Sunday, 17 September 2017

In Preview - 'Geis: A Game Without Rules' by Alexis Deacon.

Geis Book 2: A Game Without Rules.

Created by Alexis Deacon.

Published by NoBrow - 120 pages - full colour - £15.99.

The Story - 'The second test has begun. Contenders for the new chief find themselves divided against their will and flung into a dangerous game. While the struggle for power continues, Io and Nemas battle with their own identities.... but when allies are turned against one another, who can be trusted.' 

'Geis, pronounced gesh, is a Gaelic word for a taboo or a curse. When a geis is placed upon you, it is like a spell that cannot be broken and certain rules must be obeyed. You might be prohibited from trampling mushrooms, for example, or from sitting down on the stairs. If you ignore or break a geis the consequences are dire.

But a geis is always broken.

As soon as it is spoken or written, your fate is set.'


The Review - This is one of those series that I am confused why everyone isn't falling over themselves to talk about. Volume 1 (Geis: A Matter of Life and Death) came out last year and was a beautiful telling of the journey of competitors to reach the castle. They were competing to become the chief. To rule the kingdom. It was a competition set by magician politicians. A mystery box was opened and we rushed to see how it would unfold.

Volume two takes place almost entirely within the walls of the city/castle. It is a game of wit and manipulation. At it's heart it is magical folklore tale with some of the most beautiful visuals you will find in quite a while. It is also not a short read. 120 pages are packed with multiple panels and for a 'Game Without Rules' this has a claustrophobic nightmarish quality where things happen, unexpected and violent things that have a twisted logic to them. It is a gorgeous riddle that keeps you searching and theorising the solution.



Volume 2 also sees the various roles of the players fleshed out. They are never purely the scientist or the magician or the heroine or the soldier of the wizard. You see Deacon subvert the classical folklore and fantasy roles beyond the ordinary. The race for the crown and often just a race to survive have the contestants change and develop before the eyes of the reader. Deacon adds a huge range of character and emotion to the players beyond what you often see elsewhere in a fantasy story.


Like all good fairy tales it mixes the fantastical with the cruel. You genuinely have no idea as to who will survive at every turn of the page. It also speaks to the class system in a (small 'p') political style. The rich are not just idiots but do display the pomposity of their positions and those below stairs are more practical. Whilst above and out of reach are the meddling magicians who watch and wait and prod and survey the chaos they have created. Clever stuff indeed.

'The will that shapes the world.'

It is of course broad politics laid out on a folklore stage. It plays about with role and destiny and the games those in power often play. Isn't all power play and manipulation the art of guiding us through a narrow line of food and famine, life and death, power and weakness? This is a jigsaw for the reader to push in to place. One that I enjoyed watching fall apart and then again gain direction time and again over and over. This is done with a marvellous flourish and a bag full of darkness. 


The art is outstanding to say the least. It has a pastel feel to much of the backdrops with a great sense of colour and depth as you move through the halls, stairways, libraries, throne rooms and corridors of this maze of a city. Deacon packs many panels to a page and then opens the world up with some extraordinary splash pages. He has a sense of the urgent in the movement and a great sense of light and darkness. The light through windows and the shadows of the interiors are used to great effect throughout.

I won't spoil the cut and thrust of the story (insert smiley face here for the slower people who didn't see what a hint that was) but this is a volume that really packs some story punch. It is done with some excellent story beats and is in no way a quick read. I highly recommend you taking your time on it and read it slowly and in chunks to get the full impact.

'It's blood and poison out there.'

This is the second in the proposed three volume series and will be released from NoBrow Press on the 30th of September 2017. You can pre order your copy here http://nobrow.net/shop/geis-vol-2-a-game-without-rules/?

Follow NoBrow on Twitter @NobrowPress

You can find more about the creator at his Blog http://alexisdeacon.blogspot.co.uk/ 

This is a fucking glorious series. I relished every single panel on every page in a way you don't generally with other comics. Seriously! You need this on your shelf. And at a price point of £15.99 0r $18.95 for a hadback it is hard to argue.


Many thanks for reading and I apologise for the crude language.




