The Edge Off (Cabal Comics)

While readers of Fraser Campbell’s previous psychedelic adventures like Alex Automatic may feel prepared for what he has in store for us with his new book The Edge Off, there’s very little to prepare the body and mind for the trip now funding on Kickstarter. Rest assured this is No Jacob’s Ladder – It’s at vary least his Cherry Picker.

Publisher: Cabal Comics
Writer: Fraser Campbell
Artist: Iain Laurie, David B Cooper (Colours), Colin Bell (Lettering)
Price: Currently funding on Kickstarter

The premise we open on with The Edge Off is, to begin with, a simple one. Lee, a mob enforcer, struggling with sticking to retirement, awakens to find his daughter kidnapped and his system swimming with a synthetic psychotropic drug called Rapture. With no time to wait until he recovers from being doped, he grabs his weapon of choice and races to get her back from her captors before it’s too late. As a result, Lee is left with two enemies to face, those real-life adversaries who threaten his daughter’s life, and those in his own head as the drug continues to distort his perception and thoughts alike.

While comparisons to Campbell’s well received Alex Automatic series are all but inevitable (both share certain visual hallmarks, along with well-executed, and twisted narratives), it would be an error to consider the two series as different skins on a similar theme. Converse to Alex Automatic’s focus on the spy genre with themes of free will, identity and trust, The Edge Off is far more focussed on perception, and family in addition to the very different characters serving as protagonist.

In terms of the technical creation of the book itself, there’s some masterful work on display. The surrealist elements in both the writing and art work in unison to toy with the perception of both Lee and the reader, the former grabbed roughly by the ears and hauled flailing wildly for control panel by panel, the latter gently corralled and directed with a series of more gentle nudges cues and whispers as the story proceeds down a path of ever escalating insanity and growing violence as it spirals towards the final confrontation. Viewed independently from the story Iain Laurie’s art work in and of itself has a compelling, often haunting quality serving to crank up the emotion and exaggerate the violent encounters while deepening the sense of unreality that flows through the story.

The collaboration to build this story has clearly been a very close one, given how each element so intrinsically complements and enhances others. Even the book’s title is a fantastic work of design in keeping with the wider themes in play. The Edge Off is a deeply interesting comic, with images sure to stay with readers and with subtle rewards for those who invest in re-reading. As 2018 continues its strong line up of work from indie creators, the currently running Kickstarter is sure to be of interest both to those familiar with the creative teams’ previous work and to those with even a passing interest in the surreal and stories that approach things a little differently from the standard fare.