Review: The Exchange (Madius Comics)

Joining The Incredible Bun #2 on Madius Comics table at Thought Bubble is going to be the Exchange. A strange and surreal tale of a cultural exchange between two teachers, that is nowhere near as dull as that might sound!

Publisher: Madius Comics
Writer: Mike Sambrook, Rob Jones
Artist: Liam Hill
Price: TBC from www.madiuscomics.co.uk


Clive is a downtrodden teacher who lives with his mother, and one night while lamenting his lack of a social life he browses the internet for a new job and is greeted with a message from the people of Old Queensdock who are looking for an exchange. Little does he know when he agrees to this, is that Old Queensdock is not your average town and it’s inhabits live by the mantra of “don’t act weird!” – and with good reason!

On the surface, The Exchange might not have an obvious hook – it’s cover is fairly minimal and it’s synopsis is deliberately vague. But that’s because hiding beneath the unassuming facade is a gloriously strange and downright bonkers book. There isn’t a single part of The Exchange which feels like a regular book.

The opening chapters with Clive teaching feel like they have stepped out of a Todd Oliver book with its over the top characterisation and dysfunctional visuals. Whereas the residents of Old Queensdock feel like they have come from an episode of Adventure Time – if it had been drawn by Iain Laurie. They are a strange and weird bunch of misfit characters, but there is something sinister hiding underneath the quirkiness. It’s all then rendered a glorious neon fused pink and blue colour scheme which makes the whole thing feel even more otherworldly but really eye catching and fresh at the same time. (Even the lettering is not your usual style and helps continue this strange vibe that the book has).

While the visuals from newcomer Liam Hill will be the first thing you notice, the dialogue that is hiding underneath those weird images is just as funny. It has that classic Sambrook and Jones sarcasm and surreal-ness that we have loved in Papercuts and Inkstains, and the little asides and snippets of dialgue help make the book much more than just a bunch of surreal images. It gives it that readability factor which is key to making a book like this work, and it does it very well.

Along with the excellent The Incredible Bun, The Exchange feels like a real step up in quality for the Madius team – as well as an interesting new direction. They both have a real confidence to the writing and the concept, that is then allowing them to take more risks with the artwork. And as a result, thanks to the choice of some unconventional artists they are making books which feel really interesting and fresh. Both books feel very accessible and like they could be all-ages, but there is also something simmering just under the surface which means you probably shouldn’t be showing it to really young kids – although we’re not sure why yet!

The Exchange is a really assured and confident read from a publisher on the rise, and this is a book that will delight and baffle you in equal measures. (And when you go and get your copy from them, remember the Queensdock mantra, and don’t act weird!)