We’re still buzzing after the excellent Bristol Comics and Zines Fair and so thought we would take a look at some of the books we picked up from creators who we encountered for the first time at the show. These include Tim Bird’s Grey Area from Avery Hill, Cristian Ortiz’s military fantasy adventure in Golden Campaign and Hamish Steele’s hilarious retelling of Egyptian Mythology in Pantheon.
Grey Area: Our Town (Avery Hill Publishing)
Writer/Artist: Tim Bird Price: £7 from Avery Hill Publishing
Tim Bird’s latest installment of his Grey Area is more thematically similar to the previous volumes, rather than a continuation of any grand plan. In other words, it seems to share that same sense of quiet melancholy and ennui that made previous offerings so unique. This time the story focuses on an unnamed character and the way that a location with a broken gate shapes certain moments in his life. At first it is a place where he flies a kite with his grandfather, but the main part of the story sees him meet a kindred spirit there before distributing origami cranes around the town. While in the third act he returns there with his partner in origami to relive old times. It’s a very subtle and rather poignant look at memory and nostalgia told from different viewpoints, looking at the passing of time and the way we hold on to certain memories and places. It’s not the most immediate of reads but it has a certain bleak charm to it that rewards repeat reading. Bird’s visuals are both simple and clean, but also tightly structured, with a great eye for design and his panel layouts beautifully realized and very carefully considered. All of which makes for a very thoughtful and original read. (It’s also much bigger in real life than you might expect!)
Golden campaign volumes #1-3 (Crom)
Writer/Artist: Cristian Ortiz Price: £6.50 from Crisitn Ortiz’s Big Cartel Store
Christian Ortiz (aka Crom)’s tale of military rookies and massive mechs is supposedly based on his own life – which is definitely a unique way of telling this kind of story. Focusing on a young foreigner called Caprille who arrives in a new city to make a name for himself as an artist, he discovers that the only way to be a success is to join the mercenaries. The city is a militarised zone and the emperor is filling it with mercs rather than the military and at the centre is charismatic ex-soldier Azul. We see our hero get taken on basic training and then onto early missions before a mech ambush sees Azul get injured and Caprille taken off to a new mysterious land at the end of volume 3. It’s a slightly meandering and not always coherent story, but with its small press roots and auto-biographical slant it does away with the formulaic comic story telling and makes something much more interesting as it doesn’t follow an obvious structure which you can predict. Visually it is a real treat with an interesting mix of styles. There is a hint of Mike Mignola, with some of the compositions and the angular physiques, but it is rendered in a shaky indie style that lacks polish that means it is also packed full of raw energy. It also has an Anime esque edge with some of the characterisation, especially the mechs, while the finish which mixes inks and pencil shading keeps it very much in the arty end of the indie sphere and really makes the whole thing feel really fresh and uncompromising. If you follow Crom on social media you can see how some of his more polished artwork can look, but for Golden Campaign the rough and ready more informal approach definitely works better and makes for a really vibrant and exciting set of comics.
Pantheon (Hamish Steele)
Writer/Artist: Hamish Steele Price: £8 from Hamish’s Big Cartel Store
The world of Egyptian mythology is a strange and bizarre mix of stories that are perfect for turning into comics and Hamish Steele has done just that. But rather than tell a serious version he has decided to make the most of the more adult notions and added a slightly crude undercurrent to his tales. It’s set up in the opening few pages with the line ‘and then he had a wank’ when describing the creation of the universe and that pretty much sums up the level the story-telling is on. So if that kind of humour appeals to you, then you will love this book as it continues throughout the book – especially with the running joke about the god Set being a massive cock – which reaches it’s crescendo with a fantastic full splash page with Osiris screaming it at his brother. But this isn’t to say the whole is just like a mythological version of Viz. Steele has clearly done his research and the whole series of stories is told in fantastic detail and accuracy. The cartoony black and white artwork is exquisite and gets a perfect mix of cartoon humour and graphic stylings, that reminded us of the fantastic History of the Universe by Larry Connick – one of our all time favourite books. With great things in the pipeline for Pantheon in the new year, be sure to get involved now and you can claim to be there at the start of something special (and fortunately this book is a start which doesn’t need a tissue to clear up afterwards!)