Rob Cave has joined the TRS2 review team. As well as being my flat mate, Rob writes reviews for Borderline and Comics International. Welcome, Rob!
The Mice: Catfood
This is a really well constructed 35 page story from Roger Mason, a creator who appears to be about to make the leap into the professional sphere with at least one 2000ad job under his belt. The mice in question are the few surviving humans on an Earth taken over by giant aliens to be used as a food processing plant. Part pest and part revolutionaries they're trying to shut down the plant by messing with the aliens business. In turn, the aliens are trying to eradicate them, especially after a human turned up in a can of All Day Breakfast. So they bring in a cat.
Other than the role reversal, the joke comes from the aliens being more human than the humans, fretting about quotas, breaks and health and safety regulations whilst under the thumb from a galactic bureaucracy. Meanwhile the human mice have become yer standard freedom fighting rebels, complete with scars, home made weapons and emotional pathos. Mason plays these two worlds off against each other well and neither seems contrived or false.
As for the art, it's obvious Mason is going somewhere. Those aware of current trends say his work is reminiscent of one Henry Flint and he's definitely got the ability to pull off action scenes and talking heads. Personally his work reminds me of Neil Cameron, but that's just my small press brain at work.
As mainstream-small-press goes, this is a gem and worth seeking out.
A5, 40pg, colour cover. £2.00 from Roger Mason, 18c Tompion St, London, EC1V 0HN. Online portfolio, email
Train To Shanghai
Comics travelogues are a beast rarely sighted. Indeed Eddie Campbell once declared them impossible, although he subsequently recanted to very difficult. With the boldness of inexperience then, comes Rob Jackson's debut comic recounting his thirty-three hour train journey to, and arrival in, Shanghai. That inexperience shoes in places. He highlights incidents along the way, but the pacing doesn't really put across just how long the journey really was. His artwork is generally quite static too, none of the people look very animated. What he does put across strongly is the sense of dislocation, of just how foreign China is, and the landscapes and cityscapes are really very good.
Conventional travelogues generally end with the author safe at home, musing on his adventures of a glass of something or other. Rob chooses to leave us on something of a cliffhanger. He's alone in a cheap hotel in a strange city, with only limited command of Chinese, but excited by the possibilities and in awe of the strangeness around him. Obviously he did come back in the end, but I'm betting there's another good comic or two in the space between then and now.
A5, 24pp, £1.20 + SAE from Rob Jackson, 18 Harpers Lane, Bolton, BL1 6HR. Email email@example.com.
In the pop-charts of revolutionary heart throbs, Soviet Poet Vladimir Mayakovsky would probably be kept off the number one spot by Che, but hey, who cares when the poetry’s this good? The first volume of Michael Hind’s ambitious biography takes Stalin’s epithet to Mayakovsky, that ‘indifference to his memory or work is a crime’ as its opener. Hind himself is anything but indifferent in his approach, it’s well researched and well scripted, the poetry is certainly the star, not the arrogant and passionate (I’m being nice here) Poet. The art definitely lets the side down. There’s flashes of brilliant draughtsman- ship and you begin to wonder why, if Hind can actually draw that well, why doesn’t he? At the very least, I can live with the inside but the whole package is undeserving of the cover (bad computer graphics). That said, Mayakovsky’s definitely worth the ride.
Reviewed by Mardou. Mayakovsky, Vol. 1, Number 1 is by Michael Hind, $2:00 (but recommends paying in own currency). Published by Caterpillar Press.
9-385 rue Edouard-Charles, Montreal, Quebec, H2V 2N1, Canada
The Sound Of Drowning #1 & 2
Not so much the product of a cartoonist comfortable with the panel-to-panel consistency our beloved strip-form requires, as that of a writer/artist conscious of this requirement, 'The Sound Of Drowning' displays a developed grasp of design, is pleasing to the eye, and achieves a polish impressive enough to blind a prospective audience to the fact that issue two's montage/collage effect, for the most part, is redundant.
This second issue seems to strive for a kind of DC/Vertigo-impaired scripting, with self-involved delivery that strains for depth - which isn't to say it doesn't contain some competent, fluid writing, buoyed by a hint of knowing maturity; it's just the tone indulges in a self-pitying whine that grates after the first few lines and simply doesn't let-up. It is thoroughly professional, mainstream, mature comics writing then.
#1 however is the 'alternative' offering, and much more to my particular taste. It shares the angsty emotion of #2, but tackles subject matters with greater imagination and verve in the form of three strips that prove agreeably brief and to-the-point - albeit visually long-winded perhaps. And unlike #2's comic strip appearance, here some effective and affecting sequences are in evidence. Indeed, in some of its more successful moments of visual/word chemistry it captures that kind of agreeably disturbing interruption to cognizance which David Lynch often achieves. And at times I was also reminded a little of recent art-house hit 'Donnie Darko'. (It's those pesky wabbits, you see!)
Certainly there's a sound talent at work here in the form of creator Paul O'Connell, and though his efforts are perhaps not always easily digested in the near-relentlessly sombre tones employed - nor indeed in the script/art detachment dictated by photo-strip resemblance - he still manages to produce some impressive work that oozes mood and polish. Not yet the finished article then, and often more a close-relative of the comic strip than actual comic strip, 'The Sound Of Drowning' #1 & 2 nonetheless deserve your attention. Yup, well worth a dunk, methinks!
Available from Smallzone.
Fantastic Life Vol 2 No.1
Steve's work was my first introduction to the world of smallpress 6 or 7 years ago. His simple, sometimes flawed, drawing style and smoothly accessible narrative style, really grabbed me back then. His everyman stories of birds, beer and wry observations of the scuttling creatures that people London, are told so effortlessly and truthfully, that I often find myself being reminded of his stories as I people-watch on the tube or talk shit with my friends down the pub.
I have to admit, that I was a little bit sceptical when I picked up his latest comic recently, as it is sub-titled 'Re-mastered Classics from yesteryear'. In other words redrawn and rewritten stories previously selfpublished. "If it ain't broke, then why fix it?" I thought. But I needn't have worried, as it still reads as fresh and spontaneously as ever. The drawing style is even more simplified, but more confident, and the stories are still as human and relevent. Steve's sharp humour still shines through as he re-lives cringeing stories, generally about plucking up the courage to ask girls out, that invariably go horribly wrong.
Fantastic Life vol.2 No.1 of 3. is £1.95, 24 pages long and comes in a lovely colour cover. It's available from : Steve Marchant, 6a Station Rise, Tulse Hill, London, SE27 9BW.
Posted by Andrew Luke
From Rough Cut Comics, comes this homage to Kirby and Lee which asks what if those two giants had lived behind the iron curtain and shared it's hopes and fears. "Communism's Mighties Super-Heroes!" The chaps putting together this booklet have had a lot of fun with the 'workers of the world' ideals while showing a good grasp of anatomy, laying down keen anatomy, the inevitable fight sequences aided by otherworldly powers, and the latest line in futuristic gizmos. The Alan Moore 1963 sensibility seems to be all around, and the communist manifesto recited on every page is cleverly fun, and will erupt your laughter at various points.
If the book does have one falling down, it's the A5 size. The glossy pages seem wasted on speech bubbles that really need a magnifying glass to do it justice, and likewise with the strong artwork. US standard size would have suited better, but perhaps theres an art statement in there. As with 1963, the book is complete with fitting ads and relevant editorial pieces.
Freedom Collective has a colour cover and is available from Rough Cut Comics, 128 Langmuirhead Road, Glasgow, G66 5DL. The asking price is £2.45, and I would guess, another 40p for postage.
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