If the first part of Scott’s Comichaus Retrospective wasn’t enough for you, then you fine folks out there are in luck! As the good man is back with the second part of his Overview!
Mortality (Comichaus #1-4)
Story & Art: Luke Cooper
Okay, if I’m going to get accused of nepotism, now will be that time. I have the good fortune of calling Luke a personal friend, yes, but in all honesty, that friendship was founded through our continual contact, discussing his project, “Hollow Girl” and talking technique.
Luke and I hold a similar mentality to each other in the Comics we develop, indeed, Luke, quite unintentionally, made me re-think the projects I was developing at that time, in favour of what I’m developing today.
I’m glad that happened. Luke, like myself, is heavily influenced by Cinema and stories of layered depth, built on important subject matters and complexity. Luke’s stories are continually thoughtful, and despite a rough beginning for Hollow Girl getting out there, eventually, the book broke through the market, courtesy of James C. Munch’s Insane Comics publishing house.
It has gone on to become a very successful book on the convention circuit, following a consistent history of producing quality works, such as “Figments”, which deals with very sensitive material on a sexual assault survivor, the Steampunk adventure, “Progeny Of The Lost”, as well as projects with “Dark Horse Presents” Writer, Jim Alexander, on “Good Cop, Bad Cop” and “Wolf Country”.
“Mortality” continues in the vein of these frequently semi-esoteric works, although perhaps somewhat more ‘accessible’ than perhaps some previous material, this story is more straight forward in approach.
Morton Blunt is dead. Killed in a car crash, while fighting off some old enemies he’s picked up along the way. Hardly surprising, really, Blunt is a killer. Ex-Soldier, Mercenary, when you’ve killed that many people in your life, you’re bound to piss off a few folks.
Although understandably not very happy with the prospect of being dead, Morgan is even less happy about being separated from his 12 year old Daughter, who was with him at the time of the accident, now lost somewhere in the Afterlife.
Holding one of the Grim Reaper’s Book-keepers at a metaphysical gunpoint, Morgan searches for his Daughter. On the bright side, it seems that death isn’t necessarily the handicap it used to be.
“Mortality” is another example of Luke’s often dark humour-laiden, disturbing little tales, and although this work was produced during an experimental period, where Luke was trying to speed up art production, in no way does this story feel hurt for it, it’s just a little less refined. Actually, it may even work better for it for this.
There’s a wonderful aspect of humorous cynicism that lingers in many of Luke’s stories, which despite the very nihilistic mentality, has the decency to also see the comedy of the situation.
Normally when we read “mature readers” on a book, we seem to associate that with “adult themes”, such as sex and violence, strong language and gore, but although some of those themes are present in Luke Cooper’s works, what is abundantly clear is that it would take a particularly sensitive personality to suggest that any such use by Cooper would be gratuitous use of those themes, and that some works really are literal when they use the term “mature”.
In short, these Comics are for grown-ups. I hope you enjoy them as much as I always have.
Chalk (Comichaus #3-8)
Writer: Steven Horry
Art: Catia Fantini
Stop me if you’ve heard this one..an immortal, a mythical anthropomorphic personification and the Devil walk into a–
Okay, let’s be honest, you haven’t.
So it’s well worth taking a gander at this wee beauty.
Jacqueline Occent has lived quite a life. A very long life indeed. After receiving a visit from an old friend, Herne, the mythic beast comes to warn her of a danger approaching the Earth realm.
After a series of co-ordinated suicides, induced by a Demonically possessed Hacker occur, it attracts the attention of Iblis, Archdevil of that fiery pit of pain and despair called Hell, a slightly less dystopian realm than Brent Cross.
Old Nick, a.k.a. Beelzebub, a.k.a. Shaitain, a.k.a. Ozzy (according to some sources), a.k.a. Iblis, has always had a bit of a thing for our Jackie, and who can blame him? She’s beautiful, stylish, with a dry wit and charm, he’s been bothering her a few centuries for a bit of nookie and for her to pop out a “first born” for him.
