With our reviews list creaking under the weight of so many titles pre-Thought Bubble, we thought we would collect together an eclectic group of essential reads that include: a collection of Tom Gauld’s wonderful strips from the Guardian in Baking With Kafka; the complete Deadline strips of Shaky Kane in Good News Bible from Breakdown Press; and the latest chapter in David Lumsden’s bleak post-event world Boat.
Baking With Kafka (Drawn & Quarterly)
Following the critical success of Mooncop, cartoonist Tim Gauld’s new book Baking With Kafka is another collection of his unique brand of comic strips from The Guardian newspaper. Each strip is short and succinct but packed with lashings of detail, wit and invention – as well as plenty of daftness and surreal situations! With many of the strips focusing on books and reading (such as ‘Dear Departed Books’ or the colour coded library) it can feel quite high brow (which you might have guessed from the title), but it avoids being too pretentious by poking fun at those that are snobby in strips like the ‘Snooty Book Shop’ or the ‘Guide to Buying Poetry’) Although Gauld has a very simplistic style his sense of design and composition makes every panel a true delight. On occasions he revels in this simplicity with just a single idea across the whole panel or a couple of stickmen having a dialogue. But he also produces several strips with very carefully considered depth, such as ‘the Pagans Guide to Countryside Symbols’ or ‘Dystopian Road Signs’ that allow you to pore over every tiny detail. With a love of time travel, infographics and literary parody to name but a few of his repeating themes this is another timely reminder of what a wonderful talent Gauld is and the strips in here will keep you chuckling for weeks after reading them.
Good News Bible – The Complete Deadline Strips Of Shaky Kane (Breakdown Press)
Following the release of last year’s The Last Driver, we found ourselves continually referring to ‘the legendary Shaky Kane’, but what makes him deserve such an accolade? Well if you loved his high octane larger than life work in Last Driver, or picked up the mind-bending Thousand Yard Stare from Image, and you want to find out more, then the folk at Breakdown Press have just the book for you. Good News Bible compiles the complete collection of strips and covers Shaky produced for the equally legendary magazine Deadline in the late 80s and early 90s. It makes for an awe inspiring look back at the formative years of one of the UK’s most innovative and unique talents. Featuring all his most infamous strips from A Men and G Men to Nukehead and Atomic Eraser. It’s an incredible collection that allows you to watch Shaky’s style evolve and develop as he becomes more confident and more edgy, pushing the boundaries of comics. From the dark and twisted Kirby inspired early pages, which read like a bitter rebuff to 2000AD and are packed with religious commentary and iconography (hence the title of the book), through to his cut and paste mixed media strips later on (which see him experiment with photo montage and fetish imagery to create some truly unique, if a tad NSFW series of pages that feel more like pop art than a comic strip. As such if you are expecting a gentle read then you will be left disappointed as Shaky’s strips have not much in terms of ongoing narrative, and don’t really worry much about continuity and story. They drop you into the deep end and then punch you in the face rather than gently lead you into the story, but that is part of it’s charm. The main draw for this book though are the visuals and even after nearly thirty years they still bristle with a punk rock/new wave energy and the anarchic spirit of a creator who is not looking to fit in, but create art their way without boundaries or restrictions. The book also includes a 20 year anniversary story which showcases how Shaky’s style has evolved in the years post-Deadline as well as an annotated section that gives you insights into many of the details that you wouldn’t see otherwise. This is an absolute must for Shaky fans everywhere, especially the new legion of fans who may not know why Shaky is regarded as a true legend of UK comics!
Boat Volume 3: Blood In The Water (Boat Graphic Novels)
David Lumsden’s Boat is a great example of how a book can grow and flourish over time. Starting off as a solid idea (a father and son alone in a boat in a post-event world, struggling to survive and basing their life around a simple set of rules), but the strong concept struggled to stand out from behind fairly mediocre artwork. However issue 2 took a brave leap forward with a new artist and a new over arching direction for the series as Charlie the drifter makes landfall in Scotland (Aka No Land) and is caught up in a conflict between two rival survivor groups. It’s difficult at this point not to compare it to The Walking Dead – with its monochrome artwork and post apocalyptic style – however it’s more than just a copy of Kirkman’s zombie opus it’s just tonally very similar. Fortunately the story is significantly different with Charlie being a loner trying to survive on his own, rather than being part of a group a la Rick and co. As well as focusing on the present Lumsden also expands on Charlie’s past looking at how he coped in the days after the tragic events of issue 1 – and features him trying to escape from a bunch of bandage wearing lunatic survivors who had an issue with his dad. With a part of the story involving monstrous sea creatures alongside the equally monstrous residents of the castle, Lumsden is beginning to fashion a really interesting and intriguing world for his characters that becomes more sophisticated and broader in scope with every chapter. The split storyline certainly allows this to develop and really flesh out what could otherwise be a very empty world. Artist Marc Olivent does an excellent job giving the world a dark and dingy look with lots of strong shadows and often very dark pages rendered in black and white with greyscale colouring. Although it looks great it does make it a little tricky to follow at times as you struggle to work out who is who and which side they are on as the faces and individual details can get lost in the shadows. Overall Boat is a fantastic piece of post-event survivalist action-adventure that continues to surprise with the inventive direction it heads in.