Mike Weller, acclaimed creator of Space Opera, Fanzine Fiction and Madeline My Love In Death And Fancy, turns his attention to 1000 a.d. (ish) poem Beowulf and conjures a matter-of-fact prose retelling, suffused with suspense and intrigue. Present are those elements of ‘high culture’ that lend greater legitimacy to the superhero genre - which we all enjoy - and a sense of foreboding integral to the effectiveness of good horror - which again, we all enjoy. As Bill Griffiths puts it in his introduction, ‘what better than - a book of Beowulf!’
Hideous swamp giant Grendel, a half-man half-god cast out of Asgard by Odin and Frigor, wreaks havoc nightly on Danmark’s great banqueting hall, Heorot. When women, minstrels and poets alike refuse to enter Heorot for fear of Grendel’s thirst for human prey, and when all that remains of heroes in the morning light are bloodstains on benches and tables, once-great king Hrothgar is reduced to prisoner of his own kingdom. Enter: Beowulf - champion swimmer, Scandanavian-famed as the youth whose hands have the strength of 30 men; rumoured bed-wetter and same-sex fancier. Can he and his 14 loyal kinsmen be the first men in 12 years to stay in the banqueting hall after dark? And what of the hushed stories of a second unearthly creature, woman-shaped and giant? Our hero, it seems, has his work cut out.
Presumably what sets this production of Beowulf apart from others is Weller’s bloody mindedness in attempting to capture a visually lyrical quality befitting a story originally created for an oral tradition. Practically the whole of the book’s 176 pages is imaginatively hand-lettered, mostly in bubble-style, with illustrations used sparingly but to affecting consequence. It is either the startling work of a madman, or of one who understands the conditions of the world and who has found his own tranquillity and order. Either way, here Weller entertains with tales of long long before.
£15, payable to Visual Associations, c/o 3 Queen Adelaide Court, Queen Adelaide Road, London SE20 7DZ. Email: email@example.com Check out the e-flyer.
Matter: Summer Special #1
When the local wacky-backy supply runs dry and the chopped-up grilled skin-of-banana still refuses to smoke right, the world of Cheech & Chongers Whitey White and Sean Brown becomes all hard-edged and distinct. Worse still: their sex-drives are returning! In desperation the duo respond to a small-ad cypher and soon receive the kind of imbibation capable of transporting them through an interdimensional lesion and embroiling them in a covert corporate struggle for monopoly of this transporting/embroiling substance. Add to the joint a Ruskie hitman tamed by love, an out-of-this-world romance and a finale in which a friendship is saved with the aid of diseased skin and a mullet, and readers may find that they have long passed the five leaves left stage!
‘Serious Gear’ (being the title of this Coen-like story) is of course a trip itself. Creator Philip Barrett sheds the frame structure in favour of open panels and a thinking outside the box, adopts doodling-brush to complementary effect, and achieves a breezy, fluid reading experience that floats along with a kind of measured drift - an approach which enhances some inventively surreal sequences. Vaguely resembling a Health Board booklet designed to surrepticiously educate the masses, this little book of blow is a fun, funny read. Passive smoking, gentle reader, has never been safer!
A6, two-colour card cover, 80 pages - email firstname.lastname@example.org for ordering details and/or check the Jinx! website.
Posted by Mardou
Blink#1 is the beginning of a strange and very ambitious graphic novel by Dennis Lo. Three characters are introduced: Marty, a middle aged butcher, Cassie, an unorthodox scientist and Dion, a young misogynist porn star.
Issue 1 sees the main focus on the relationship between Marty and Cassie. Marty, as well as a butcher and abbatoir worker, is something of a storyteller himself, opening the novel with an Eastern tale of love and humiliation (establishing the themes of the novel? Maybe, but it's a little early to tell). Cassie, a failing scientist losing the respect of her faculty as she becomes more and more absorbed in her 'scientific' analysis of the occult, relies on Marty for animal subjects for her experiments (though exactly what they are isn't clear).
Dion is brought into the story as a subplot in this installment, and what is hinted about him, is neatly juxtaposed as a TV news story, next to the news item of baffled police finding the remains of Cassie's dismembered cows.A strange and complex story is set in motion, and left on a cliffhanger ending. Whislt Lo seems technicallly adept and creating characters and creating a story arc (or part of one), he's less successful in telling his story sequentially.
The artwork is very detailed and intricately shaded. Overly so actually. The artwork doesn't quite work for a number of reasons. Whilst I like Lo's distinctive rendering of people (they're both knotty and fleshy), there's way too much going on in each panel. The action is murky and your eye is hampered as you read. Another problem is that Lo allows all the action and detail to slide to the centre of the panel. Everything's surrounded by so much dead space and the end result is very disconcerting. It's almost like looking at a long series of badly composed stills instead of a comic.
The lettering is also a real cause for concern. Both narration and dialogue is typed and stuck on. It's so tiny and speech bubbles are tightly cut around the words, there's no room for the writing to breathe and exist as an organic part of the comic. And considering how much dead space is left in most panels, it's confusing that this should be the case.
Ironically, the thing I feel I ought to be complimenting Blink for - that it doesn't look like anything else I've read - the story has some depth, there's oodles of time and work evident here - is the thing that lets it down. This just isn't enough like a comic for me to enjoy. Lo needs to learn the rules of sequential narration, they'd help guide him towards a book that's technically sound enough to warrant his ambition and talent.
As it is, Blink is stuck somewhere between Dennis Lo's word processor and a series of odd, evocotive, but somewhat askew, paintings.
$3.95 (US)/UK ??
From Dimestore Productions