We’ve finally reached the end of our True Believers reading list and there are a couple of crackers on it including: a sampler of a dark folk-horror comic called Heretics; a quirky romance that starts on a late night platform in Last Train Home; some zany all-ages action in the Etherington Brothers Monkey Nuts; and some pyromanic fun in Rachael Smith’s I Am Fire.
From the macabre minds of PM Buchan and Martin Simmonds comes this awesome sampler of a new folk-horror series called Heretics. After the dark days of the 1990s where we paid premium prices for issue #0s, this is a great example of how to do a prequel issue well, as it brilliantly sets the tone for this creepy new series. Consisting of 9 pages of prelude and then 5 pages of preview from issue 1 it’s about a Heaven’s Gate style cult and a young girl who goes undercover and attempts to bring them down, and the effects it has on her life. It’s a really strong mood piece for what the book entails with lots of adult themes and ideas ready to be explored and you can tell this is going to be a very dark and harrowing read that doesn’t shy away from taking risks and pushing boundaries! This dark tone is perfectly captured by the twisted painted artwork from Deadline/Dead Roots artist Simmonds. It has echoes of Dave McKean and Bill Sienkiewicz with its interlocking panels, anarchic lettering and ink splattered/painted style and gives the whole thing a dark and nightmarish quality that hints of some very uncomfortable stories to come, but is told in a very mature and uncompromising fashion. Add in a couple of articles at the back, and this is definitely a book with tons of potential and one to look out for later in the year.
PM also gave us a copy of the first chapter of his book La Belle Dame Sans Merci, which is based on a Keats poem and sees a seemingly happy young man seduced by a mysterious woman in a forest who turns him to the dark side. It’s another haunting and sinister tale, however the manga infused artwork of Karen Yumi Lusted makes it feel like a very different read to Heretics, albeit one which is just as creepy!
Last Train Home (Broken Record Comics)
Another creator who shared their books with us at True Believers was Daniel J Cook from Broken Record Comics. The best of the bunch is Last Train Home which sees two teens meeting on a railway platform and striking up a relationship. Mild mannered Jesse strikes up a conversation with fellow My Bloody Valentine fan Caitlin while waiting for a train home after a party, and as the story splits off and explains how each character arrived on this platform, it has a hint of Phonogram about it (but with less magic). This of course, could just be because it’s about angsty music loving teens and is told in black and white, but it also has a hint of Sliding Doors with it’s interlocking tales of fate and destiny. It’s a nice premise and Cook manages to get the awkwardness of Jesse and Caitlin’s first exchange just right and the characters voices are suitably real and recognisable. It’s shame that this solid writing gets lost a bit in the presentation. The artwork is quite inconsistent (mixing a manga style with hints of 90s Todd McFarlane – especially in the eyes) and doesn’t really have a set style that you can identify with. The lettering also doesn’t help as it is the same font and style throughout and so you can’t easily tell which character is which or which timeline you are in, which is a shame, as with a few tweaks, it could blossom into a really interesting read.
The other books he gave us were Tales of Yue – a surreal series of adventures about a furry kung fu master on a journey of discovery which are told in a very simple cartoony style that is delightfully daft and weird. And there was also CSI-A-Saurus, a comic/colouring book about a dinosaur detective which is a great idea and comes complete with some pencils which my kids love!
Monkey Nuts (Etherington Brothers)
This brilliantly bonkers tale about a monkey and a robot fighting off evil monsters with the help of a talking coconut, is one of those perfect examples of high concept cartoon story-telling at it’s very best. Originally published in the pages of The Phoenix (and with a new volume coming later this year) the adventures of Sid, Rivet and Chief Tuft are moved along thanks to a McGuffin about an all powerful monster magnet triggered by an evil dragon called Lord Terra who thinks Sid and Rivet are the only way to stop his evil scheme. As a result, this means there is an endless supply of weird and wonderful creatures attacking the Isla De Monstera that our heroes have to stop and also allows the high energy story-telling of the Etheringtons to really run riot. It’s like the best Saturday morning cartoon you’ve ever watched, mixed with the sharp wit and exuberance of Gosciny and Uderzo’s Asterisk books – all rendered with a slick modern polish to it. As such, Monkey Nuts is up there with Luke Pearson’s Hilda books as one of our absolute favourite all ages comics (along with the Etherington’s outstanding Long Gone Don which we also picked up) and is a perfect example of how much fun comic books can be for kids of all shapes and sizes. We challenge you to read this and not have a smile on your face with every panel!
I Am Fire (Rachael Smith)
Having loved Rachael Smith’s Artificial Flowers last year, we thought we really should catch up with the adventures of Chris the pyromaniac before he becomes the brother of House Party’s Siobhan. Back in I Am Fire, Chris is just a troubled youth who spends his week of work experience with a fire prevention group. So when Chris and his mentor visit a local department store where super lazy Jenny is working in the knitwear department, the two strike up an unlikely friendship after things start to heat up (literally) during a fire drill. It’s a fairly straight forward story and although it doesn’t have some of the depth or range of Smith’s more recent work, it is still packed with the kind of quirky, charming characters and snappy, witty dialogue that have become her hallmark – Jenny is delightfully obnoxious, while Chris skates a perfect line between sinister and stroppy and Leicester’s best fireman is a character you can’t forget in a hurry. So if you loved Artificial Flowers or the Rabbit and you can’t wait for her next full length story, then you really should pick this up the next time you see her at a Con before it goes up in smoke!