This week’s indie round-up features a gun-toting child in 18th century Lincoln in Midnight Butterfly, the latest instalment of Reckless Hero’s all action Operation Boom, and the surreal post-event world of Jack Lothian and Garry Mac’s Tomorrow.
Midnight Butterfly (Steve Reynolds)
What’s the worse that can happen if you give a 10 year old a rifle as a birthday present? Well, the parents of young Hubert Litshifter certainly wouldn’t have expected the events that unfold in Steve Reynold’s Midnight Butterfly when they give their young lad a firearm and he accidentally kills an insect in the middle of the night. Consumed with guilt he nurses the insect back to health, with unexpectedly sinister results. Set in 19th century Lincoln Midnight Butterfly reads like a dark and twisted gothic fairytale, that mixes elements of classic British folklore with a modern horror edge. It may start off as a slightly quirky period drama but as the action unfolds it evolves in a David Cronenberg meets Tim Burton nightmare with some very dark and unsettling imagery, under-pinned with a jet black sense of humour. The whole thing is brought to life by Reynolds superbly detailed and highly stylised artwork. It is twisted, animated, sinister and packed full of imagination and originality that really gives the book a genuinely fresh edge. It has a much more illustrative style than a traditional comic book look and the closest person we could think it reminded us of is the brilliant Chris Riddell – except much, much darker! It has a real anarchic energy to it as well, and if you have ever listened to Steve’s Empire of Geek podcast then you can get a hint of the kind of tone to expect. With every page and every panel packed full of detail, character and inventiveness, Midnight Butterfly is a dark and twisted gem of a book, with Reynolds being a creator we cannot wait to see more from in the future.
Operation Boom #2 (Reckless Hero)
Reckless Hero’s all-action team book starts as it means to go on, with an explosive opening page of a robot head exploding having been blasted by our cap wearing hero Boom. Operation Boom is not a book that worries much about subtleties like character development or exposition, and instead picks up the action from the previous issue and continues it right the way through this high octane episode. As with the first issue, it plays to the strength of artist Chris Imber (who writes it alongside regular collaborator Chris Jenkins) which is page-bursting action and larger than life characters that look incredible. It’s not subtle and if you’re after something high brow or complex then you’ll be left wanting, but if you like comics packed with energy and excitement then it’s a lot of fun. Imber and Jenkins are joined this issue by Brian Vander who draws the second half of the story (which is divided up into two ‘files’) and brings a slightly different style to the book, while also maintaining the same 90s inspired artwork that we have come to love from Reckless Hero. It has a bit of a stiffer and more formal look to it than Imber’s and although not bad, doesn’t have the energy of the first half which shows what an exciting talent Imber is evolving into and how good his work is in comparison. The colours from Chris Jenkins are also worth mentioning as the palette is pure primary colours which help give it that 90s video game feel and make the action leap from every page. While Reckless Hero’s The Last Sheriff is growing nicely into an more ambitious and complex tale, Operation Boom keeps things simple with it’s emphasis on action over plot. So if you like your comics packed full of energy and have a hankering for the good old days of 90s Wildstorm books, mixed with a Capcom beat ‘em up then Operation Boom is the book for you!
Tomorrow (BHP Comics)
We’re used to stories about a man or woman waking up in a post-event world where they are the only person left, but Tomorrow is the first time we have seen this kind of story told with an old lady as the hero! After a particularly bothersome day involving shopping and noisy neighbours, our nameless heroine wakes up to discover the world is empty apart from some mysterious tall blue aliens and their little orange sidekicks – but what are they building?! When one of these mini aliens injures itself in her garden she takes it in and nurses it back to health. She soon begins to treat the alien like the baby that she lacked in her younger days which gives the whole book a really tragic sense of loneliness and loss. The story is told very slowly and deliberately, with a lot of wide and long shots, and very little dialogue. The artwork is finely detailed and has an airy colour palette that really maintains the emptiness of the world. By focusing on an older lady and looking back at her life it gives the book a really unique feel, and one which treads a fine line between emotional depth and insensitivity. It doesn’t always get it right, with some of the scenes feeling utterly tragic as she dresses the alien up in baby clothes and treats it like a lost child, but a few of the scenes are played a bit too much for comedy which makes it feel a bit hollow and crass at times. It’s not not enough to tarnish the book though as it is still a haunting and brilliant read with some stunning visuals (especially the cover which is really striking with it’s simplicity). To take such a familiar story idea and give it a genuinely fresh twist is a really fantastic achievement and makes Tomorrow a truly unforgettable read.