This is the most beautiful mini-comic I've read in a long time. I'm not even going to bother reviewing it any more. I'll send you a letter soon sometime, James.
Mark Pawson can do it,
"James Nash's In The Time of Your Life is a collection of his quirky one-a-day diary comics about college, girlfriend and work, alongside more composed drawings illustrating a 'Lifestyle Mantra' which he seems to feel pretty ambivalent about - pointing out the futility of such a positive life message. Ask him about his other publications."
Textured cover, coloured inks, A5, 32 pages, probably about two pounds fifty
jamesnash61 @ hotmail.com
Four good-humoured stories about drinking and drinkers from Olive Press Comics, Your Round: Tequila is a conscientiously crafted collection which provides both a mainstream polish and a mainstream restraint.
Mike McLean and Declan Shalvey's Dublin-set Hustle mixes off-duty lap-dancers, liquor and deception to diverting if unremarkable effect, its noir-ish tone and deftly realised, anticipation-provoking set-up elevating expectation, albeit inappropriately; the modest pay-off coloured flat as a result. Also Dublin-set, Bob Byrne's Say A Prayer For Me chronicles a gradually souring night-on-the-piss with the lads, and in its text-heavy, Clowes-like, conversational six pages, delivers a disarming, deceptively intimate, slice-of-life vignette. The under-occupied, over-economical, computer-aided panels of James Hodgkins' I Drink, Therefore I Am boast a sophisticated cartooning style and effectively employ a visual first-person narrative to reveal the cynical wit-tinged, beer-goggled observations of a barfly as-played-by-Orson-Welles (those goggles are required for Hodgkins' cover, by the way); and Shalvey's two-page chaser Know Your Limits just about justifies its inclusion courtesy of an inventive panel which succinctly captures in one go a whole night's drink-prompted activities.
Though, over all, lacking ambition and too insubstantial to be satisfying, the sound story-telling craft and sure-footedness of Your Round: Tequila offers entertainment enough to seduce the undemanding reader. Get it down you!
US size, b&w interior, 32 pages for £2.50 / $3.50; available from www.yourroundthecomic.com
Let’s see if I can’t get to the end of this review without making a horrible zombie related pun, shall we? The sixth themed Accent UK anthology takes the increasing popular horror subgenre of zombie stories as it’s subject for a solidly packed volume. I count 41 items on the contents page, and with that amount of stories, almost everyone should be able to find something to their tastes.
The trouble with zombies, or at least zombies in the popular consciousness since Night of the Living Dead, is that there is nothing intrinsically interesting about them. They are slow and relentless, yes, but they are also without personality or motive, being little more than brain-eating machines. This means that to create an interesting story using zombies the creators have to have that be about something other than the zombies. It’s just not enough to shout “Zombies!” in a loud voice an expect everyone to cheer, though there does seem to be an element that do think that it’s enough to do just that.
In something of a coup for Accent UK, Steve Bissette provides the gloriously ugly cover for the book, which reminds you how much his particular brand of grue has been missing from comics for that last few years. Hopefully this will be the first of many new things from his pen, as he also does the art inside for a rhyming alphabet of zombies from a script by his son, Daniel. It’s not quite Edward Gorey, but it is fun.
Co-Editor Dave West abuses his privileges as captain of this particular ship to submit a story guaranteed inclusion, The Slow Undeath. Luckily, it also happens to be the best thing in the book, and the only story to entire eschew the trappings of the genre. West approaches the idea of the zombie through a group of workers, following their gradual dissatisfaction as the years pass. This is done with an almost clinical eye, as West frames each passing year with an identical page layout, the final panel of which shows the workers dropping slowly back into the main group walking towards their offices. These remain the most chilling images in the book, and stay with the reader for a long while after.
The team of Kieron Gillen and Andy Bloor (or should that be Gillen Bloor?) provide a nasty little chuckle with their story of a man forced to survive amongst zombies by acting like them. It’s a story that cuts a bit deeper than most of the others in the anthology, bringing to mind similar scenes in Phillip Kaufman’s 197X remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Everyone can relate to the idea of trying to fit in, after all, and this pushes the idea to a hideous conclusion. Bloor’s art here is especially effective – the flow of his figure work has lost that stiffness that mars much of The Wolfmen, and it’s all the better for it. The deep shadows here recall not often point of comparison Charles Burns, whose art is ultimately cold and locked off from the reader, but rather EC artist Graham Ingels. Bloor has been getting steadily better over the last two years, and is one to watch.
