Travelling Man's Blog

Review: Department of Monsterology Volume 2: Sabbaticals by Travelling Man

sabbaticalsWritten by Gordon Rennie

Art by PJ Holden

Colours by Steve Denton

Letters by Jim Campbell

Published by Renegade Arts Entertainment


Available from Renegade Arts and Comixology


After the disastrous events of the last volume, the Department of Monsterology are all recuperating by throwing themselves into their work. Professor Jang takes Samwi to Tibet to learn about her true nature, Michael Calvary leads Team Challenger to a Scottish haunted house that shouldn’t exist anymore while Team Carnacki and their grad students encounter a forgotten branch of science that has no intention of staying that way. And elsewhere, Professor Tovar comes to terms with what he is, and what he may become…


Welcome to one of my favourite books. Department of Monsterology takes the ‘action and learning things!’ sub-genre that includes everything from Stargate Atlantis to Atomic Robot and turns it into the best TV show not yet made. It’s energetic, smart and immensely fun storytelling and this volume is a perfect jumping on point.

Rennie’s script combines three main plots and two sub plots to create a detailed map of the world the series takes place in. Each one includes classic moments of pulp action but each one is also remarkably grounded and human. Tovar’s sub plot is a great example of why this book works so well; it’s both ghastly body horror and an increasingly tragic look at a man pushed way too far. Likewise Jang and Samwi’s story is both a punch up with a mountain-based monster and a touching look at what happens when you realize your child is growing up. Team Challenger’s plot is the one that stays with you though, detailing a very personal version of Hell and a very different take on the ghosts that haunt us.

Which isn’t to say this is grim stuff, it really isn’t. Team Carnacki’s plot in particular is exuberant mad science action that involves robot punching and extensive running away from things that explode. But even there it’s the characters that and how much they care about each other that you remember. This isn’t a utopian world by any means and none of these people back down from a fight but it is awfully nice to see characters understand a problem to death instead of pummel it.

Also, this book is gorgeous. Denton’s colour work takes great care to differentiate between the environments and really emphasizes the scale and cinematic tone of the book. Campbell’s letter work is always impressive but he’s especially good here too. This is a huge cast and one peppered with different speech patterns. Campbell not only gives them all the room they need but helps make those speech patterns exactly what they need to be; indicators of character and subtle, vital parts of the story.

Holden is one of the best artists in the industry and here he shows just why. Every character is distinct and subtle, every action beat is perfectly realized. Each moment is exactly the right pace, nothing gets lost and the sheer, wonderful mad spectacle of what the department does is on every page. Its amazing work that combines with the amazing work everyone else does, much like the characters they’re showing us.

This is a joy to read. Pulpy but never arch, humane but never grim it’s another brilliant look at the lives of the sort of scientist the Doctor would nod at approvingly. Go buy it, and volume 1 too.


Review: Giant Days Issue 2 by Travelling Man


Created & written by John Allison

Illustrated by Lissa Treiman

Coours by Whitney Cogar

Letters by Jim Campbell

Cover by Lissa Treiman


Published by Boom!


This issue, everyone takes drugs!

Well, sort of.


There are two things everyone who goes to University in the UK accepts; drinking is going to happen, whether to you, near you or all over you and you’re going to get ill.

Very ill.

Because inside the first four weeks, just as you arrive, so will every regional variation of the flu and they will get much, much luckier than you.

Oh and it’s all Esther’s fault, obviously. All she does is boast about how she never gets ill and then?


The second issue of this magnificent series is just as good as the first, and does a couple of very smart things. The second we’ll get to, but the first is the way Allison uses the different ways the three leads deal with getting sick to illuminate their characters. Daisy gets some ‘cold meds’, Esther tries to sleep the cold to death and ends up going full goth and Susan? Susan can’t smoke. Which means Susan can’t relax.

Or sleep.

Or eat.

She can however yell at people with both style and creativity.

Through the three different takes on illness, we learn a lot. Daisy is immensely good hearted and open and as a result runs headlong at the pep pills she’s given and hugs them. Violently. She has some of the best jokes this issue, especially in the pigeon scene but also comes out looking best of the three. Daisy’s innocent but she’s not stupid and the script never forgets that.

Esther in contrast, has kind of a bad time. We find out just how rock and roll she is (Very) and also that she’s kind of a hypochondriac. The end result is very, very funny and it also gives the uber-competent boxing Goth an endearing vulnerable edge. Esther doesn’t like being sick, she’s bad at it because it doesn’t happen often. For once, she’s a victim of her own success and that makes an already likable character outright sweet. Not that you should ever tell her that…

And then there’s Susan, whose nicotine rage gives her an excuse to yell at Daisy, McGraw and we suspect passing clouds. She drives the plot this issue in a way that’s so subtle you almost miss it. And so does she. Again, the cold brings out some new sides to her character and, again, it’s hugely likeable.