I don’t know what it is with the Devil and “first borns”, it’s probably a bit like Comic collecting, those reprints just won’t do for the really serious enthusiasts, and Iblis is really enthusiastic.
A bit of a mystery is a-brewin’ here, when even the Devil doesn’t know who’s behind these evils, you really have to wonder what the ethereal world is coming to.
Steven Horry has weaved a surprisingly charming tale here, fans of Neil Gaiman and Bill Willingham’s “Fables” should enjoy this, the script is intelligent, witty, and for anyone of the religious inclination, I can’t see this offending your sensibilities here, well, unless you’re WBC or think that Harry Potter is a portal to the Devil’s Playground.
The characters are very quickly defined, and it just so happens that Mr. Horry is also quite the Inker, delivering some very nice, solid blacks and crisp line-work that accentuate the lovely work of Catia Fantini.
Fantini’s work is definitely part of the charm here, and although there are some mishaps with structure and form in places, some of which break her artistic style, she has a distinctive one, that is energetic, creative and aesthetically pleasing. There’s also a need to work more or backgrounds, as they currently look a little flat in places, or otherwise just non-existent, not that I have a problem with a bit of well utilised ‘Negative Space’ at times though.
There’s a look of early Steve Skroce and modern Terry Dodson here, and it’s a pairing that marries very well, and despite the aforementioned art flaws, Catia Fantini shows incredible promise as an Artist to watch.
According to an earlier issue of Comichaus, Lautaro Capristo was originally attached to this project for (presumably) for the art duties, but although I like Capristo’s art, I have to admit, Fantini’s work seems a better choice, especially given the title here.
This is one book that works so very well in black and white, especially because of the extensive use of white, in fact, I’d suggest that if this were to be presented in colour, I think it it would benefit greatly by keeping those colours minimalistic, anything richer in colour might detract from a broader feel in tone.
It’s a great read, and a contribution to Comichaus that should get a few tongues wagging. Including a few forked ones.
Homeopathos (Comichaus #7-present)
Script: Mike Sambrook and Robin Jones
Art: Gavin Fullerton
The writing team of Sambrook and Jones may well go up there one day with some of the best in Comics, you know; Abnett & Lanning, Wagner & Grant, Gray & Palmiotti, Kane & Finger (legally, anyway), and while that’s yet to be seen, one thing that is sure, is that it’ll be a fun ride finding out.
These are the fine fellows of Madius Comics, who, among other great stuff, are behind the continuously critically acclaimed “Papercuts & Inkstains” anthology, and one of my favourite books in the past year, “Griff Gristle”, and are some of the best value books you’ll find on the market for both quality and content for the price.
I’m afraid I can’t give a full plot synopsis for Homeopathos without giving away a few spoilers, plus, at the time of this writing, the story is continuing, but the basic gist is that we have this office worker called James who is suffering from bouts of insomnia.
We’ve all had it at times; the night before The Superbowl or the F.A. Cup final, just before you go on that dream Holiday, or waiting to see if you’re going to be paying Child Support for the next eighteen and a half years, so we all know what a Devil it can be.
Luckily, his office buddy, Alan, may have the solution, and recommends a visit to to his Homeopathy specialist, swearing she’s worked wonders for him. Despite a little apprehension at first, after seeing the Homeopath, he tries her suggested remedy.
His sleep problem is certainly cured, but that’s when everything..gets..surreal.
James is caught in a terrifying nightmare, which features the Homeopath, but James discovers one other interesting aspect about his nightmare..he can control the dream world around him, and pulls himself back out of the nightmare.
He discusses it with Alan, and together, the two investigate. What happens next? Well pick up Comichaus and you’ll find out! This isn’t a bloody Library, you know!
Homeopathos is another good example of the irreverent sense of humour that flows through the works of Sambrook & Jones, even in the most serious of moments, there’s always room for a bit of silliness, which as John Cleese once pointed out, is one of the best qualities of the British.