The writing team of Leah Moore and John Reppion reprise their teaming with David Hitchcock for a tale set in Victorian Cornwall. The art here is beautiful, full of glowering atmosphere, but it shares the problems that the same team had in earlier anthologies – this doesn’t feel like a whole story, merely the opening of a longer tale. The bit that we do have is very nice indeed, though, and is definitely worth a look.
Other stories of note include Davie Baillie’s series of one page Zombie Interviews, which pop up at various intervals throughout the book. They’re pretty funny for the most part, and Baillie’s art has improved dramatically since his Tongue of the Dead mini. However, repetition dulls the impact of the joke, and there’s at least one too many of these pages in the book.
The last story that I want to single out is Zombie of the Great Unwashed by Jason Cobley and Paul Harrison-Davies. This is a bright and cheerful look at the social aspects of being a zombie, as a friend of one of the dead tries to help him get benefits and employment. It’s good fun, but the reader can tell that there’s a brain ticking behind the story, as the rigmarole that the system forces the zombie to go through is portrayed as more frightening as the zombie himself.
There are dozens of other entries in the book, which weighs in at a whopping 168 pages, which range from slight to intense, with art to match. Most anthologies have their share of misfires, and this is no exception. There are a few things that I could barely finish, to be honest, and which refuse to rise out of the conventions of the genre. Here’s a hint – if your story is featured in an anthology called Zombies, then the shock revelation of a zombie really isn’t going to surprise anyone. Any anthology with just a specific theme is going to suffer from this to an extent, and so it is with this one, though there are a number of excellent stories contained within its pages that make the anthology worth a second look. Those pages could do with being numbered though.
Overall, this is a slick, great looking book, further establishing Accent UK as an important nexus for talent within British comics. The production and printing are all exemplary and the mix of stories, while lacking a little in breadth, showcases an interesting variety of styles. As with the last volume, this represents good value for money, and a great venue for some of the rising stars of the small press. In many ways this fulfils the promise of the previous Accent UK books, and as such, I look forward the next.
US size, 168 pages, £6 from www.accentukcomics.com
If there are two genres that have marked out the history of British Cinema, it is that of Crime and Horror. Oh, we’ve had our costume dramas and our polite romantic comedies and we’ve had our art movies and social commentaries, but it’s the crime and the horror that we fall back to when people ask us about the classics. It’s Hammer and Get Carter. So Dave West and Andy Bloor’s The Wolfmen comes with a fine British pedigree, which runs throughout its pages. Perhaps this is why it feels so familiar.
The book gives a great first impression, as small time hood Jack Grey is recruited into a gang called The Wolfmen, who commit robberies wearing wolf masks. Jack’s introduction and immersion into the gang is dealt with at breakneck pace, and this keeps up for the rest of the book. The art is incredibly immediate, and Bloor’s sharp whites and deep blacks really pop off the page.
However, on closer inspection – the art, while striking, has occasional lapses. Anatomy is often off, especially head size – and there is a sequence involving a desk which utterly gets away from Bloor, who seems to want to draw the people behind it as though they are standing in a big old hole. That said, as the book progresses, these problems become less pronounced, and the heads reduce to a normal size. The cover’s not great either – I would like to see something that harked back to the obvious cinematic inspirations of the book, which would at least be in keeping with the contents.
The other main problem with the book is, although it is not advertised as such, this is the first of at least two, and it shows. There is a paucity of plot here, past the initial high concept, and the double-epilogue, though predictable, does the work of setting the scene for the follow-up.
Accent UK stalwarts West and Bloor have created here a crime story with the trappings of horror, but unfortunately it seems too wrapped up in the conventions of those two genres to make much of an impact. Hopefully the sequel will push past its inspirations into new territory.
US size, 60 pages, £3 from www.accentukcomics.com
Kelly Hernandez treats the wisest sages of inexpensive entertainment to another edfition of 'Lowborn', packed with pirates of boldness in his unafraid expressionism. Stylisticallly Hernandez is rather unique and his work reminds me of that of Michael Cherkas (The Silent Invasion)
Theres seedsof trand cool here, and for. Lots of unusual surreal motifs and curved shapes, its all very elegant.
THIS IS FANTASTIC AND ITS ONLY 50P !!!!
p.s. Kelly, I really love the back cover.
Only 50p & sae or pick it up at the next comix festival. Please email mail @ kellyhernandez .co.uk for current address.
