Comichaus’ streaming app has been rightly hailed as ‘Netflix for indie comics’, and so to celebrate this fantastic service we are going to run a regular column looking at some of the best new books available for the bargain price of £3 a month. If you like what you see, you can download the Comichaus App for iOS from comichaus.com/app and get a free 14 day trial to check out any of these books today.
This latest book published by Comichaus themselves, is a slice of classic gothic horror featuring Dracula, Van Helsing, Frankenstein’s monster and a cast of ghoulish monsters and creepy circus performers. 10 years after the vampire war which vanquished the undead from Transylvania, Van Helsing is now general of the king’s army but is fixating on the fact he never saw the Count defeated. So when the king’s son goes missing with tales of a monstrous being entering his room Van Helsing sets off in pursuit. A second strand of the story then follows circus animal trainer Lucian and his mute sidekick (who is unnamed but bears an uncanny resemblance to a certain lumbering gothic monster) who also set off to help find the young prince and find out who is really behind the disappearance. Transylvanian Knights has that really classic sense of old school horror and monster adventuring. It’s not trying to be too clever and post modern (like a book like Silver for example) and is much better for it. James McCulloch’s script is tight and well thought out, building the intrigue of where the prince is nicely, and balancing it with the actual subplot involving a necromancer in the palace. He also resists the obvious tactic of building this opening chapter solely around Van Helsing obsession with defeating the count which stops it from being too trite. The gothic horror is balanced nicely with the odd touch of humour courtesy of Lucian, his bear and the circus, which prevents the story becoming too earnest but without being too jokey and gimmicky either and so offers a nice bit of light relief. The black and white artwork from co creator Jonny Cannon is a mixed bag, but overall very strong. It offers up a classic style, reminiscent of Conor Boyle, with strong line work and rock solid compositions – especially in the landscapes and buildings, which are an underrated element of small press comics, and which when done well can really help improve the overall quality of a book. It also benefits from a lack of colour, giving it a vintage 2000 AD or Warrior feel to it. This 50 page debut issue does a great job of building up this new approach to a familiar story, managing to avoid slipping into cliche or parody too much, by holding off on a lot of It’s big reveals. This allows McCulloch and co to build a strong premise, and an engaging story as a result, which feels like something genuinely new and interesting using these well established characters.
Big Sheep – A Farm Noir
More than just an excuse for a great pun title, The Big Sheep is an anthropomorphic crime noir tale about a P.I. investigating the kidnapping of his ex-girlfriend’s step daughter. Packed full of crime noir cliches – smokey monologues, rich fathers, money hungry drug dealers, rival investigators, and a glamorous ex girlfriend – the only difference is that these are all animals. It reminded us a lot of Torsobear in this way and also Deer Editor, but lacked a bit of the uniqueness of either. The story is a fairly simple ‘one and done’, but is nicely told and the artwork from Rahil Mohsin is a nice mix of styles, quite cartoonish in places but also quite angular too, avoiding being a completely cliched noir style by not rallying on dark shadows all over the place. It also gives the animals plenty of style and originality. Although not the most startlingly original book out there, it’s a fun read and an interesting take on classic noir.
Sometimes I just want to kill you all: Public Transport
This latest offering from Sam Webster is a stark contrast to the smart sci-fi of Unfamiliar Skies or the superhero antics of Joe Cape. Instead it’s a personal account, chronicling his experiences of public transport and how angry and ranty it makes him. Now this might seem an add subject for a comic, and you’d be right, but Sam delivers the story with enough wit and humour that it makes it thoroughly entertaining – especially for anyone who regularly endures buses. Sam’s Japanese infused style is used here in stark black and white, making it feel more like a piece of printed Manga, instead of the slickly coloured work we are used to. However it really suits the more personal nature of the story – and also worked well in printed form as hand printed zine. Sam makes it into more than just a diatribe about public transport by including some neat touches, such as infographics about headphones, a hilairuly detailed time table and also a level of empathy as he documents his own attempts to improve the situation (and the abuse he gets) via
contacting the bus company and also via social media. It’s a fun and enjoyable slice of life book that, thanks to its mix of genres and art style, makes for a quirky read and certainly one which anyone who uses public transport will identify with. It also feels like a great fit for Sam’s style and personality has a really confident tone of voice to it, so we hope this is perhaps the start of a new direction for this work.
We’ve seen superheroes used as metaphors and allegories for important issues like race and sexuality before, but Transrealities take things into a new realm by featuring a trans character in a prominent role. Part of an Avengers-esque super team, liz Cartwright (aka Whoever) has kept her trans identity a secret from her team, but when a villain unleashes a time travelling plan she is forced to confront her own identity as she returns to a period before she transitioned. This a great central premise for a story and an idea that makes you really think abut the consequences for those going through gender reassignment. It’s the kind of story that could only be told in the superhero genre and it is all the more readable as a result. Unfortunately the rest of the package doesn’t quite live up to the context (or the excellent cover). Outside the main premise the story is fairly generic superhero fare and the other heroes are fairly bland and bordering on parody, which is a shame. It certainly lacks the wit of The Pride or the grit of Vanguard, however with such a strong central concept you can’t help but wonder how things will develop in future issues.