Tuesday, 12 September 2017

In Review - 'Dalston Monsterzz' by Dilraj Mann

Dalston Monsterzz

Created by Dilraj Mann.
Published by NoBrow.
Oversized hardback format - Full Colour - 76 pages - £14.99.



'For years, Dalston has been home to monsters - not just the property developers who own the area. Out of the holes dug for new blocks of flats, huge beasts began to emerge. Gangs formed, territorial battles ensued... and now two friends must fight for their lives as they discover the true depths of Dalston's darkest secret.

Dilraj Mann's debut graphic novel explores friendship and corruption in an alternative vision of East London.'

I had the pleasure of chatting to Dilraj at the East London Comics Art Festival in 2016. He told me about his grand plans for this book and I've been looking forward to seeing what would be published since. I don't feel that I was let down in any way. This is a ruddy wonder of a book. It mixes the urban drama genre with the fantastical in a clever and beautiful execution of a comic!

Let's start with that cover! If you are looking to create an eye catching, bright encapsulation of a story in one image then this is where to look. The title on the left with the vertical horizontal yellow stripe and black lettering is striking and draws your eye. Next to it is a multiple person image that shows both the fantastic Manga meets Charles Burns stylistic art and the visual representation of an unfolding urban fable. If this doesn't catch your eye on a comic or bookshelf I'd check your pulse as you may be dead from the waist up...



The interiors are as good. They are retina burningly iconic in their individual and thoroughly consistent methodology. They have got a pace and a character that reflects an urgency of young and troubled city dwellers. The book opens with a fun moped vs car chase from the off. A chase that not only sets the stage visually but also sets up character and narrative. I sense a strong editorial hand on a stripped down to the bone story that reveals and extrapolates at perfect timings.

I'm an old fart. It's plain. I have to admit that I didn't like any of the characters on a personal level. But I don't think I am mean't to because walking through Dalston in real life London I doubt I would then either. Roshan, Kay and even Lolly are formulated to be real and not endearing. To say that this is 'Kidulthood' meets 'Monsters' is an over simplification. This gets into the guts of more about life in London and seems to me to have a hard reality playing alongside the fantastical elements. The voices are grounded and spell out the day-to-day lives of the kids involved (especially in the first act).

I'm typing much of this as I read this volume. Around half way through the book you begin to realise that Mann is a clever fucker. He's created this world and placed the players where they should be, he's then began to weave the story beyond what I expected. He is creating an enduring hero and a splendidly fleshed out world. It has all the hallmarks of the start of a series. It also has a cheeky sense of style and humour. There's a snark and flourish to the words spoken and the designs on show.



There is much more coming I sense. This landscape of hipster street markets and tower blocks has become the playground for something more akin to a saga with a deep running mystery at it's heart. I'm hoping as I read that this isn't a one and done graphic novel.... I will read on.

30 minutes later...

Right! I've just finished reading. I want to tell you what a fucking great ending this book has. The twists and the turns that you'll see on the page. The way that it will play with what you think you know about the story and characters and monsters and political games that are played. 

But I can't. I can't spoil this. It's something that you'll need to experience for yourself.

Just promise that when you have read the whole thing you'll go out and have a good shout about what you thought.

What I will say is that at £14.99 this is a solid gold steal! Every page is dynamite.

Buy a copy!

Find out more about the creator at www.dilrajmann.com or follow him on Twitter @dilraj_mann

You can find more great books over at the NoBrow website at www.nobrow.net

Or pop along to the book's release at Gosh Comics in London on Friday the 15th of September between 7 and 9pm. www.goshlondon.com

Many thanks for reading.



Twenty-four hours later....

I showed this to a pal (he's not a big fan of comics or reading in general to think of it) who read it sitting next to me on a long drive and he said as follows...

'This is fucking great! It's like Pokemon meets The Warriors' (I kind of liked that one!)

Sunday, 10 September 2017

In Preview - 'Stir Fry' by Sarah Crosby.




Stir Fry.

Created by Sarah Crosby.

Published by Good Comics.

Black and White cover and interiors - £4.00 - 36 pages.

