Don’t be fooled by the cutesy title, this is not a loveable all ages book about some kind of fluffy woodland creature. This is a slice of cool contemporary crime comics from writer Jed McPherson (Deadbeat, The Show) that is coming soon to Kickstarter and will get you in a bear hug and not let go!
Publisher: Jed McPherson
Writer: Jed McPherson
Artist: Marco Perugini, Shan Bennion
Price: Coming Soon to Kickstarter
‘Cuddles’ is your classic larger than life mob enforcer who got his name as result of bear hugging a man to death. But he is also your classic con with a heart who doesn’t really want to hurt people, even though he can. Our story begins with him out on a job with ‘Jacko’ – a weaselly sidekick who just happens to be the son of Cuddle’s boss. But when Cuddles find out Jacko is on the take (and why he is stealing from his Mum), it sees Cuddles at odds with his partner, his boss and even the law, which means he needs to play all sides against each other to survive.
We often find ourselves comparing crime comics like this to Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips masterpiece Criminal, and Cuddles is definitely born from that DNA – along with the likes of Greg Rucka’s Stumptown, Jason Aaron’s Scalped and more recently Rory McConville and Joe Palmer’s excellent Write It In Blood. However this isn’t just some wannabe book aspiring to that level of quality, this is up there with the very best indie crime comics we have read. We had an inkling the first time we read Jed’s debut Deadbeat that he was destined for great things, and with this book he definitely delivers.
The format for the story is a smart one, as Jed has gone for a classic pulp crime concept, and divided the story up into short mini chapters. It gives the action a structure like a paperback novella, and gives it a real sharp pace to it. It feels like an Elmore Leonard or James Ellroy book as a result and the action zips along and can cut from scene to scene really quickly and sharply. So when this is mixed with some acerbic dialogue (that never goes too far into sweary posturing) it gives everything a perfect blend of classic crime tropes, but with a contemporary style, and really fast pace.
McPherson is reunited with Transmissions artist Marco Perugini for this story and his work also excels here. Perugini has this wonderfully stylised feel to his artwork that gives Cuddles the same kind of gritty feel as those classic comics we mentioned above. But his characters also have this stylised European feel to them, and the action has a real flow and sense of movement to it. They also have this grounded, world weary appeal as well. Cuddles especially feels very believable as a character, he is chubby and hairy, but has this inner strength and coiled aggression to him like Ben Grimm or Grey Hulk has. i.e. his is man in control of his actions, who doesn’t want to use his strength and power, but when he does you wish you hadn’t.
Perugnini’s artwork is superbly finished by Shan Bennion’s colours. The mix of yellows and reds give it this faded pulp feel to it, while the purples of the night scenes have this faded neon glow about them. They aren’t too harsh and create this faded glory to the whole thing, which contrasts with the slicker more glossy world of his boss and the greys of the Feds. Add to this the backgrounds have an almost water colour texture to them which perfectly compliments Perugini’s linework and you have a book which manages to balance creating a unique look, but without losing it’s classic roots – and still tells an excellent story
This is one of those books where it is impossible to compliment just one part of the team, as all involved are delivering top quality work and makes this the brilliant read it is. As a one shot, this is a perfect slice of indie crime comics, as it gives you enough back story to care about the character, but leaves enough on the table that make makes you want the characters to return for more. McPherson and co have potentially tapped a very rich vein for story telling here. In the same way that you knew Marv in Sin City was not finished at the end of that first volume, we could see McPherson follow that pattern with Cuddles, returning to this story before or after the events of this first instalment. In fact, we demand McPherson do just that, because Cuddles is one of the best indie crime comics and characters we have read in years, and we need more!
So be sure to back the Kickstarter as this needs to be so much more than the ‘last chance crime story’ that it professes to be in the title – this is the start of a classic future crime comic franchise!