Oh and this issue features the best pigeon jokes ever written. Seriously.

Then there’s the really clever bit. Cogar’s colours are an integral part of the plot in a way that’s impossible to not comment on and easy to spoil. Keep an eye out for the gag because it’s one of the best, and cleverest I’ve seen and, like everything else here, is note-perfect. Seriously, this book may be the most entertaining thing anyone is putting out right now. Allison’s script is glorious, Cogar’s warm, friendly colours fit Treiman’s expressive and witty artwork perfectly and Campbell’s letters help every joke land dead on. It’s funny, sweet, familiar and vastly inventive. My book of the year so far, and everything else will have to go some to beat it. Brilliant stuff.

Review: Giant Days Issue 1 by Travelling Man

Created and written by John Allison

Illustrated by Lissa Tremain

Colours by Whitney Cogar

Letters by Jim Campbel

Published by Boom!



Welcome to my other favourite book of the year so far. Daisy Wooton is sweet natured, slightly cautious and not sure she’s ready for the world. Esther De Groot is flamboyant, dramatic, boxes and has an amazing ability to generate drama. Susan Ptolemy, their best friend and our narrator, is the Control. The sane one. The nice one.

Well, she says she is.

Because, well, she made this bet with Esther. One that involves Esther not causing any more drama for a full week. If she wins, Esther gives her a back massage. If she loses? Esther gets to give the bookish, cheerfully scruffy Susan the makeover of her LIFE.

Susan’s chances… don’t look great.

Every single page of this is joyous. Tremain’s style is light and friendly and immensely expressive and she sets up the personality of all three friends in a single page. There’s a hint of Byran Lee O’Malley to the physical comedy but it’s not stylised. Instead it cleverly mixes some cartoon short hand (There’s a lovely moment where Susan stomps off with a raincloud over her head) with some really smart character observation. A scene between Daisy and Esther is especially great, starting with good natured chat, skewing into Esther admitting something she doesn’t like about herself and finishing with Daisy proving why she’s friends with these two women. It’s lovely, sweet, funny stuff that feels real and the entire issue is like that.

Allison has a deft, subtle comic touch that knows just when to go over the top. It’s in absolute lockstep with Tremain too, whose figure work is just stunningly good. All three leads express their personalities simply by being on the page and their interactions are inherently fun to watch even without the dialogue. Plus there’s the best extended food based pratfall and the single best ‘…what are you watching?’ gag I have ever seen in here.


An absolute joy from start to finish, this is the sort of comic that reminds why you love this medium. It’s certainly reminded me. Do yourself a favor, and spend some time with Daisy, Esther and Susan. Just don’t agree to any bets…

Review: Munchkin Issue 1 by Travelling Man

‘What Is A Munchkin?’, ‘Humans Got No Class’

Written by Tom Siddell

Illustrated by Mike Holmes

Colours by Fred Stressing

Letters by Jim Campbell

‘Ready for Anything’

Written by Jim Zub

Illustrated by Ryan Sygh

Letters by Jim Campbell

‘Table of Contents’

Written and illustrated by John Kovalic

Covers by Ian Mcginty and Tyler Jenkins

Published by Boom Box!



The greatest, backstabbiest card game ever makes the step across to comics and it’s great. Hitting the ground running with ‘What Is A Munchkin?’ Siddell’s script cleverly sets up the game and its cheerfully nasty mechanics. Holmes’ art is as frenetic and expressive as it needs to be and the final panel in particular has a great dash of sinister thrown in with the comedy.

‘Humans Got No Class’ is where things get really fun. As a group of characters walk a newcomer through the process of building his character we get some excellent comedy, an introduction to the main cast and some really nicely staged action. Holmes has a deceptively simple style that’s actually precise and very disciplined. The action here is all fast, easy to follow and massive in scale and it sets up the world of the game really well. Plus these are fun characters who, the ending aside, we could definitely stand to see again. The one minor bum note, and this is a personal thing, is the crack about epublishing. It’ll wash over the vast majority of readers but, for me, it felt like an unusually mean cheap shot and hurt the story as a result. Your mileage, as well as your opinion of and emotional investment in, freelance writing and e-publishing, will vary.