I've been reading quite a few books from Good Comics recently. They are getting quite the name for being an up and coming indie UK publisher and are much touted by Rich at Comic Printing UK.

'Stir Fry' by Sarah Crosby is one of three new releases that they will have at the upcoming Thoughtbubble Comics Festival in a couple of weeks. These also include 'SID' by Olivia Sullivan and 'New York (a holiday to remember)' from the wacky world of Elizabeth Querstret.

This is slightly different from the other releases in that it is a collection of three stories that are split up into chapters throughout the comic's pages. All of these have a dark and irregular sense of humour and turn of phrase. The creator chooses some very weird situations to examine. One example is the search of a common house fly looking for something to eat.

'Never have I seen such exquisite beauty!.... His stench, such a pungent aroma! I feel a stirring beneath my wings. We will meet soon my love.'

The fly sees a middle aged and pot bellied man laying out on a lounger in his garden sweltering in the sun. The fly falls in love with this sweaty man!



Another story, and possibly my favourite, is about a train carriage full of passengers. A baby is screaming it's lungs out and annoying those nearby. The passengers summon the Devil (obviously) who appears in his pants apologising about rushing when he was called (beware his satanic bum crack by the way). Sarah takes the story beyond what you would expect and does so with hilariously dark results.



There is some genuine originality on show here. It is a delight to thumb through. It has the initial feel that you are reading a UK small press title but takes you on a ride worthy of comics like 'Creepy' and 'Eerie' or 'House of Mystery'.   

The art is well constructed and you are never at a loss figuring out who is who. It has a comedic style with slightly caricatured faces and situations but never to the point of shouting about it. Faces are comically intense and full of expression.

I had real fun with this one and I would put it at the top of Good Comics' output so far. 

A small problem would be that it seemed too short. As a collection I would loved to have seen more. 

But for content this is highly recommended. Give it a go.

You can find more out about Sarah at www.sarahcrosbyillustration.co.uk and on Twitter @DI_Kittypants

Head over to Good Comics and grab some of their titles at www.goodshop.bigcartel.com and find them on Twitter @Good_Comics


Many thanks for reading.


Saturday, 9 September 2017

In Preview - 'Self-Care & Vegetables' by Rozi Hathaway.




'Self-Care & Vegetables'

Created by Rozi Hathaway.

Black and white - 40 pages - £3.00 - A6.


Currently available for preorder and to be released at the upcoming Thoughtbubble Comics Festival in Leeds on the 22nd - 24th of September.

Story - This is a comic about a break up and the implications felt by one side of the partnership. From the practical implications to the emotional complications.

The Review - This is described by Rozi on her etsy store as an 'Autobiographical Break Up Zine'. I have a lot to weigh up in describing a book and this review is based on my personal feelings about what I have been sent in preview.



I have read it a couple of times now and it has played on my mind as to whether or not I should present a review. Here are some of the questions I have been asking myself. These are my opinions and I note that they are only relevant to myself. You may have a different opinion.

 (Yes I understand that it is presented as a 'zine' in the advert but in messages to me Rozi herself has described it as a 'comic')

Does this comic go deep enough? Is it an explanation, a confession and/or a peek into the life and thoughts of the creator? Does it give insight? Does it educate or cause enjoyment? Does it work as a comic? Is the art pleasing? Do the words echo? Is it an improvement on that moment in the day? Does it educate and enlighten? Does it get you thinking and/or examining?

Is this enough as a piece of art?

It is by depth, length and time, enough?

Would I buy it? Would others like it?

Is it worth the price?

Does it provide help to others? Does it provide places that people suffering the same problems can go to? (Sadly it does not).

I have been questioning what I am doing here. Do I review this book that has left me a little frustrated and a little confused as to why it is offered for sale.



I understand that strong emotions and difficult situations can and have been used to create art of all kinds. I also understand that interweaving real life and autobiography is a type of comic that can be interesting to those not involved with the described situation. Some of my favourite comics are autobiographical and so-called Slice of Life. But the events must be given texture and depth. They must have something that makes them interesting or enlightening to read about. 

