Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Elizabeth Breitweiser, Kyle, Outcast, Paul Azaceta, Robert Kirkman, Rus Wooton, Skybound
Created by Robert Kirkman
Art by Paul Azaceta
Colours by Elizabeth Breitweiser
Letters by Rus Wooton
Cover by Paul Azaceta and Elizabeth Breitweiser
Published by Image
Josh lives alone. As far as other people are concerned it’s because of the things he’s done. But he knows the truth. He knows what really happened. And now, he’s going to be given answers whether he wants them or not,
Robert Kirkman’s latest is one of the most atmospheric first issues you’ll read this year. Josh is no hero whatsoever, a man so crippled by PTSD and emotional damage he can barely leave the house without his sister forcing the issue. The scenes between Josh and her family are some of the strongest in the book and clench with tension and discomfort. It’s really smart writing and when the supernatural element is folded in, it gets even better.
Kirkman cleverly uses nested flashbacks to show us what happened to Josh as a child and how it mirrors a possession case in his old hometown. Reluctantly recruited by the same Priest who exorcised him, Josh is shown the absolute best and worst thing he could be; proof he isn’t crazy. This is where the book really kicks into high gear with the complex power dynamic between the two men mirroring their different approaches to faith. Both have seen demonds, but where one had their faith strengthened the other had it destroyed. That’s a fractious, chewy nexus to build a book around and it works. Josh wants answers and gets them, the Reverend wants a weapon and gets Josh. Both think they’ve been validated by what they’ve experienced but neither will get off that easy.
The art for a book like this needs to both set atmosphere and emphasize subtle character moments and it does both with aplomb. Breitweiser’s colour choices are note perfect, the entire town shot through in pale washed out reds and the exorcism scenes in deep blacks and blues. The blood, and there is blood, stands out all the more as a result. Special praise is also due to Anacleta who captures the untidy brutality of untrained physical combat in every frantic, crunching detail. Wooton’s lettering really seals the deal on these scenes though, every hit accompanied with the thudding wet sounds of human beings taking damage.
Outcast is a relentlessly bleak, colossally ambitious book that hits every single target it aims at. Deliberately small scale horror that’s all the more chilling for that it’s the start of a long journey for Kyle and, I suspect, a whole lot of readers. Check it out
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Accent UK, Gary Crutchley, Josiah Black, The Crocodile Tears of the Louisiana Swamp Men, The Siren's Song of the Mississippi Mermaids, The Woman With the Dead Eyes
‘The Woman with the Dead Eyes’
Written by Dave West
Art by Gary Crutchley
‘On Hallowed Ground’
Written by Dave West
Art by Gary Crutchley
‘The Crocodile Tears of the Louisiana Swamp Men’
Written by Dave West
Art by Gary Crutchley
‘The Siren’s Song of the Mississippi Mermads’
Written by Dave West
Art by Gary Crutchley
Published by Accent UK
Josiah Black isn’t a Sherriff anymore. He isn’t much of anything, except for a gun waiting to be told where to point. Until Greta Anderson finds him and makes him an offer he chooses to accept. Black wants vengeance and he’s tired of waiting for the right person. Anderson wants vengeance and she knows just who from. It’s easy.
Or it should be…
West’s scripts balance the traditions of the western with those of noir and horror to huge effect. Josiah is a neatly written hero, a man fragile enough to know he’s mortal and smart enough to know he’s never the smartest person in the room. The first volume containing both ‘Woman with the Dead Eyes’ and ‘On Hallowed Ground’ introduces him and us alike to the larger world and we’re both surprised by what we find. The ending is a perfect close to a first act and throughout West shows an instinctive talent for the sort of minimal dialogue men like Black employ.
‘Crocodile Tears of the Louisiana Swamp Men’ shifts gear a little and opens with Black in serious trouble. We then flash back to how he got there and are reminded of his employer’s requests even as he’s faced with two impossible choices. This is the leanest, nastiest of the three stories and Black emerges from this alive, but no hero. It’s a brave move to paint your lead in such an unsympathetic light but West does it perfectly.