Well, okay, that’s a bit optimistic, he actually said the reason he buggered off to Hollywood is because we’d forgotten how to be silly in our humour. Apparently not! Homeopathos is bonkers and fun, with whimsical and madcap humour in places, yet never so much that it loses it’s direction, it stays on-point.
Gavin Fullerton is a really good choice for providing the art here, with one part “everyman, Sunday papers cartoons” feel, and one part gonzoid, madly ranting illustrations (I seriously have no idea if one can call that a “part” legitimately, but roll with it).
For all the High Drama, tension and action we’ve seen so far, it’s nice to see one of these stories not take itself too seriously, and though the story needs to be concluded, there’s enough here in these 3 issues thus far to give you a very good idea why the folks at Madius are picking up such a solid reputation, offering something of a break from the norm.
Feather (Comichaus #1-6)
Story: Dave Cook
Art: Norrie Millar
It might seem a little odd I’ve mentioned all the above story-lines in sequence of how they’ve appeared in Comichaus until now, but there’s a reason for this.
I wanted to save this one for last.
Dave Cook has been one of the fastest rising Writers on the UK scene, the Founder of Card Shark Comics, and the man behind Con circuit favourites, “Bust” and another critically acclaimed series, “Vessels”, plus the upcoming “Killtopia”, which features the art of “Bust” Cover Artist, Craig Paton throughout, of which both creators have been repeatedly nominated for awards.
“Feather” has an interesting premise behind it, Doug Swain is a Cop, whose heart is in the right place, married to Sally, with whom they have a son together, Jeb.
Mostly, their life is otherwise comfortable, with the exception of Doug having to regularly round up his alcoholic brother, Darren, who is struggling to deal with the death of his Wife.
Isolated cases of a new strain of Bird Flu have extended to epidemic proportions in a nearby town, with those infected exhibiting large splits and sores in their backs, suffering from severe pain and distress.
Luckily, it has yet to reach Doug’s happily mundane town. Until it does. Worse yet, it will affect Doug directly, changing his entire world, and the world around him.
And that’s where I need to stop talking, past this point, you’ll learn too much, but I’ll say this, the title is there with good reason.
This is a really heart-felt work from Dave, it’s a fine example of why people are talking about his books and Card Shark Comics in general. What I like about Dave’s writing is that there’s no pretentiousness to his work, it’s purely about stories, about people, about situations, this story, for example, is about people changing.
Often, we all change over the years, most of the time, we know something is different, we don’t always understand what it is until a catalyst makes us realise it. This story is ultimately hopeful, it’s the longest story that’s been told in the pages of Comichaus, it’s complete and satisfying, with more than just a bit of contemplative thought behind it on what makes us Human, despite the fantastical surroundings.
Making this doubly special, is the art of Norrie Millar. It’s very different from the art we’ve seen in Dave Cook penned titles before, but no less wonderful.
Norrie Millar’s style takes me back to the publication that started so many careers, 2000 AD, back to its heyday, when Brendan McCarthy, Mike McMahon, Brett Ewins, Ian Gibson and Ron Smith ruled the British Comics art scene. It’s quintessentially British, especially when presented to us in black and white. To be honest, I’m really not sure if we would benefit from Millar’s work being presented in colour, it just feels right as it is.
Sure, it won’t be to everyone’s taste, perhaps it may even be a bit too ‘vintage’ for some modern readers, but one thing it is, it’s pure. There’s considerable care and detail in the art, and where some might consider the ink work a bit on the rough side, even that is a calculated stylistic choice, rather than through a lack of competence or effort, one look at those backgrounds will tell you that.
To sum, although “Suited And Booted” was a very close second, for me, “Feather” stood out from the crowd, which considering the calibre of work in these pages, is really something to say.
One thing I do know is you will be getting used to these names in the future.
Writer: Scott Mack
Editor’s Note: The fun’s not over just yet folks, for an exciting third part is coming soon! But in the mean time, be sure to drop by Comichaus for all your British styled comic book needs!