I feel for Rozi. Splitting up with a partner and suffering anxiety is not easy to deal with. But in my opinion a comic about that situation needs more to its pages than we get here.  This comic is in my opinion under realised. It appears to a stranger looking in like a lot of blank pages and some scattershot sketches. It looks like a couple of doodles in a sketchbook with scant interlocking prose. The cover feels like minimalism is an excuse, it's attempt to look like a diary or notebook scribble doesn't work in my opinion. I would personally have loved to see much more art.



This is a shame as I rank Rozi as a really interesting creator and her last few books are up there with some of my personal favourites this year. But this needs more. More depth and more of the beautiful art I am now used to seeing from her. What there is looks like a good start to me, albeit a little rushed and under rendered. I would like a bigger bite at everything she touches upon, she and the reader deserve more of a try.

But that is just my opinion. What do I know.

If this is something that is more to your taste you can go to www.rozihathaway.com to get a copy. I highly recommend Rozi's recent release 'Cosmos and Other Stories'. Her etsy store can be found at www.etsy.com/shop/rozihathaway

You can also follow her on Twitter @angelsallfire

Many thanks for reading.

A Few Thoughts On 'The Human Beings' issue 3.

The Human Beings - issue 3.

Created by SJ McCuune.

Published by Millicent Barnes Comics - 24 pages - full colour.

Sometimes I like to get a press release. Often they are a handy explanation of a plot and a history of the creator or creators. It is an easy short cut when you are posting a review or a preview. With anything by SJ McCune I would never read a press release and I am glad that he never sends one or would consider he has a work that would or should be explained. The Human Beings is a story that is a four dimensional jigsaw puzzle. I read and reread issue 3 with a furrowed brow intent to work out the strands and pull them together. Some I catch, some I wonder if they are just my interpretation and some I will never find out. This is all part of the joy of reading a book that is written for clever people and in itself an experiment in art and it's transition into a real and palpable event.

This book is a mystery in so many ways in both traditional ways and ways that are freaking so out of the ordinary that your head will be reeling. It lays down mood and facts in equal measure that then entail you trying to be a mixture of Columbo and Jerry Cornelius (and much, much more) to work it out. A trans dimensional, creepy, whodunnit that moves between the most unsettling of worlds. I relish it appearing with every single instalment.



So, what is this series. Let's try and explain it in more simpler terms. It is an anthology of short stories. The stories range from horror, to sci-fi to biographical. They are none of that and all of that at once. This is also a series that is regularly Kickstarted by the creator. He has a a strong fan base and his work usually gets funded in less than twenty four hours - and rightly so. You know if you back one of his projects that you'll have it through your door or in you inbox promptly and with a mess of extra material.

The cover was an image that SJ teased early on in the process and shows how some hard shadows of the world crash into the light. Impenetrable in their darkness, hiding the truth. A cover that looks like a holiday snap crossed with an Argento movie still. It cunningly laid up the series to come and is echoed in a story called 'I am tomorrow' that appears towards the end of this issue. More on that in a second.

'They can both run, run, run .... and they should ... because this is my work now.'

I am trying not to spoil the story or the things that appear within the narrative that hint at other events. I want the reader to experience and extrapolate for themselves as that is where the joy exists in these comics. All the way through his previous series Monlogue and through this you sense something clever and knowing that will all be explained (maybe). 

'I just never notice myself'.

SJ plays with your reading experience. For example the story 'Windows' involves some unsettling visual imagery, some echoing words, some cute female friend interplay and some chatting backstage at a stripper bar. It is purposely counter intuitive yet playful. The peeled off strippers underwear for example shows a playfulness and may (maybe) have a revelation metaphor included. 



But... more than ever I sense the autobiographical crawl out from under the bed and look up at you. Comments on how 'jazz makes it easier' and the story 'I am tomorrow' where a man walks through sunny streets with the phantoms of his past all around him make me think we are seeing reflections of the creator everywhere in this comic. The strings are being pulled together, the world is unfolding and we will be shown the creative and real soul of this comic book maker. The last but one page also shows a painter as an easel. They are painting the face of a character in the story...... perhaps I should have been a detective? 


But then again I could be way off the mark....


'I walk out amoung them, among Human Beings and I remain a phantom.'

