We were lucky enough to round-up a slew of great books ahead of this year’s Nottingham Comic Convention, including Midnight Man: Gunspace, Perrywinkle and many more. But we also managed to pick up some great book on the day, and here are some of our favourites including the new chapters of Reckless Hero’s space western The Last Sheriff, James Lawrences’ Legend of Mariposa zines, The Marionette Unit and Accent UK’s Westernoir.
The Last Sheriff #4 (Reckless Hero)
The sheriff continues to bring together his posse in the latest issue of Reckless Hero’s all action western. This time he recruits a drunken samurai character to the fold who he encounters in a town called Railtown. In return for joining his cause, the sheriff and his band must help rescue the samurai’s brother from the hangman’s noose and in the process encourage the residents of Railtown to revolt against their masters. It’s another high energy action packed issue, that as the story begins to build from its humble origins, is beginning to feel like episodes from a TV show with each having its own identity but also part of a larger arc that links it together. It’s a great way to hook in new readers without having to rely on them reading the whole series, but also plays to the strengths of artist Chris Imber and writer/colourist Chris Jenkins as it allows them to have plenty of action in every issue as well as developing the plot. Although that plot is a little basic in this issue, it’s still a really fun read with Imber’s artwork continuing to excel. He’s a bit more bloody and violent this time and so there is plenty of claret flowing, and eyeballs popping but it’s great to see his sequential work improving with every issue – the magical scenes involving Rose being a particular highpoint!
Legends of La Mariposa Blue, Yellow and Green
La Mariposa is a cute masked luchadora who is desperate to join the group of super wrestlers known as the Sons of Justice. But first she must fulfil a quest to collect the masks of 4 demons before she can join their club. Although La Mariposa exists primarily as a webcomic creator James Lawrence has put out these three fantastic colour coded zines as a way to have something to sell at cons which exist outside the main timeline of the webcomic and serve as a fantastic introduction to this wonderfully wacky world of his webcomic. In the Blue Zine (aka The Sons of Justice) it is a spoof of an El Santo style wrestling movie and sees our group of Lucha heroes battling a demonic force in a graveyard. While in Yellow (aka The Climb) it sees La Mariposa take on a mission for a gangster which involves climbing to the top of a huge mountain and stealing birds eggs. And finally in Green (aka Night of the Chupacolossus) we see our heroine help a farmer take on a sinister Lizard creature in jeans shorts with the help of a demonic black goat. All three volumes are really short and punchy and a great intro to the characters. The quality of the artwork and writing makes it feel like the forgotten tag partner of Josh Hicks Glorious Wrestling Alliance, while it’s expressive cartoony style and zany sense of humour makes it feel more like an Etherington brothers book – and would not feel out of place in The Phoenix. These are perfect introductions to the wonderful world of La Mariposa and manages to get the balance of having enough in it for wrestling fans to get a kick out of, but not so much that it will stop those who aren’t grappling fans from getting a kick out of it too. We loved the way that the combat is portrayed as ‘real’ and the characters are like real life superheroes, and so it doesn’t get bogged down in trying to navigate the tricky of world of whether wrestling is ‘fake’ or not. It’s creating an alternate reality where it is real and so instead it plays to it’s strengths of action and larger than life characters. It almost feels like a video game or animation with some of the overtop fight sequences, and in doing so give La Mariposa a perfect balance of suitability for kids and adults alike. A truly champion read!
The Marionette Unit (TMU Workshop)
Set in a dark and sinister steampunk Victorian workhouse, Azhur Saleem and James Boyle’s The Marionette Unit sees a young girl named Beatrice go undercover in an attempt to rescue her sister Melodie from the sinister owner, Mr Dubré. But this is no ordinary workhouse. Those in there are physically modified to have ports in their back which are then plugged into a machine and their tasks are then automated to increase their efficiency. However if they fail to comply then the machine will react against them with deadly results. It gives the story a really sinister core, as the workers are not only there against their will but can be controlled like no other – becoming the marionettes of the title. This dark and sinister world is brought to life by artist Warwick Johnson Caldwell, whose loose style reminded us of a gothic Quentin Blake, and his sparing use of line and his loose style gives the book a truly unsettling look and feel. Especially in scenes like the double page spread that introduces us to the workhouse and all the workers plugged into the machine. He revels in the analogue nature of the world, but unlike similar books like Lady Mechanika or Porcelain, that blend Victoriana and weird technology it has a much more simplistic approach with the ports and add ons feeling much more low-tech, almost barbaric and certainly less glamorous as a result. With it being a long format graphic novel, rather than a 20 page single issue, the story in this first volume is told at a very slow and deliberate pace, taking time to introduce us to the world of Dubre’s workhouse, and allowing us to learn about the technology and its impact on the work force. We also learn about Beatrice’s past and how her, Melodie, and also their brother, end up in this workhouse attempting to find out the truth. With a suitably dark final twist, the Marionette Unit leave you clamouring for more of this utterly compelling story.
Purchase for £12.99 from the marionetteunit.com
Westernoir #4-7 (Accent UK)
We were big fans of the first volume of Dave West and Gary Crutchley’s supernatural western adventure and it’s enigmatic hero Josiah Black. So we were pretty excited when Gary popped by our table at Nottingham and told us about the second arc! It’s another really fantastic slice of hard boiled western action that feels like a classic gunfighter tale that’s been distilled through a filter of classic crime noir. In many way it feels a bit like a Brubaker and Phillips book, but with cowboys in! After the supernatural chicanery of the first 4 issues, this second arc manages to ground things a bit more as we are introduced to Mr Cagliary, the man who recruited supernatural gunslinger Josiah Black to his cause, and sees Black chase him down. It’s all built around a Rashomon style encounter on a railroad carriage and so rewards reading the whole arc in one chunk as you begin to piece the story together and the events that lead up to this moment. As with the first volume, Gary’s art excels with a classy old school style that feels like it could have come straight from the pages of a classic British weekly. His composition and pacing is both unfussy and ungimmicky and that really helps the book have a very traditional feel to it, and works as a nice antithesis to the more stylish westerns like the aforementioned The Last Sheriff and so should appeal to classic gunslinger fans. Our only negative about this second arc – WARNING THIS NEXT BIT CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS – is that it picks apart the main crux of the book which we loved – i.e. Black being a bounty hunter who goes after supernatural creatures and monsters. This is revealed to be not quite what Black expected and although the story is told really well, by the end, it was not the book we thought it was at the start, which was a shame. However, there is enough really great work in here that we are prepared to trust Dave and Gary and keep our fingers crossed that the next arc is another rootin’ tootin read!