‘’Siren’s Song of the Mississippi Mermaids’ is the only story that could come after that, giving Black a moment’s peace. It’s the subtlest of the three, the horror insidious rather than overt and arguably the strongest story of the three. There’s emotional weight to it and another dilemma for Black but a far more personal one. An almost introspective piece it’s West at his best and the ending in particular is chilling.
Crutchley’s art is really impressive throughout, especially his eye for the way westerns need to be laid out. There’s a horrific moment we see from a distance in the first book that only works because of that distance whilst the riverboat in the third book is a meticulously realized location that’s vital to the story. Throughout, he brings out character moments, action beats and locations, keeping everything in focus as much as Black’s own goggles do.
These are smart, bleak, horrific stories of a man who wants to be good but may not have a choice, If you’re a Deadlands or Supernatural fan, this is absolutely for you. Western horror doesn’t get much better.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Bobbie Shaw, Charles Burns, Colin Bell, ComixTribe, Fiona, Greg Pellinger, Iain Laurie, John Lees, Megan Wilson, Merksay, Orkney Islands, Robert Holmes, The Nightmare Man
Written by John Lees
Art by Iain Laurie
Letters by Colin Bell
Cover Colours by Megan Wilson
Published by ComixTribe
Available tons of places but start here http://www.comixtribe.com/comics/and-then-emily-was-gone/
Greg Pellinger sees monsters. It’s not a question of whether or not they’re real anymore, just a question of how long Greg can last before going irrevocably insane. Five years out from his job as a police detective he’s contacted by Fiona, a young girl from one of the Orkney Islands. Something badly rattled Emily, frightened her so badly she made plans to leave the island and Fiona agreed to go with her.
But Emily never showed. And suddenly, the story of Bobbie Shaw, a monster who solves problems on the island and is paid in children, begins to look a little too real…
This is a delightfully unsettling book. Lees’ script plays like Charles Burns filtered through Robert Holmes-era Doctor Who and The Nightmare Man, a prickly, tension-filled story of skating out onto dark, fragile ice with something waiting underneath it. He’s a master of the sort of reveal a lot of horror aspires to but very little managers; giving you what you think is the reveal before pulling the door open so you can see what’s really going on. It’s great, confident, chilling stuff.
On the art side of things, Iain Laurie’s style, again, evokes Burns. He draws normal people supremely well and Pellinger in particular is a wonderful, grumpy, Ken Stott-like figure stomping his way through the peaceful nightmare of the island. Lee’s monsters are also gloriously unpleasant and his slightly skewed panel work further emphasizes the atmosphere. Likewise, Colin Bell, one of the best letterers on the UK indie scene, turns in great work here and Wilson’s colours on the cover, again, ratchet the horror up still further.
This book is a glorious nightmare. Tense, clammy handed and building towards something horrific it’s a hidden gem of the UK circuit. Uncover it now, just make sure you leave the island straight after…
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Atomic Diner, Dublin, Jennifer Chevalier, London, Maura McHugh, Oscar Wilde, Paris, Robert Curley, Stephen Downey
Created by Robert Curley
Plotted by Robert Curley and Maura McHugh
Script by Maura McHugh
Art by Stephen Downey
Published by Atomic Diner
Jennifer Chevalier’s life is about to change. A young artist in Paris in 1921, Jennifer is caught up in an international web of intrigue that starts with her father’s ‘accidental’ death and takes her all the way to Dublin. Surrounded by lies, murderers and crooks she finds her most unlikely ally is also her most powerful. Oscar Wilde’s ghost…
I’ve been a fan of Maura McHugh’s writing for years and I’m delighted to see her not only step into comics but do so with the same tremendous intelligence and wit she brings to fiction. Jennifer is a fantastic lead; intelligent, pragmatic and devious when called upon to be but never a victim and neer an unassailable wall of invulnerability. We find out about her the same way Wilde does, gradually, and as a result we like her more and more with each page. Every reveal happens naturally, no information is dumped and the entire book unspools to its conclusion with a pace that’s unhurried but never, once, relents. If this was just an international thriller it would be impressive. Given the supernatural elements, it’s remarkable.