(Notice the capital letters in that line of dialogue.... he is his story.)

More!!! Now!!!

Buy this comic at www.millicentbarnescomics.bigcartel.com and follow SJ on Twitter @StuartMcCune



Many thanks for reading.

Monday, 4 September 2017

In Preview - 'FLD' from Bob Turner.


FLD.

FLD (Flood) Created by Bob Turner.

24 pages - Full Colour.

Remove the vowels and then it becomes a spell that will pull you down and under.

This book opens on a single drop of water splashing down and becoming part of the sea. We then watch a fish jump out of the water and seemingly swallow the world that hangs above it in the sky.

Once again Mr Turner twists our perceptions and toys with our emotions. He is at once playfully cruel and bright and colourfully imaginative in the short stories that he pulls you along on.



FLD returns us to our friend with the big old eyeball for a head. Under the covers in bed asleep he blinks with surprise awake and heads outdoors to see that the rain is coming down in bucketloads. With a boat to hand he loads his purple little blobby dog thing into the boat and heads out on the swelling seas. Will they survive? Will they find high ground? 

I have really enjoyed Bob's books and this is perhaps my favourite so far. It has less of the chasing that went on in his previous series DTHRTL, maybe less of the frenetic urgency? This is more of a legendary journey across sometimes angry and sometimes calm seas.

I watch and allow the movement and images to wash over me and I'm also carried along on the waves of the beautifully simplistic tale. It becomes a tranquil moment in my morning as I read it in preparation of this review. It's transitions have me in a storytelling trance as I am fascinated by this little eyeball man and his ever so traumatic life. Mr Turner manages to emote more through this uncomplicated story and some incredible visuals than most manage with more hurried details.



Another highly recommended comics from this Edinburgh creator. Take a moment out of your day to enjoy his work.

Grab a copy of FLD or Bob's other comics at www.castlerockcomic.bigcartel.com or follow him @castlerockcomic

Many thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

In Preview - 'SID' from Olivia Sullivan and Good Comics.



SID

Created by Olivia Sullivan.

Published by Good Comics.

26 pages - colour interiors.

The Story - This follows the story of Sid. He's a guy with a dangerous imagination. He continues in his fruitless search for a job and has to combat his anxiety dreams that include disease, the capitulation of the body, strange religious iconography and blue lakes (and many other scarily itchy incidents...)



The Review - I just got on a train. I have bought myself a bottle of fruit flavoured water and falafel wrap. 'It is going to be a long journey' I was thinking and I'll have some time to read a few comics and maybe catch up on the ever present and growing read pile. Hmm, what shall I start with. I know, I'll read the new book from Olivia Sullivan and Good Comics.

Twenty minutes later.

'I don't really fancy eating anything now.' (Throws wrap in dustbin, tries to catch forty winks, can't manage to keep eyes closed, worries that my scalp is itchy...)

I can pretty much guarantee that you won't find another book like this on the shelves. Sid is, to put it blatantly, severely fucked up. He is not well, his mental illness and extreme anxiety issues give rise to him fixating on his body. The vileness that he imagines just under the skin. His body is rotting away in front of his eyes at every turn. HHis mind takes him on flights of nightmarish fancy.

He is a doomed man in his own eyes. He has a psychosis that is actually hard to describe. His world is dripping and rotting and melting and morphing in reflection of his mental illness and his religiously instituted guilt.

The comic is split into four chapters. 'Collecting Dust', 'The Blue Lagoon', 'The Forest' and 'Cleanse'. All these titles only hint at what you might encounter. 

It is also a comic that is a genuine experience to read, albeit it an itchy one. It will actually make you feel the need to psychoanalyse the character of Sid and also by extension the creator and then again make you wonder about your own sanity as you turn the pages. It may also make you want to take a long shower. You sense that Sid is spiralling into madness in the absolute worst way and I worry that they must without any doubt be reflected in something that the creator has experienced. This is confessional in every image, or at least that is how I interpret the story.



Worthy of note is the self referentially humorous moment when Sid looks at his smartphone and we see that he is listening to 'Paranoid Android'. At this moment I am reminded with a wink that not everything should be taken seriously or at face value.