Jim Zub, of the wonderful Skullkickers, is up next with ‘Ready for Anything’. Rian Sygh’s big, expansive artwork does a great job of echoing and building on the art from the game and there’s a great gag about the importance of proper equipment in Munchkinning. Plus the ending gag is lovely. Finally, the incredible John Kovalic takes the issue home with a single page strip that has the single best punchline you’ll read this month.


If you’re a fan of the game, you’ll love this especially as there’s a limited edition card in the back. If you’re looking for comedy fantasy to go with Skullkickers, again, this is for you. It’s energetic, funny stuff which fans will love.

Review: Sleepy Hollow Issue 1 by Travelling Man

Written by Marguerite Bennett

Illustrated by Jorge Coelho

Colours by Tamra Bonvillain

Letters by Jim Campbell

‘Movie Night’ written & illustrated by Noelle Stevenson

Published by Boom!



It’s a good time to be a supernatural TV fan. Sleepy Hollow, Constantine and Supernatural are all on top form and, whilst we wait for the inevitable (SHUT UP IT’LL HAPPEN IF I WISH HARD ENOUGH LET ME HAVE THIS) crossover, we’ve got the further adventures of Ichabod and Abbie Mills to tide us over.

Marguerite Bennett has an effortless grasp of dialogue and language and she’s on top form here. Her Crane is immense fun; pompous, utterly good hearted and relentlessly confused by the modern orld but it’s her take on Abbie that really shines. Abbie Mills is one of the most fun, interesting female leads genre TV has ever had and Bennett absolutely knocks her portrayal out of the park here. She’s absolutely in charge, a detective applying real world logic to the supernatural horrors Crane is familiar with and it’s huge fun to see. Bennett puts them into a plot worthy of the show too, with a welcome dash of moral ambiguity and an equally welcome and very specific focus on the female population of Sleepy Hollow. Oh and there’s a SCIENCE VS MAGIC! Moment that’s brilliant too. Coelho’s art is incredibly impressive throughout, especially on the main characters (His Crane is delightfully tall and stretched) whilst Bonvillain’s colour work is the secret star of the show. The night time scenes are stepped in deep blues and yellow candle and firelight and the big action beat of the book works entirely as a result of just how good her colour work is. Likewise, Campbell’s lettering shifts gear between Crane’s form of speaking and everyone else’s with grace and ease. Rounded off with a glorious two page strip by Noelle Stevenson that’s gentle, funny and completely in character this is a great start to the run. The town may be no fun to live in, but you’ll be visiting Sleepy Hollow in comic form every month once you read this.

Review: Mulp Issue 1 by Travelling Man

Hello everyone:) There is a huge, ridiculously vibrant and healthy indie scene in the UK at the moment and, as we come up on Thought Bubble (Got your ticket yet?) it’s getting ready to shine. So, between now and then you’ll see the usual array of reviews but with some added indie goodness. Do check these books out, they’re amazingly good.


Starting with…


Created by Matt Gibbs and Sara Dunkerton

Lettered by Jim Campbell

Edited by Luke Foster


Trouble has a means of finding Jack Redpath. Ex-army, and with the scars to prove it, Jack’s nose for trouble and aptitude for danger have got him into a lot of bad situations. Cornelius Field, his best friend, has got him into all the others. It’s not that Cornelius is a trouble magnet as such…it’s just that sometimes things happen around him. Like the kidnapping of Professor Harvest-Scott’s research assistant in Egypt, the attack on his car and the global race for an artefact of incredible power. One that Jack, Cornelius, reporter Victoria Jones and Professor Harvest-Scott must win if they hope to survive…


Oh and they’re mice.


There’s a good chance you won’t read a more beautiful book this year. Sara Dunkerton’s work is astonishing, similar to Jennifer L Myers’ in its ability to combine animals with human emotions. She’s got an incredible eye for detail and the period setting for the book really gives her a chance to show that off. Professor Harvest-Scott’s moustache is vintage pulp, as are Jack’s ragged ears and time and again she works grace notes like that into the art. It’s a fast paced book, certainly, but it’s one that never sacrifices character for action and feels far more satisfying than many as a result. The colour work, especially in the sequences looking at ancient creation myths which is also where Campbell’s work, particularly impresses really shines. It’s a truly beautiful book, and some of the most consistently excellent art I’ve ever seen.

Matt Gibbs’ script plays on that constantly and there’s a left hand splash page reveal here that will knock you sideways. Time and again he and Dunkerton fold clever references or nods into the art and script alike whilst never losing sight of the driving pace and urgency. It’s an extremely clever, well rounded story they’ve built here, one that isn’t beholden to its influences but also isn’t embarrassed by them. This is pulp, or perhaps mulp, storytelling at its absolute best.

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