Small Press Spotlight: Silent Horns, Stormhaven Techs, The Bones of the Sea

Our latest round up of new titles being released at this month’s Thought Bubble Comic Festival showcases the fantastic range of title on offer as well look at a tale of teenage angst, an all ages magical adventure and an abstract thought piece.

Silent Horns

The new comic from Wine and Zine’s Bryony Evans is a wonderfully potent story about coming of age and acceptance. Yfa is a young hexerei, which is a sort of horned magical creature that looks a bit like Marko from Saga. When their horns come through, the Hexerei begin to develop magical powers based on the 4 elements (earth, air, fire and water), but when Yfa’s horns come through her powers don’t appear immediately and so she begins to question herself and why she isn’t like all her friends. Silent Horns is a beautifully told coming age story, that has real heart and emotional depth to it. On the surface it is your classic tale of pubescence and acceptance, with the horns being representative of any number of teenage changes (for both genders). Yet it feels like it could be so much more than that – especially for any teen who is looking for something more, in particular anything to do with gender or sexuality. Where Silent Horns works so well is that it can appeal to such a wide range of teens dilemmas, without ever diluting its message, and so the amount a reader gets out of it, is up to their own situation. (There is even something there for the parents, which is a lot of what this reviewer got out of the book.) As well as being a wonderfully written story, Silent Horns looks gorgeous too. Bryony’s artwork is packed full of expressive characters who have a real sense of dynamism, which is so surprise considering her animation background. Yet they are all rendered in a beautiful monochrome pencil shading style which gives the story a fantastic texture that really suits the quite organic, fantasy nature of storty. It also gives it a real intimacy to the book and feels like something very personal as a result. Silent Horns is a really wonderful read that feels like it could help as much as it entertains!

Stormhaven Techs

Set in the lab of a school of adventuring, Stormhaven Techs reads like a Harry Potter book from the point of view of the house elves. Newbie tech Tabitha (not Tabs) joins the school and lab tech team alongside Fingle, and the ghostly Mrs storer and start to help the teachers be fully equipped for their adventuring lessons. It’s an interesting twist on the classic magical school story, and positions Tabitha and Fingle as the underdogs rather than the heroes from the start. The notion that they are the put upon staff is played well and means the magical elements are kept to a minimum and the characters are given time to develop. This first issue is split into three stories: the first intoduces us to the various characters of the school; the second sees them investigate a dragon related heating problem in the school; and the third sees them help out with sports day and sees us learn more about Tabitha’s past before she became a lab tech. It’s a really fun and enjoyable read that takes familiar fantasy elments but never feels derivative or lazy. You can feel writer Ben Haith Bedford’s own experience as a lab tech seaping through, which means it feels very relatable, despite the unlikely setting, giving it that classic everyman setting of a sit com like The Office. Visually it looks great and feels like a fun combination of Kate Ashwins Widdershins or Tanya Roberts work on Plagued, with a some of the more surreal elements of Dungeon Fun thrown in for good measure – all of which is one heck of a combo! The cartoonish style really suits the fun feel of the whole book and it is bright and colourful and so suitable for all ages. However there is enough smart humour within the pages that means there is something there for adults too. A fantastic approach to a familiar theme that means this set of prep room tales are definitely well prepared!

The Bones of The Sea

The new book from Petrichor’s Gareth A. Hopkins continues his unique approach to comics. His mix of personal reflection and abstract images build these wonderful visual pieces which are strangely readable despite their unconventional style. This issue is built around two strands of thought: Hopkins musings on his family as he waits for his son in a car park; and also on the decaying body of a blue whale. It is the latter which seems to inform the visuals (and gives this book it’s name) as the shapes Gareth has created have a flowing almost tentacle like appearance to them, as well as feeling like waves crashing on the sea, or indeed like the decaying bones of a giant sea mammal. Unlike his previous work, this perhaps gives a more immediate visual connection to the words, but that connection is not necessay to get the most out of Hopkins work. As we learnt when we talked to Gareth about Petrichor Hopkins has developed and evolved his style to be about a long term journey for his art, as much as it is about creating individual comics. However, by accident or design the images for Bones of The Sea feel like a much more coherent set when contrasted with the words – while still remanning completely unique in their approach. Gareth’s work is a bit like avant garde jazz or expressionist cinema, and it  work works best when you understand his reasoning and read his work as part of a whole. While this may sound like it xould prevent new readers truly appreciating his work, Gareth makes his work very accessible, so people do not have to invest heavily in order to experience it. So if you are looking for something challenging, then give it a chance and you might discover more about what he is trying to achieve. And when you do you will see a genuinely fascinating creator who is really pushing the boundaries of what a comic can be.