFarlane and Robert Kirkman), but is different enough to stand alone. However, and more suited artist could have made this something more experimental and
I enjoyed this origin and a final twist pushes the book in a potentially different direction. There is enough here to create a solid character and wider world. I look forward to what comes next, just maybe with a different artist.
I read the first two issues of this series and it is hinted in several points that this exists in the same world as ‘The Devil in disguise’. The premise is a London based; suited and masked vigilante sets out to investigate a series of brutal child kidnappings the police are either unable or reluctant to investigate.
Ether is a suited vigilante in the mode of Rorschach or Moon Knight’s persona Mr Knight. However, the character design is set apart by a great art from Dizevez and the mask. The mask is a map of London, laced with roads and rivers. It’s both feature less and detailed. The Ether is London, a protector of its inhabitants without being a person. It’s a great take that is made better when it is revealed who is under the mask.
I should also highlight that this isn’t an origin story. That’s not to say you don’t learn about the characters motivations. Hints are dropped about past events that have led this person to done the persona of the map-masked vigilante. This is more interesting and leaves the door open for more back-story and a wider world.
The first issue also establishes that Ether has been around for a while and has a relationship with the police. Not a straightforward relationship but one built on necessity and understanding of how far each is able to go to get to the villain.
You are dropped into this world and have to keep up. Its fast paced and frenetic, only stopping to take a breather for short bursts. The energy of the story is accentuated by … painted art. It’s both detailed and dream like infused with rich colour, giving the world texture and depth. There is a panel of a character sitting in a shower that uses detail and depth blur to such great effect that it feels like the image is breaking out the page. It’s a quiet moment given humanity.
Overall The Ether feels like a story that would do really well in 2000AD. It harkens back to the art and story styles I loved from the early 90s, while feeling current and fresh. With two issues in the bag I am definitely on the hook for the rest of the series.
Red Rocket Comet:
Superheroes never get old. Batman has been in his early 30s since 1939. Spider-Man has aged 10 years since 1963. We rarely get to see what life is like for a Superhero that is entering their autumn years. Enter Red Rocket Comet, a hero that has seen better years and is carrying the weight of regret of his shoulders.
A one shot from Garvey that takes a darker look at the consequences of heroics and grief. Red Rocket was a hero in the heady days of youth when bashing bad guys was fun and games, until it stops being a game.
The story cuts between a conversation in the present between former Hero and his Nemesis, in a dark dingy bed-sit, pencilled in black and white. To their adventures of his youth presented in almost Beano like cartoon antics. The events of the two soon collide in a reveal, explaining why he hung up his costume.
The whole book is draped in a sense of grief and bitterness. The art style for the early years is a nice exploration of how we view or youth with rose tinted glasses, remembering the good old days when life was simple and fun. However, as this is interspersed between the conversations in the present, the lightness comes with a sense of dread. A knowing progression that tells the informed reader that the zing and pow fun is heading for a fall.
The twist is fun but not the end. Some stories would use the twist as the stinger, but Red Rocket takes it one-step further and explores what that stinger actually means. How have these events impacted these two people in the intervening years, what are the effects of the trauma.
The art throughout is spot on, both Andy Clift (the flashback pages) and Grayham Puttock (the present) do a fantastic job of bringing the emotion out of the story. With some nice panel layouts and use of the black and white by Puttock. This is a superhero EC comic story and I want to know more about this bitter sweet world and other heroes that these characters have known.