Dan Butcher. Vince Hunt. Tony Esmond. Together they form the Awesome Comics Podcast, a motley bunch of small press comic creators whose weekly broadcast has grown into an essential backbone of the UK small press community. Now, the trio have taken their brand a step further with Awesome Comics #1, an anthology featuring stories from each member. In the aftermath of its release at True Believers, we at take a look and see if it’s truly deserving of the name ‘awesome’.
Publisher: Awesome Comics
Writer: Vince Hunt, Daniel Marc Chant (Murder Road), Tony Esmond (Cockney Kung Fu), Dan Butcher (Vyper)
Artist: Vince Hunt (Murder Road), Nick Prolix (Cockney Kung Fu), Dan Butcher (Vyper)
Price: £1 digital or £3 in print from awesomecomicpod.bigcartel.com
Containing the first installments of new tales from the respective hosts, Awesome Comics #1 offers readers the chance to delve into 3 very distinctive worlds from 3 very distinct creative teams, all of which match up with the personalities we are familiar with on the podcast:
Murder Road by Vince Hunt and Daniel Marc Chant tells the story of a mysterious country road connecting two small American towns which is rumoured to be home to a mysterious being who preys on those who travel it. However, when two groups of kids meet for a street race, they discover that the rumours might actually be true. Hunt and Chant’s horror story is very much in the vein of Stephen King’s Christine, complete with a distinctly 80’s feel to it throughout. From the Halloween-esque cast of characters to the mysterious vehicle which feels ripped straight from Charlie Sheen film ‘Wraith’ it uses a host of familiar horror tropes to set up a very intriguing premise. With this reliance on set-up, this opening chapter does feel a little run of the mill, however thanks to some gorgeous art from Hunt, which looks like it is inch perfect in black and white, this is a perfectly fitting vehicle (pardon the pun) for for what it coming up on the road ahead.
Meanwhile, Tony Esmond teams up with Slang Pictorial’s Nick Prolix to bring us Cockney Kung Fu, which follows Red the Pit Fighter as she enters into a fight which could end up leading her into a far more dangerous battle. Cockney Kung Fu, is less a horror story and more an homage to the Kung Fu/Gangster/Blaxploitation films of the 70s and 80’s, as it follows a woman from the streets of pornographic London fighting her way through the story. This story is wild, funny and completely over the top and very much the light hearted part of the anthology, a moment to switch off and read a story while not getting too invested. However, the story does come across as a bit crass in places (a few too many C-words for our liking), which might cause some readers to be turned off it. The artwork though, is pure Prolix – cartoony and fun from beginning to end, with some incredible hand drawn lettering. Although if we were being picky it does suffer from feeling overcrowded in certain panels.
Finally, Dan Butcher’s Vyper follows Sloane Viperini, a dangerous man who embarks on a one man war with the crime of L.A., with the help of a high-tech, unstoppable vehicle. As with Vanguard, Dan Butcher does double duty on story and art to present a hard-boiled action movie-esque story which also takes a lot of influence from ‘Action Dan’s’ specialist subject of the 80’s. This is most apparent in the story concept itself, which feels like classic TV shows such as Knight Rider or Streethawk in it’s execution, while the early pages also imbue a sense of Robocop. It’s here that Butcher’s art really works well, providing Vyper with a truly stylised, almost Tron-like, look which offers some of the best visuals in the book, particularly when combined with black guttering. The characters, too, are spot on as Butcher creates fleshed out, albeit cliched and stereotypical, personalities within a few short pages. However, this appears to come at a cost as this tale seems to lack any real plot and offers no apparent progression for future instalments, although this might come to light in the future.
All in all though, despite minor problems within each various story, this first issue of Awesome Comics offers exactly what you would expect from the three gentlemen of the Awesome Comic Podcast. It’s fun, outlandish and contains gorgeous and visceral artwork, that imbues every kind of cinematic cliche from the 1980’s, which all listeners know the creators love. However there is more than enough in here for those who aren’t fans of the show, and shouldn’t be put off with the prospect of it being filled with in-jokes and obscure references as at it’s heart it is a really great read that is accessible to all. With the first issue creating a strong platform, the only question is can they build on what is here and if they can then this will be definitely be an awesome series!