This month’s small press spotlight all features strong female characters, and range from Nazi fighting French girls in Marguerite vs The Occupation; to demonic siblings in The Manderfield Devil; and finally fairies on demand with Fairy Fare.
Marguerite vs the Occupation
This is a great example of how there is still plenty of mileage in the classic war comic thank to a clever piece of casting for the hero. Set in war torn France, John Luzar’s tale sees a young heroine attempt to help the resistance by removing a Nazi sniper nest from the ruins of her house (the place in her village with the best views, and so the best place to see the incoming resistance and advancing US troops). Marguerite vs the Occupation is a really smartly told, surprisingly simple story that is just packed full of pace and action. It’s a gloriously simple concept, (girl helps resistance beat Nazis) but it one which is filled out with some smart back story about Marguerite’s childhood which both makes her an engaging and worthy heroine. And it is done without ever sacrificing the pace of the story. While the visuals are perhaps a bit naive in places, lacking some uniqueness and real depth to the characterisation , the action is well told and the pace is definitely kept up throughout its short page count. Stylistically it reminded us a bit of the brilliant Assault on Fortress Doom, although without the grit and grime of that one as this just felt a bit too clean and simple in places. Overall though, this is a really fun, engaging story and one which, despite its relatively old fashioned setting, has a nice contemporary tone to it (without it ever feeling anachronistic either). A bit like its lead character this is a plucky underdog story that really comes good in the end.
The Manderfield Devil
This new book from Rachel Allen Everett is a glorious mix of pulp detectives and demonic mysteries. A young girl in the pan handle states of the USA is accused of consorting with the devil and detective Ben Hogan investigates, looking for a more realistic explanation for some local murders. And as is always the case, he gets much more than he bargained for! Despite being set in turn of the century America, it has that classic Mike Mignola Hellboy tone to the story but with the pulpy visuals of Gateway City. The story twists and turns and takes you in directions you would not expect, and while it starts off in fairly familiar territory, it soon evolves into much more interesting directions. Especially in the final third (which we won’t spoil here) but is really interesting shift in tone and is a nice counterpoint to the opening. With Rachel coming from an illustration background it is a really strong visual piece , and uses a really interesting mix of pulp inspired colours and design but with a slightly cartoonish feel to some of the characterisations. While this can takes the edge of some of the pages in both and good and bad way (making it feel a bit too comicy in places) that final third (which we cannot mention) sees her really step the artwork up a level and makes for a fantastic finale! Overall this is a really confident debut and a really interesting world and characters which we would love to see explored again.
Reuniting the team behind one of our favourite small press debuts of recent years – The Little Deaths of Watson Tower – Fairy Fare sees writer Nick Bryan and artist Rosie Alexander take a hyper-coloured look at the world of the gig economy. But instead of following a bunch of disgruntled Deliveroo drivers around , this one sees two sisters who work for the Faire Fare app – which is a kind of magical Uber, that sees fairies appear in your time of need and help you in magical ways. Fairy Fare is a brilliantly strange and unconventional read. Part satire, part-fairy tale and just when you think you have a handle on where it is going and what it is poking fun at then it throws you a curve ball. Whether that is Tash quitting and getting a job on a myriad of other weird apps, or Philippa being promoted to headquarters and having to deal with a minotaur! While the book feels a bit all over the place at times, this is part of it’s charm, as it is packed through so much invention and strong ideas that you can’t help but be swept along for the ride. And the visuals – oh my god, the visuals!! Alexander has created this eye-melting neon explosion of artwork that perfectly suits this fantastical world. It’s part 80s video game, part neon rave, but with a Disney-esque charm running through out. In short, Fairy Fare is full of fantastic fairy-based fun! A smartly written story with some truly outstanding visuals this is another 5 star ride from Bryan and Alexander!