Since this is a preview I have strayed off the path of giving a blow-by-blow account of the story beats, maybe I'll save that for another time post release and when I have ruminated on it a bit more. But what I can say is that this is a reading experience unlike anything I have encountered before. It will make you curious about that misshapen mole on your arm, worry about that smell in the freezer or why the dog keeps scratching his ear....

My only niggle and one that jumps out as you read is the lettering. It could do with a tweak or by getting an experienced letterer on board from the start. Shape the boxes and the font would lead to a smoother read.

You can find more about Olivia the creator at www.oliviasullivanillustration.co.uk or on Twitter @ZenBucko

Good Comics are putting out some really interesting content and can be found at www.ggoodshop.bigcartel.com or on Twitter @Good_Comics

Many thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

In Preview - 'Perrywinkle' by Susie Gander.

K

Perrywinkle.

Story and Art by Susie Gander.
Lettering and Logo by Robin Jones.

Self published full colour - 42 pages.

'Perry Winkle is your own personal strong, fearless, cancer killing superhero... and let's face it, not too bad on the eyes either.'

The Story - Susie is in the hospital with her husband Chris. They are waiting to hear the results of some tests. At this moment of stress Perry Winkle appears in front of her. Is this curvy yet tough super-hero real? Believing this to be a medicine and stress induced hallucination she ignores it, brushes it aside and gets on with her life.

Susie is diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. She fights back with the help of her heroine Perry. With Chris on one side and Perry on the other Susie faces the disease head on. This is the story of that fight. 

'They are your battle scars, wear them with pride.'

The Review - Perry Winkle started life as a webcomic. Susie then took the decision, the perfectionist she clearly is, to redraw it and put it out as a comic. It was successfully kickstarted and now is getting printed and will soon be available to buy.

Cards on the table Susie is a pal of mine. But we first met after I got a chance to read the first half of the story and later interview her on a panel at the Leamington Spa Comic Con earlier this year. I am always impressed with this woman. She is not only brave but also talented and this comic attests to both these facts. The comic (in my humble opinion) reflects not only the refusal of Susie to be beaten by the illness but also that cheeky sense of humour that imbeds itself into the pages.  (A moment when Chris points out that his wife just farted always raises a smile).



The way that the story is told has a feel of the traditional, the bond we have developed over the years with those super-heroes that we are used to reading. The creator weaves into this trope the elements of the illness affecting a couple and makes it much more personal by doing so. This brings a familiar feel to the images that also when required smacks you in the face with moments and images of two people dealing with a life threatening illness. This is a real feat of artistic skill in my opinion. The art style has a contemporary capes and cowls feel to it. There isn't the usual use of overly melodramatic shadowed images or ponderous navel gazing. This is a pragmatic and practical look at dealing with a terrible event. It has style and an emotional wave that will crash down on to the reader.

Cancer is something that has touched many families and in reading this I can't help but feel emotional myself through the story that is told on the page. Susie manages to bring home the real and heartbreaking gut punch this disease is and how it affects her and those around her. There is one panel that hits home with the impact a diagnosis and treatment has. Susie curls herself up into a ball and utters the line...

'I just lay there... vulnerable and broken...28 years old, life was going well, married, saving up for a deposit....why now?'

Listen I'm a man in his forties. I've seen a lot of shit over the years. But nothing has ever brought home the strength of an individual and that life can be emotional and fraught with danger to the undeserving than this comic has to me at every single reading. As I put the book down I am genuinely more than a little broken. This is a work of strength and humour and drama and tears and joy. What more can you ask. And at the end a big old ray of hope.



Buy this book. It'll be getting a launch at Nottingham Comic Convention on the 14th of October 2017. Head over to www.nottinghamcomiccon.co.uk for details of this event.

You can find out more about this comic and it's creator at www.perrywinklecomic.com and follow her on Twitter @SusieGander

This book also raises money for Bloodwise. This is a research charity that looks in to all types of blood cancer, including leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma. They are also a charity that provides support for those affected, their families and friends and supply expert information. Head over to www.bloodwise.org.uk and donate. 


Many thanks for reading.