Even though it is a new year we are still discovering some fantastic new indie and small press comics (with some being leftover from 2021 as well!). This time we look at some ambitious fantasy from Scout Comics, a fun monster adventure from Fraser Campbell and an Irish folklore anthology.
A Kings Vengeance #1 (Scout Comics)
Alex says: This is a frustatingly good comic from Scout Comics which promises much thanks to some stunning visuals, but ultimately leaves you underwhelmed by the end. On first impressions it is the kind of lush and ambitious fantasy we love. That cover is amazing and it has a really slick style to it which helps it stand out from the crowd. The opening pages see a battle torn world and a blood soaked military leader basking in glory of the red hued pages. It’s impressive stuff. Then as this noble leader continues on his quest as his soldiers head home he confronts a fiendish child king who does unspeakable things to him, and ultimately throws him on a massive garbage heap. And that’s it. It feels like a preview issue which sets the tone for a new book, but with our appetite well and truly whetted, we are left without a main meal. All the elements are there – a noble hero, a diabolical villain and a sumptuous world, but this first issues just lacks depth. We often critique books like this for having too much depth, but this is the opposite and just needs something more to it to work as a first issue. Visually it is spectacular with some gorgeous digital landscapes, some epic and gritty characterisation which reminded us of Dan Butcher’s Vanguard, as well as the kind of visceral violence we grew up with in 90s anime like Ninja Scroll and Fists of the North Star – so all the elements are there to be amazing. If we are being generous then we hope this is just a misfiring debut as there is enough potential here to become something really special, however after this underwhelming first step it will have to make big strides to truly deliver on that hidden promise.
Alex says: From the inventive mind of Fraser Campbell (Alex Automatic, The Edge Off) comes another unique slice of small press comics. Unlike some of Fraser’s more left field work though (i.e. his books with Iain Laurie!), this is relatively tame and focuses on a world where monsters are hunted and killed to create clean energy from their blood. Cue a team in the arctic going after a bunch of creepy ice vampires. With the bickering team dynamic of Aliens mixed with the icy environs and creepy creatures of The Thing, this feels more like a story from the pages of an anthology like Action or Battle than a Fraser Campbell book – but that is no bad thing! While we love Fraser’s dark and twisted work, this is a nice change of pace as he has crafted a well balanced mix of action adventure, corporate espionage and scary monsters – but without it ever going too overboard. It’s not quite tame enough to be called ‘all ages’, but it definitely feels more PG-13 than some of his work. Artist Norrie Millar (whose work we love on Vehi-Kill) helps build this world with a polished, albeit quite clean and approachable style, that feels very weekly anthology, but without that being a derogatory description. The colours are also bright and clean and the design of the world, including the back story of Ecto Fuel are all really well done and is always a favourite element in a book like this. The action and characters are well realised without being overly complex, and while it might not be as dark and brooding as Fraser’s other books, it still has a really engaging and very classic British Comics feel to it which we really enjoyed and so can’t wait to fill up on this again in the future.
Turning Roads (Limit Break Comics)
James Blundell: We first discovered this anthology comic during our Thought Bubble coverage last year and loved the fact it was by some of the best up and coming small press talent from Ireland. Compiled by Paul Carroll (Meouch, Plexus) it’s basically a collection of short stories which are based on or reinterpreting Irish myths, legends and folklore in a modern setting. With some horror, some emotional, some action-packed, it provides terrific variety as many of the stories are really wonderful reads and have such striking visual imagery. Like with any anthology some connected with me more than other, and my favourites were Mythic Miners and the Puca and the Leprechaun, which used folklore creatures in a modern setting to give insight into modern relationships and lifestyles. Both of these stories were told with some of the best art in the collection, with Mythic Miners being a whimsical look that turned dark while the Puca and the Leprechaun really channelled the beauty of the characters and their connection to each other. Meanwhile, there were some terrific viewpoints on society from other stories Changeling and Bansi, both of which give insight into our leaders and make you question just how easily they are influenced into their actions (ever for or against our collective wellbeing). That said, while the cover promises (or certainly implies) a collection with heavy influence by Irish culture and lore, I must confess that I didn’t feel that a whole lot. A lot of the time this felt like a host of eclectic works bundled together rather than a coherent collection. Despite this, Turning Roads is certainly a fun collection to check out and while its contents’ quality may vary according to personal taste, this opportunity to appreciate the ‘Best of Irish’ seems like one that is too good to pass up.