Ahead of this weekend’s True Believers Comic Festival in Cheltenham, we take a look some of the fantastic books being released at the event, featuring: Greg Meldrum & David Broughton’s Detective Gallo and The Unholy Company, Mad Robot Comics’ Cadavers, Kev Brett’s The Making Of A Comic Con, Joseph Olivera’s Ghost Island, and Hellbound Media’s Mandy The Monster Hunter: The Face IN The Curtain.
Detective Gallo And The Unholy Company (David Broughton)
Shaman Kane creator David Broughton, has teamed back up with writer Greg Meldrum to bring us supernatural sleuth series Detective Gallo. A sort-of follow up to their previous series Martillo, it sees a grumpy Spanish detective investigate strange events connected to the mysterious St John’s Cross in 1940s Spain (while also looking after a new impetuous sidekick!) Like Shaman Kane, Meldrum and Broughton prefer to give you the back story in a first page prologue and jump straight in to the action, which makes for a much more impactful story. Spilt into 3 mini chapters, it has a relatively simplistic plot involving creepy monks and events from Gallo’s military past. Although it has some back story and the odd twist and turn it’s fairly linear in it’s events, but that’s not such a bad thing as it makes for a very readable book, especially if you are a new reader. Broughton continues his styllish artwork which mixes some cartoonish elements with a darker under tone that reminded us a bit of a cartoony remix of 2000 AD’s Henry Flint. That 2000 AD influence feels very apparent throughout and you could definitely see this as a story in a prog or Future Shock (and no great surprise seeing as these guys regularly contribute to 2000 AD fanzines Zarjaz and Dog Breath), but there’s also a strong influence of Euro horror, and even some Hammer, as well as a bit of Mike Mignola thrown in for good measure – plus a nice bit of classic comic strip humour. All of which makes this a really solid read and definitely worth a looking out for.
CADAVERS: Doppelganger (Mad Rock Studios)
Cadavers is set in a world where two parallel versions of earth collide and thanks to a crossover point, the undead are able to sneak through a gap and begin to integrate a country called Altrasania. The Cadavers are a misfit bunch of ‘spectrals’ who have become an underclass thanks to the rhetoric of a nationalist politician running for office on a platform of anti-immigration (sound familliar?!) so they decide to do something about it. The eclectic bunch we meet in this debut issue includes including a morose bogeyman, an impish poltergeist, a skull faced revenant and a shape shifting anima, but the main focus is on a Doppelganger, or ‘photonic-vardoger’ – which basically means he can travel through reflections in glass or water. With a central event, each issue of the series will tell the story from a different character’s point of view giving it a Rashomon style narrative which can be a bit disorientating on a first read as you attempt to piece together exactly what is going on, however we hope will make sense in future issues. While the debuts of the characters are not as perhaps as impactful as they could be (we’d have liked the exposition page at the beginning rather than the end), writer Matt Hardy has built a really interesting premise here and it feels like a story with plenty of room to develop, if handled well. With artwork from Mad Rock regular Ed Bentley which has a mix of Joe Mad style expressions and Michael Avon Oeming shadows, it creates an interesting hybrid style which is very well polished and gives this book a ton of potential which we really hope gets realised.
The making of A comic Con (Kev Brett)
Don’t worry if you’ve never run a comic convention yourself, because Kev Brett’s series of comic strips about the trials and tribulations of putting on an event doesn’t require first hand knowledge! However if you’ve ever been to a Con (or put together a large project involving big characters) then there will be plenty of familiar subjects here – and plenty of laughs. Based on his experience running the Nottingham Comic Con, this is really enjoyable, albeit quite short, series of newspaper style strips done in a classic Dilbert kind of style. It offers a really fun insight into what goes on behind our favourite events and will give you a new appreciation of just what a headache it can be to run one of these things – so be grateful to the people behind your local Comic Con next time you go to one, as your diva demands may get turned into a comic strip – especially if it’s one run by Kev!!
Ghost Island (Ghost Island Comics)
A group of strangers congregate on a mysterious island at the request of a surreal benefactor who is attempting to open a theme park full of ghosts and he needs it tested. Among our casts there’s a psychic, a watchman and his uninvited son, and a pair of snooping journalists after a scoop. Joseph Olivera’s haunting book reads like a gothic Agatha Christie mystery with all these seemingly unconnected characters gathering in one place. However, rather than be set in a country mansion, there is a supernatural undercurrent, which we see exhibited from the start as we learn more about our lead character Josh Evans, whose psychic powers are not as fraudulent as many think. It’s this ability to convene with the dead that brings him to Ghost Island at the request of an eccentric owner who needs Josh’s help to convene with this ghosts. Thanks to this intriguing set-up Olivera’s story begins to build really nicely in this opening chapter, while artist Anabela Turlione gives the whole thing a dark and scratchy monochrome style that feels almost rotoscoped in places and makes it looks even more ghostly and ghoulish. Along with the truly stunning cover (which is reason enough to pick it up!) and some excellent production values (we were lucky enough to check out a printed version which feels really premium!), Ghost Island looks like it could be a real dark gem of a read and a definite purchase, especially for anyone who loves a ghostly whodunnit.
Mandy The Monster Hunter: The Face In The Curtain (Hellbound Media)
As the publishers of books like The Disease and Slaughterhouse Farm, Hellbound Media are making a name for themselves on the UK scene for their stomach-churning tales, however this latest instalment of their female ass-kicking heroine’s adventures is much more palatable for all-ages and a great book to have at the centre of their line-up. When a young girls sees a terrifying face in a curtain and is plagued by monsters under her bed, she calls on the help of Mandy – who has established her urban legend like status by being summoned via a child’s drawing. Inevitably all is not quite as simple as it seems as Mandy and Nola must figure out why the girl’s house is so haunted! The Face In The Curtain is a really fun and enjoyable read, that manages to balance scary monsters and relatable story-telling to create a really solid package. There are just enough scares and gore to make it interesting for older readers, but not so much that you would feel uncomfortable letting someone a bit younger take a look. Although the artwork can be a bit erratic in places and the story skips over a few elements here and there, Mandy is such a great lead character that you can forgive this and will kept swept away in her adventures!