Filed under: Exquisite Reviews | Tags: Alasdair Stuart, Dirk Manning, Image, Jim Reddington, Love Stories To Die For, Owen Gieni, Rich Bonk, Sean Burres
‘Bloodlust: Deceiver of the Gods’
Written and conceived by Dirk Manning
Letters by Jim Reddington
Illustrated by Rich Bonk
Coloured by Sean Burres
‘Symptom of the Universe’
Illustrated and coloured by Owen Gieni
Published by Image
This is a fun idea; a series of stories revolving around love, done in one and with a variety of creative teams. The first story in here, ‘Bloodlust: Deceiver of the Gods’ neatly sets the tone too, with a group of Vikings arriving at a monastery in what would become Germany. There, they find out that a group of vampires are threatening the monastery, agree to defend it and, well, nothing goes right.
Superficially this isn’t just a traditional story, it’s one I read a lot back in the 1990s, usually from Chaos! Comics. There’s the same muscular art style, courtesy of the excellent Rich Bonk here, the same ever so slightly heavy metal aesthetic and the same characters, muscular in frame and deed. This is classic, meat and potatoes Slaine or Conan stuff.
Or at least it should be. As the story goes on Manning cleverly unpacks the stereotypes. The Vikings believe in both Odin and Jesus, the monks are riddled with internal politics and dispute and the vampires, well, that would be telling. Suffice to say this is a story that has its cake and brutally slaughters everyone else with a slice too. Bonk and Burres’ art is perfect and Manning’s script is much, much cleverer than it first seems to be.
‘Symptom of the Universe’ features artwork by Owen Gieni and is a complete change of pace. Set in the distance future, aboard a space station infested with one of the most creatively horrible looking creatures I’ve seen in a while, it focuses on three people. Allison and Eric are a couple, clearly in love, clearly desperate to escape. Eric is Allison’s husband, a solder with incredible determination and physical endurance. Allison wants to leave him. Eric would die to defend her. He may get the chance.
Gieni’s art is amazing, as muscular as Bonk’s but with stark, rich hues that combine the cold lines of the station with a wonderful design aesthetic. This is a far smaller, more intimate piece than ‘Bloodlust’ and the gestures and motions of the characters are perfectly carried across. Manning’s script is different this time too. This is a story lives and dies in the implications, from the exact nature of Frank and Allison’s relationship to the possibility Allison and Eric were responsible for the infestation. You don’t get answers, just evidence and are left to make up your own mind. As a result, there’s an air of ambiguity to the whole thing. The ending in particular is wonderful; sad, romantic, tragic and sweet all at once.
This is the perfect book to pick up if you fancy something a little different. The two stories are self-contained, the art and script are top notch and there’s real meat on the bones of both pieces, especially ‘Symptom of the Universe’. Highly recommended.
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