Our latest small press spotlight features a selection of comics with an horrific edged to them. They include: tortured robots in ID-10T – Error; mysterious mental patients in Busy Littles Bees; and a creepy road to hell in Clutch.
ID-10T – Error
We always love it when a book catches us unawares and challenges our preconceptions about what it will be and this new comic from Matt McGrath does just that. Within the first couple of pages, Matt and artist Otavio Colino manage to pick us up by the scruff of the neck and set us off on a dark and creepy journey into a literal underground of sentient robots and sinister artificial intelligences. ID-10T – Error may look like it is a shiny robot story, but we soon discover it is more like a torture porn version of Short Circuit. Our titular robot is being held in a basement and being experimented on by his maniacal owner, and we begin to question about whether this is a sentient mech, a conflicted cyborg or something else all together. It does a fantastic job of unsettling the reader by constantly questioning the rules it is establishing. All of which gives us a really dark notion of what makes a conscious soul and how we feel when that soul is being tormented. McGrath’s brilliant concept plays out in twisty turny fashion which we won’t spoil here, but the journey is certainly augmented by Otavio’s manic artwork and Kay Baird’s sinister red and green colour palette. It reminded us a lot of the brilliant Our Final Halloween with Michael Lee Graham’s superb use of contradicting colours and this does just that. Otavio manages to give ID-10T a brilliantly lo-fi look (similar to other DIY robots like Chappie or Johnny 5) but also brings in this bone crunching brutality to some of the scenes which feel like something out of a grind house gore book. So if you like your science fiction as dark and intelligent as Black Mirror but with the brutality of Hostel then this is definitely the book for you!
Purchase ID-10t – Error from Matt’s Gumroad Store
Busy Little Bees (Blue Fox Comics)
This is another book which defies expectations. Based on the cover you would expect it be some kind of horrific monster in prison book, and while there are elements in that, it is also a really emotive story about a brother trying to cure his sister from a mental breakdown. The story is told from a variety perspectives, first is Seb Cadot, a preppy rich boy who is visiting his sister Myna in a metal home. Second is her doctor and thirdly is Myna herself. As the three strands cross paths in a caged meeting room (similar to the end of Silence of the Lambs), Seb attempts to calm Myna’s rage with music, while the doctor attempts to find a more clinical answer. What they discover challenges both of their ideas of what is wrong with Myna. Writer Marielle Bouleau crams a lot of information into the 30 pages of Busy Little Bees by using a very densely written style with lots of caption boxes (created by the always excellent Rob Jones, who uses a mix of lettering styles for each voice). It’s not always the easiest book to navigate as a result of this denseness, and it is quite a slow burning read, however it needs that slow pace for when the big reveal comes at the end. Although this feels like a one off, it also sets up the character of Myna and the world she is in for a potential longer series. It has a very issue #0 feel to it, looking at a characters origin out of context. There is certainly enough in there to spin off into a larger series, as on its own it feels a bit directionless and the reveals don’t have much context to them. (However if this is an intro to a larger character then they would make more sense). Visually the art from Emiliano Corea and Willi Roberts have a very slick and polished feel to it. At times it reminded us of the excellent Nocterra from Image Comics (which we are currently loving) with it’s sharp lines and beautifully stylised faces. This works brilliantly for some of the more extravagant scenes at the end, and they have a real slickness and polish to the story. The scene where Myna comes to the cage has a particular tenseness and sense of foreboding to it which we loved. However at times it feels a bit too stylised, and scenes such as the cage scenes feel quite hard edged where they could do with some softness or a more organic feel. Overall we were pleasantly surprised with Busy Little Bees. While it left us wanting more than we would have liked if this is a one-shot, it certainly has the potential to take wings and fly as a longer story.
Clutch sets out it’s stall pretty early on as a sweary driver in a cool convertible drives along a demonic looking highway with a bunch of other vehicles. And this is essentially the concept. A disparate group of motorists end up on a road to hell, but who are they and how did they get there?! Steven Charles Rosia, Gaia Cardinali and Sean Tanelli’s high octane, high concept highway to hell is one of those books where you have to just embrace the goofy concept and buckle up for a real thrill ride of a read. Along the way we meet a group of bank robbers on the run, a dysfunctional family who are moving house and our Cadillac driving dude from the first page. All seem to be running away from something as they are mysteriously transported to this strange otherworld, but that is all we really know. And the destination is still a mystery. We’re not sure which of the trio on the cover do what job, but they do a fantastic job of crafting a wonderful story, with some stunning visuals and some awesome colours. The story reminded us a bit of a one shot in an anthology or a Stephen King short story, while the visuals felt like Bruno Hidalgo’s work in Gryffen – packed full of awesome energy and a real rawness to the art which makes it feel like it is perhaps digitally painted. Meanwhile the colours are sumptuous purples and blues and again remind us of Our Final Halloween or the equally brilliant Home Sick Pilots. We found this book via an indie comics facebook group and we were sucked in by the awesome cover and we don’t regret that decision for one instant. Clutch has ended up being an awesome thrill ride and even if we never find out where the ultimate destination for the characters is, it’s been a hell of a journey thus far!