I fear I have literally no idea how to review this lot. Most of the strips I have very little idea what theyre about. A few plays with dimension in form that remind me of the work of Malcy Duff. Line structure and puns similar to those of Ralph Kidson. Visual emotives similar to Stephen Merchant and Matt Abbis. Its relying mostly on a dominance of white space against the black lines that mark out form. Otherwise I can't mention a notion of what its conveying or how well its doing it. (One minimalist piece involving temperature aside) There are pictures to look at that I found interesting but its a fecker to review.
A5, 28 pages
For details on getting a copy contact jedscott 1@ hotmail.com or check out Jed's wweb presence at http://myspace.com/gildedtrapezoid
David Wilson's persona is being chipped away. Taking the professoriate has reduced his charisma and glamour as a free and footloose lecturer, his bedding of female students supplanted by administrative duties for a university that has become an alternative to government training and community boot camps. Education, you see, has been corrupted by a lethal mixture of theoretical absurdities and left-wing socialist ideology: the new university prospectus and website resemble an advertisement for sanitised mulitculturalism.
Meanwhile, Choat – Military Memorabilia shop owner and leader of the South London cell of the Social Order Movement of Europe – is rumoured to be more interested in getting his male members into bed than onto the streets with bricks and Molotovs. At first, white, ultra-right, young working class activist George Bridger considers this a slur against Choat by a bunch of liberal fag peaceniks, but naked male wrestling and group masturbation jerk-offs at the boys-only weekend assault and survival course prompt something of a rethink.
No, David Wilson's is not the only sinking heart in Mike Weller's fifth, particularly dense issue of his Slow Science Fictions prose series: disillusionment abounds. Even Mike himself – in 3World in 4Time – dresses shabbily in black, a pair of deeply set, tired and hooded bloodshot eyes squinting from behind tinted, bottle-thick spectacles. In Weller's Bleasdale-relevant jigsaw puzzle – cut from the fabric of society – there are no sky pieces; but, to borrow from French poet Paul Valery, the void shows through. Loving it!
Additional 3World in 4Time comix, pics, videos, and comments: www.4time.wordpress.com, www.earthco.wordpress.com, www.blog2blog.wordpress.com, www.addingcombe.wordpress.com, www.myspace.com/mickweller, www.egnep.blogspot.com
In the tradition of good ole autobio humanistic comics such ab Rol Hirst, Nigel Lowrey, Dave Metcalfe and Tony McGee. Indeed one of his previous titles is 'Art School Scum' you know Humberstone is an experienced tradesman. This tale of a male Irish retail assistant too conceited around the edges, inside is a brilliant and often warm multi-narrator tapestry. It travels to different aspects and times and space within that narrative. The visuals are the result of some extensive labouring on the author's behalf, and the hatched tight background and sets reflect the warm social relationships between the very 'real' characters and their natural dialogues.
20 pages, US size.
2nd printing, 3 pounds from http://www.ventedspleen.com/blog/shop
While you're on there interwebs I recommend checking out Tom Humberstone's other comics too, online at http://www.ventedspleen.com/blog/shop
Nightswimming by Cliodhna Lyons
Ah....look at it. A5 with a yellow card cover with bare little on it but a sketch of a kettle, cuppa and thte title, 'Nightswimming'. 16 pages, just my size. 'Nightswimming' eh ? Oh, and first page in, really dodgy reproduction value. The toner is spreading the art murky all over the show ! Messy amatuer first timer look with obvious dark vengeance motifs ! Time to get my reviewer's armaments out. Oh. Oh. Its actually very good and the toner spread is perfectly suited to the whole Gordon Ramsey serial killer riff. The follow-up, "21st Century Girl" reveals this to have been one of those 'great art mistakes as art' but the toner has much more faded by now. Seemingly aerodynamic dancer aesthetics, Cliodhna Lyons can emote nicely and quite stylised.
Next up is a tale around the events of 9/11 - warm, funny, and unexpected, like scented body product treats amongst a socialist workers binding to a city traffic island during rush hour. Theres also a change in art style - a Tom Tomorrow thing happening. The booklet closes with "Luas ate my shoe", a postcard tale from post-modern Dublin. Lyons manages to produce something "personal public", not intimate but general and very much involved with the world we live in. Well done !
Most of Cliodhna's works are available to view at cons or online at http://www.ztoical.com/"
The "Luas ate my shoe" story was also printed in a travel anthology called "Kineso" my friends and I put together and can be purchased via http://comixpress.com/ and more info on the anthology here http://www.victordematha.com/luckyducks/