Jennifer sees ghosts. It’s presented as simply as that. She’s filtered them out over the years but her supernatural abilities caused her problems in early life and provide surprising assistance in the wake of her father’s death. That very level headed approach to the supernatural really focuses in on it and makes Jennifer all the more relatable. Everyone staggers out of their childhood, sideways and on fire, with serious damage. Jennifer’s was to her perception of reality but she still got back up and made something of her life. It’s a smart, internal character beat that keys us in to just how capable she is and allows the ghosts to be part of the book without overshadowing her. It also allows McHugh to throw some really inventive action beats in, including a chilling look at Jennifer’s side of a conversation with the living and the dead and a remarkable scene in the final issues. It’s a constantly involving constantly entertaining script.
On the art side of things Downey is just as impressive. His locations, especially a pivotal scene at Trinity College in Dublin are beautiful but it’s his character work that stands out. The ghosts in particular are beautifully done, half-life sketches in a world of ink and certainty. They’re ephemeral presences but vital ones and Wilde in particular is beautifully realized and brimming with character both in the script and the art.
Jennifer Wilde is incredibly confident, assured storytelling. It has a unique voice, a unique look and a unique approach and is brimming with intelligence, humour and compassion. If you’re even a little interested in supernatural comics, pick this up.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Andrew Tunney, James Lawrence, Mark Penman, No Exit, The Courier in Red, The Woman in the Wastes
‘The Courier in Red ‘
Written and illustrated by Mark Penman
‘The Woman in the Wastes’
Written and Illustrated by James Lawrence
Written and drawn by Andrew Tunney
I’m a sucker for a good post apocalypse story and here there are three. They’re all short, all punchy and all absolutely hit their target. The first, ‘The Courier in Red’ sees a highwayman (Look at the sign he’s waiting under by the way. Nice touch.) waylay a group of travellers. His plan is simple; join them, kill them, steal their stuff. The result is not what he expected…It’s a really smartly done story, atmospheric and crammed with character. The last panel will haunt you in absolutely the best way.
‘The Woman in the Wastes’ by James Lawrence opens similarly with a scavenger realizing he’s not alone. However, where the previous lead craved solitude so he could prey on others, this one craves company. It’s a short, punchy little story but the payoff is absolutely brilliant and, again, will stay with you.
Finally, ‘No Exit’ by Andrew Tunney again starts with a loner but explores what it means when that doesn’t change. The art throughout is impressive but this story really stands out thanks to a clever structure and a chilling structure. Dealing head on with the realities of life after the end of the world it ends the anthology just as strongly as it started.
Bleak, tragic and completely unforgettable this is a ridiculously strong collection of shorts from some of the best creatores in the field. Pick it up and discover what happens after the world ends.
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Image, Oddly Normal, Otis Frampton, Tim Burton
Written by Otis Frampton
Art by Otis Frampton
Published by Image
Oddly Normal isn’t. Oh that’s her name certainly but she’s got green hair, pointed ears and water hurts her. A half-witch, Oddly’s time in school is your worst adolescent nightmares cranked all the way up. And today, today is the worst thing of all.
Today is her birthday.
There are two things books like this need to work; a solid design sense and a little honesty. Most books manage the first but not the second. Frampton hits the bullseye with both. His work is friendly and welcoming but has a really sharp eye for character and every page here looks lovely. Oddly’s catastrophic birthday party, complete with grey banner and wrapping paper is a particular standout. This is a world that’s skewed and odd but not remotely twee and that helps the book immensely. It also means Frampton can go a little nuts with some designs, including Oddly’s wonderfully stereotypical parents.
