There are few publishers out there who have a better hit rate than Nobrow Press. With an immaculate attention to detail, a huge variety of styles and subjects, as well as production values that are second to none, they put out some of the most exciting and innovative books on the shelves today. We look at two very different new releases – Wren McDonald’s cyberpunk sci-fi extravaganza SP4RX and a new adventure for Luke Pearson’s Scandi super tyke in Hilda and the Stone Forest.
Writer/Artist: Wren McDonald Price: £12.99 from Nobrow store
Our rating: [star rating=”4″]
By their very nature, dystopian sci-fi tales tend to be a bit bleak and depressing – we put it down to too much Bladerunner inspired rainy ennui – however Wren McDonald’s SP4RX manages to buck that cliche with simple cartoony visuals and a striking duo tone colour scheme. Don’t worry though, this isn’t some sanitised touchy feely version of the future, there’s still plenty of ultra-detailed tech and the odd bit of violence as well to keep you entertained!
Our story sees hacker SP4RX infiltrate a corporate building to steal some McGuffin-type hardware called The Beta Botnet Program, only to get outwitted by hacker/activist Mega which in turn sees him drawn into a messy world of government conspiracies and underworld double crosses. Although the story is fairly familiar in subject, mixing sci-fi and crime noir, it’s the details and little touches that Wren adds in along the way that really makes SP4RX into much more interesting than that synopsis alludes to.
While the artwork may look cartoony and simple it’s anything but. With stunningly detailed geometric cityscapes and highly intricate and imaginative pieces of tech, Wren fills every page with an almost Geof Darrow-like level of detail which makes every panel a treat that deserves proper observation. Our favourite invention, has to be SPARX’s sometime android companion OBD-0.3, a robot who rebuilds itself after being damaged and follows him around thanks to some handy empathic coding. Not only is it a great creation, but it works as a brilliant ex machina device for those tricky dramatic moments throughout the story.
Wren also uses Robocop/Dark Knight style news broadcasts and adverts to help flesh out his world of Avalon and introduce the sinister Elipsis technology (cybernetic enhancements for humans to help them become more efficient) that is a central part of the world SPR4X gets dragged into. These, along with some stunning full page images juxtapose nicely against the otherwise tightly laid out and very detailed panels which make up the majority of the pages. Wren also instils the book with a dry and sarcastic sense of humour with SPR4X himself being a rather reluctant and recalcitrant hero rather than being another lovable rogue. Wren seems ok with him being a bit of selfish git, which again makes the whole story much more fresh and unique than it otherwise might have been.
SP4RX is a really unique and original take on the traditional subject of a dystopian future, that somehow feels nicely familiar but also completely different from it’s peers – but then again, what do you expect from a Nobrow book?!
Hilda and The Stone Forest
Writer/artist: Luke Pearson Price: £12.95 from Nobrow Store
Our rating: [star rating=”5″]
For comic book reviewers like us, there are few pleasures in life as pure and undiluted as a new Hilda book from Luke Pearson and Flying Eye/Nobrow (and with this being the second this year that makes us doubly lucky!). The adventures of the blue haired Scandi girl in the city of Trolberg have that timeless quality of Herge, but with the contemporary cool of Lumberjanes – mixed in with the surreal visuals of Studio Ghibli and and the Scandi chic of the Moomins. (All wrapped in a sublimely produced printed package of course!)
This latest adventure sees Hilda and her mother having to escape from a troll mountain hideaway after accidentally getting magicked into the mysterious stone forest of the title. Hilda’s relationship with her mother is at the heart of this story as she tries to curb her daughter’s adventurous spirit – not out of spite but of love and concern – and inevitably sees them fall out, but get reunited in the face of danger. For older readers (especially those with kids) it gives an added resonance to the story that counter balances nicely with the high energy action and crazy creatures that make up the majority of the book.
Although the story is relatively simple, like SPR4X every panel is filled up with stunning detail and an eclectic mix of characters from regulars like Hilda’s faithful pet Twig, and the ever so hairy Tunti, to the gnarly trolls and the weird tuft of dirt with legs (we can’t thing of a better description!). Pearson’s visuals are without par, and his use of colour extraordinary, all of which makes Hilda feel utterly unique but also comfortingly timeless.
With an animated series coming to Netflix in 2018 we hope great things are ahead for Luke and his brilliant creation because Hilda and the Stone Forest is another volume of utter perfection from start to finish!