Lad: The Homecoming #1 is the kind of foul mouthed and sweary comic your mother warned you about. Yet it has a really dark charm that draws you in and takes you along for the ride.
Publisher: Umar Ditta
Writer: Umar Ditta, Hugo Boylan (Editor)
Artist: Carlos Pedro, Kerrie Smith, Dearbhla Kelly
Price: £4 Print or £2 Digital from UmarDItta.com
‘Lad’ is part of ‘The Family’ – a kitchen sink mafia group whose patriarch, ‘Dad’, is found badly beaten in the forest. The family instantly go after the enigmatic Hermit, a reclusive who lives in the woods, with whom they have a fragile truce base on fear and respect. However with the Uncles taking charge of things then the unwritten rules may be about to change.
The back story and rules of the book are explained in an opening epilogue (something we are a big fan of!) which does a lot of the heavy lifting of introducing us to the world, and means we can start into the action from the get go without having to explain everything in context. While the gang warfare plot is nothing ground-breaking, the way Ditta has constructed the story is really smart. Giving the characters family titles rather than conventional names, gives the story a dissonance and detached-ness (similar to the Droogs in Clockwork Orange), while the language and tone is also outrageous and sweary from the start. While the battling mafia thing has been seen in every thing from Goodfellas to the Godfather, having it set in a British council estate gives it unique feel, but without it descending into Guy Ritchie style mockney cliché.
Ditta also augments this turf war story with a supernatural element thanks to the enigmatic Hermit. This gets revealed periodically throughout this first issue and is not properly explained – but that’s OK – instead we see glimpses of fantastical moments that pique our curiosity and make us hungry for more rather than confused!
This is definitely helped by some excellent artwork from Portuguese artist Carlos Pedro. His art has a mix of Sam Bentley’s black and white work on Cognition and Yishan Li’s clean anime style on Frenemies. It mixes the two styles brilliantly and creates a book which very fresh in it’s style. The artwork is definitely quite raw in several places and doesn’t quite have the polish or darkness of a book like Sink, (which it feels tonally very close to). However it’s another of those titles which is stronger for having these raw edges in it.
The same is true of the language, and while we are not always big fans of overly sweary books, the language in this feels very much part of the world, in the same way it does in Sink or other gangster books.
While Lad: The Homecoming might not be for everyone – especially if they don’t like sweary violence – this feels like a real step up in quality for Ditta’s writing and he has assembled a strong team around him to make an excellent book. He takes familiar concepts and gives them a unique and gritty new approach that feels really well realised and very deliberately constructed. While the book as a whole feels very accomplished and takes the strong concepts and delivers a great debut which has plenty of quality and intrigue reserved for the future. This is one Lad’s Homecoming which is very well received!