Having discovered his work via the crime/horror Mountainhead, we decided to delve head long in to the dark and disturbing world of John Lees’ SICBA award winning series Sink. This gloriously depraved series of tales set in a Glasgow council estate is a stomach churning mix of horror, crime and comedy and creates one of the most unforgettable indie comics you will read.
Writer: John Lees
Artist: Alex Cormack
Price: £2.49 from ComiXology
The world of Sink is based in the fictitious Sinkhill estate in Glasgow, the kind of place you really wouldn’t want to end up under any circumstances. The first five issues (available as a collected volume) introduced us to the estate’s more terrifying and unique characters including: a van full of murderous clowns; a bus driver with murderous intentions; a fox mask wearing vigilante called mr Dig, and local villain Si McKirdie and his army of henchmen called the Dickheads.
Many of these return for these new issues (which will eventually make up volume 2), but while they aren’t necessarily the focal point for the tales they have a constant presence which ties the whole thing together like a gloriously gory tapestry. It’s a bit like Sin City, as the characters appear as driving forces in stories which aren’t necessarily about them, and allows Lees to flesh out concepts by using familiar names and concepts.
With each issue having it’s own story and even it’s own tone or genre, you never know quite where things will head with an issue of Sink. But you can be sure that it will probably be very dark, very gory and quite unsettling. Issue #6 is a perfect example and sees a nurse kidnapped by the previously mentioned clowns and subjected to torture before escaping and reaping her revenge. It’s a classic slice of crime thriller revenge, but with the graphic violence of a movie like Saw or Hostel. There is a dark sense of style to its’ visuals thanks to artist Alex Cormack whose work has a sinister angularity to it that is reminiscent of the darker elements of Greg Capullo mixed with the slickness of Martin Simmonds.
Told without any dialogue it’s a harrowing read, and mixes bloody violence with a rain soaked background. The pages are packed with detail and mix of weather and violence means the pages can be quite chaotic at times, however there is a method to the mayhem and in places can dilute some of the extremity of the violence thanks to there being so much blood and rain being splashed around.
Issue #7 sees the recurring characters of the Dickheads return, but this time follows Big Jordan who is set to reach his 30th birthday and with that comes an intimidating ritual known as the Lead Balloon. However because he is too pre-occupied with being a nice guy he struggles to fit in with his hoodlum pals and panics about what this ritual will entail. Perhaps the lightest and least blood soaked of these issues, this is a great reminder that Sink is about more than ultra violence and there is actually depth and character here – and even humour – which makes it a very readable series, in the face of the darker elements.
Issue #8 and 9 is a homage to the Raid and sees a group of Iraqi immigrants in a tower block which becomes something much more terrifying than they first expect (and justifies their suspicions when everyone is just too nice for their own good). While issue #10 is Lees’ attempts at a rom-com story and sees a pair of unconventional lovers subjected to a home invasion.
With each issue featuring a series of short extra stories, as well as an essay from Lees explaining many of the cinematic influences which inspired each issue, Sink is a gloriously dark and intricately created world that elevates itself above being just a blood and guts book. It’s a great example of why extreme horror still requires character and depth to make it work, and reminded us of the best of Garth Ennis’ work on Preacher or The Boys for the way it mixes genres as well as pushing the boundaries of what people feel comfortable reading.
Having said that, there is perhaps a bit too much blood and guts for our own personal taste, as the violence is extreme, graphic and relentless. Having read all five of these issues one sitting we were quite overwhelmed with the amount of violence on display in each book and definitely felt the need to go and read a book about kittens and squirrels as an antidote.
While Sink is definitely not a book for everyone, it is a truly one of a kind read. So if you have a strong stomach, a dark sense of humour and are looking for something which is like a mix of Crossed and Shameless, but with a quintessentially Scottish sense of humour, then Sink is the disturbing, blood soaked, soap opera which you never knew that you wanted, and which you will never be able to forget (whether you want to or not!)