Samurai Slasher: Late Fees (Mike Garley Comics)

We’ve dubbed Mike Garley’s new book Samurai Slasher: Late Fees the first ever ‘slash of life’ tale as it mixes poignant and personal story telling with head slashing 80s infused action. Teaming up with Polish small press superstar Lukasz Kowalczuk, Garley has created a totally unique mix of horror and slice of life, but is worth renting again or should you return it early?

Publisher: Mike Garley Comics
Writer:  Mike Garley
Artist: Lukasz Kowalczuk
Price: TBC

Although nominally part of his Samurai Slasher universe, Mike Garley’s new book Late Fees is a very different beast to the high octane horror anthology we are familiar with. Instead of featuring the Samurai Slasher as the main character, Garley uses him as a metaphor in a story about a young boy and his dysfunctional relationship with his father. In a recent interview Garley told us that he used the Samurai as he wanted to experiment with a new style of story-telling but that he was unable to use established characters and so opted to use his own. It’s a reflection of what a strong character the Slasher is in the first place that it works so well, and although you could transpose the Slasher for any similar 80s horror icon, it would most definitely lose some of it’s lo fi charm in doing so.

Told in the first person, Late Fees sees a young boy bond with his father through a mutual love of 80s horror movies (especially the Samurai Slasher), rented from a classic old school video store called Shockbusters (It features a very clever list of shop rules, which is a great flashback for those who spent their youth in such establishments!). However as the boy grows up and his life and relationship with his father becomes more complex he uses the Slasher as a coping mechanism, an armour against the complexities of life or a persona through which he can fight the monsters that confront him, both perceived and real. Although the core of the story is highly personal (Garley says the experiences are based loosely on his own – but ‘less messy’), it is made into a fantastical and visually stunning book courtesy of the hyperactive artwork of Lucasz Kowalczuk.
The artist behind recent favourites like Knock Off Wars, Lucasz renders the metaphorical battles that see the Slasher take on the lead character’s inner demons in his trademark technicolor glory. It’s a really interesting contrast to the highly personal nature of the story, but manages to skate the fine line between both genres, without completely stomping all over the message at the heart of the story. (It also means that fans of the original Slasher series won’t be disappointed as there is still a generous slice of action on offer!) Kowalczuk s rendering of the monsters and the Slasher are as gory and loud as you could hope for, however it is the quiet moments which are the biggest surprise as Lucasz manages to retain the subtlety and emotional depth of Garley’s script. He also uses a much more muted colour palette than we are used to for these parts, which in turn contrasts brilliantly with the more technicolor and violent monster scenes.
All of which makes for a really unique read and a very difficult book to accurately sum up and describe. In many ways it helps that both Garley and Kowalczuk have such unique respective styles for their work as it means this mash up of styles plays to the strength of each. Although it won’t be part of the main Slasher series, Late Fees is a fantastic one-shot (and one which will fit perfectly into the 3 volume collected edition if that ever appears!). It’s a bold piece of story telling, but a very confident one (from both contributors), and by picking his subject and his collaborator with a great deal of care, Garley has created a book which came out of left field and took us completely by surprise. But may just be career best work from all involved!