The honesty is where the book really shines though. No one’s a bad guy here and Oddly’s parents register as sweet, interesting people rather than the yelling caricatures this sort of character are all too often reduced to. They love their daughter and she loves them they just can’t quite meet in the middle. Likewise, Oddly is a wonderfully sullen, glowering figure whose grievances are absolutely legitimate. She feels overlooked, her parents feel she’s drifting from them and neither of them do the right thing to change that. As a result, thes tory starts, Oddly gets exactly what she wished for and discovers just how much trouble that’s going to cause her.
This is a lovely book, witty and light on its feet. Tim Burton fans will find a lot to enjoy here but so will anyone who was ever an adolescent. Oddly Normal
Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Alphas, Anna Readman, Barnum, Daniel Bell, Iain Buchanan, Icarus, Kathy, Katja Lindblom, Maximo, Prometheus, Psircus, Sapphire
‘Kathy isn’t Right’
Scripyby Daniel Bell
Art by Katja Lindbolm
Script by Daniel Bell
Art by Iain Buchanan
Written and drawn by Daniel Bell
Published by Daniel Bell Comics
Plot by Daniel Bell and Iain Buchanan
Scripts by Daniel Bell- http://www.facebook.com/danielbellcomics
Cover by Iain Buchanan- http://www.astrocomics.carbonmade.com
Art by Anna Readman-acedoc/deviantart.com, Daniel Bell and Katja Lindblom- http://egghunter.deviantart.com/
Published by Daniel Bell Comics
Kathy hears voices. That’s why she’s in the Home. But the voices are starting to tell Kathy to do things. Things that will take her out into the world and be recruited by the Psircus.The Psircus is a team of elite superhuman who are fighting a desperate holding action against a collective mind bent on world domination. Immensely powerful and utterly outnumbered they’ve recruited Kathy to try and even the odds.
Bell and Buchanan have a fantastic eye for the sort of ‘Asylums of the mad and altered’ horror fiction I grew up with. That’s what’s on display here, especially in the first story of issue 1 ‘Kathy Isn’t Right’. In shorder order Bell sets up Kathy, the things she has to do to survive and the world. It’s a smart, brief story that does exactly what it needs to do and is aided immensely by Lindbolm’s massively atmospheric art.
‘Icarus’ focuses on Kathy’s partner, the colossally powerful Icarus and her own trial by fire. Again it’s really smartly written but also smartly placed. After being thrown into the deep end with the first story we’re shown events that provide welcome depth and context as well as call into question what we’ve just been told. Buchanan’s art style is a definite switch from Lindbolm’s but it’s an excellent fit too, expressive and strong lined.
The best story in here though is ‘The Pull’. One of Kathy and Icarus’ first missions, it sees them out on the town, taking out a serial rapist with powers of his own. This is smart, assured storytelling that dances on the razor line between horror, action and espionage and rounds the issue off in fine style. Along with the other two it’s a fascinating look into a dark, interesting new world that issue 2 neatly expands on
Bell and Buchanan have found some really interesting new ground here, combining a traditional superhero team dynamic with an Avengers (The Steed and Peel kind) world view. The idea of a secret organization run by PT Barnum is inspired but what really works here are the characters. Kathy in particular is great, a woman whose courage is matched only by her crippling self-doubt. Along with the motormouth Icarus and the sombre, haunted Prometheus she struggles to understand who she is and what her purpose is. It’s smartly handled stuff and Bell is adept at bringing the humanity out in his characters. There’s a high altitude snowball fight in issue 2 that’s particularly great, both funny and clearly driving the arc plot along at the same time.
That sort of ambitious, successful writing is everywhere in the book. The nested flashback is nicely handled and the psychic assault the team suffer is nightmarish for two reasons. Firstly the way Bell, Readman and Lindblom build the tension and secondly due to the constant visual invention on display. Everything from perspective to panel layout is used to keep the characters, and you, off balance and it all works really well. This is confident, assured storytelling without a weak link to it and that’s quite an achievement for a book with three artists.
Psircus is gleefully odd, very dark in places and deftly handled throughout. Playing like a combination of the best bits of much missed Alphas and Danks and Gibson’s classic Sapphire. It’s available now.