Alex Automatic: Bokeh’s Machine (Cabal Comics)

After storming it’s way into our indie comic of the year list for 2016, we couldn’t wait for the second issue of Fraser Campbell and James Corcoran’s super spy thriller Alex Automatic to return to the field. And so Alex Automatic Bokeh’s Machine continues to baffle and entertain in equal measure, but will it be another unforgettable read for the amnesia super-spy?

Publisher: Cabal Comics
Writer: Fraser Campbell
Artist: James Corcoran (Art) David B Cooper (Colour) Aditya Bidikar (Lettering)
Price: TBC

After being rescued from the grips of Prysm in the previous issue Alex is thrust back into the action and a new mission against a mysterious scientist – the enigmatic Bokeh – who has a machine which can bridge the world between fiction and reality. It’s a brilliant McGuffin for a book about confused identity and allows Campbell to send Alex off to the jungle to fight giant apes and rhino guards with artist Corcoran able to go all out with crazy set piece after crazy set piece.

As with issue one the story can feel disjointed and all over the place at times, but that is after all, the point – and part of the charm. As Alex lurches from one reality to the next the colouring and letting changes to telegraph what is going on and it feels much more coherent as the team get used to the quirks of their great idea and how best to approach confusing world.

It also benefits from quite a lot of action which allows Corcoran’s Kirby-esque art to really cut loose. From the mugging at the beginning to the jungle combat scenes, his work bristles with energy and his brush stroked inking gives the whole thing a real golden age charm. It also allows you to forgive any shortcomings in some of the pencilling as it has that energy and vibrancy which you don’t get in modern comics which have all the rough edges knocked off them. Corcoran’s sense of design also creates a truly wonderful array of characters, from Bokeh himself to the gorilla soldiers and the motley crew of villains. It also sees him drawing Alex in action with his super spy arms and legs extending and revealing weapons galore that make him into a bad ass Inspector Gadget, but with the crinkle faced looks of Steve McQueen.

With a cliffhanger that sets us up perfectly for issue 3 this feels like a real forward step for the ongoing Alex Automatic story. If issue one was a pilot then this is where the series really gets going and Fraser and co have created one of the most exiting and original small press comics around, that definitely deserves further investigation!