After a recent review of Wolfmen and Rise of the Wolfmen, we were contacted by Accent UK supremo Dave West, to see if we would be interested in having a look at some of the other books available from this UK indie stable, and we’re glad we did as it meant we got to check out some fantasic books involving monster hunting cowboys, steampunk robots in circuses and the tragic tale of the worlds fastest man.
Whatever Happened to the World’s Fastest Man
Based solely on the title you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was going to be another Flash clone, but you’d be wrong. Writer Dave West takes a slice of high concept science fiction, (featuring a good guy called Bobby who can stop time) and spins it out into a heart wrenching tale of sacrifice, duty, fate and determinism. When a crazed scientist threatens to blow up London unless a huge ransom is paid, our hero uses his unique gift to start helping people. However, Bobby is not a superhero, he is just an ordinary guy who happens to be able stop time, so he sets out to single handedly evacuate the blast area – one person at a time. But it’s not quite as easy as he might have wanted as we follow him on his trials and tribulations. With some books we complain about an idea being spun out too far and losing sight of its original conceit. However with WHTTWFM it is the long winded process which makes the story work. As the task takes longer and longer, Bobby ages in his time vortex and so we see his in his struggles a pig-headed determination to finish the job. Essentially he becomes a modern day Sisyphus for the superhero generation!
The story is brought to life by Marlene Lowe whose slightly scratchy style stops it from being too mainstream and gives it a nice rawness. She mixes up her art by rendering the time stopped sequences in a more pencil shaded style than the hard lines of the standard scenes, which helps separate each parts of the story without relying on colour or other gimmicky features. While the book design by Midnight Man’s Andy Bloor is made to represent a newspaper and although a bit cluttered at times is another interesting way to present this book as being different from your average comic and so definitely works.
At a time when fresh and original ideas are rare, this achieves that unusual thing of a book that feels fresh and unique despite being a familiar idea (after all, Sex Criminals were doing time stop stuff only a few years ago). By making the story feel grounded and very real, despite it’s fantastical concept WHTTWFM becomes an absolutely wonderful read, that you wish you could stop time to really cherish!
Westernoir volume 1
Our hero Josiah Black starts out as your fairly trad western gunslinger, who embarks on a mission of revenge for a grieving widow who he meets in a saloon (see what we mean!). However his actions soon lead him on a very unexpected path. The man who Black kills is revealed to be a Wild West monster hunter, and as a result of Black’s actions there is a vacancy and so Black is reluctantly required to take on the job! This drastic shift in tone, opens up a whole new world for this dark and brooding gunslinger as he hunts down vampires, monsters in swamps and sirens on river boats, attempting to finish that one last job that will get him out of his unwilling obligations.
It’s a fantastic twist, reminding us a bit of From Dusk Till Dawn with it’s tonal about turn, as Black goes from being a fairly one dimensional western stereotype to a really interesting and enigmatic hero. The introduction of some steam punk style eye glasses that allow him to see monsters also gives him a really distinctive new look as well as a fantastic ex machina for his adventures.
With its mix of western and the supernatural Westernoir reminded us a lot of Dead Canary’s Reddin, but with more of an ongoing story, rather than being a one and done. Artists Gary Crutchley’s simple yet very classic art style also reminded us a bit of Reddin artist Conor Boyle, and manages to handle the challenges of westerns and monsters with equal aplomb. His work never feels gimmicky or faddy – meaning it has a very timeless quality to the story and so makes the whole book feel quite timeless.
Whether you love westerns or not, you cannot help but be drawn into this really interesting approach to the genre. This first volume collects a mix of self contained stories with over-arching arc and ends with an intriguing cliffhanger that left us eager for more. With Black being such a strong lead character and the idea feeling so well thought out, Westernoir feels like the kind of book that could run and run and we hope that it won’t be riding off into the sunset anytime soon as it is truly one of the best indie westerns going.
Stephenson’s robot #1-3
Compared to the purity of concept that we’ve seen in these other two accent U.K. Books, Stephenson’s Robot is a much more mixed bag. It’s titular hero is a steam powered robot built by Victorian engineer supreme, Robert Stephenson as part of a feud with Brunel. He looks like a robotic Abe Lincoln with stovepipe hat and metal cigar and he is a truly brilliant creation – at least to look at. But for some reason he is hanging around with circus characters and fighting Nazis – which is all very odd. The main chapters of the story focus on the robot, while there are back up stories which expand on the other characters in the circus such as the ring master and the tattooed lady (who is a sort of frankenstein’s monster also, that is all stitched up). There is also a sub story about some strange Egyptian aliens as well, which we didn’t entirely get. We’re sure these elements are all meant to intertwine but it doesn’t really make much sense on first read, which is a shame because visually it looks stunning. Accent supremo Dave West teams up with artist Indio! for the Stephenson Robot stories who has this frenetic highly detailed style which feels a bit like a steam punk Freak Brothers book, while the back up stories are done by accent regulars Gary Crutchley and Marlene Lowe. It’s an ambitious and unconventional book, but one which doesn’t quit fire on all cylinders unfortunately, however. If you do pick it up and give it a chance then there is a lot to like in it, so perhaps it just needs some fine tuning to run smoothly!