We begin working through our pile of new small press books that we picked up at this month’s True Believers Comic Festival.
Project Hoax (Signal Comics)
As big fans of Samuel George London’s Milford Green books, the prospect of him teaming up with Vanguard’s Dan Butcher to bring us a story set in the early 1990s, seemed too good to be true. And it does a great job of creating a glorious mix of those heady days. The story sees a bunch of put-upon kids looking to get their revenge on their school bully by creating an elaborate hoax in the woods – yet things take a decidedly weird chain of events after they pull of their prank. Project Hoax is a gloriously fun homage to the late 80s/early 90s. While the lazy shorthand would be to compare it to Stranger Things, for those of us who lived through that period it manages to mix together classic Steven King creepiness with the Spielberg adventure spirit of Goonies and plenty of smart references (BMX Bandits anyone?!) Although we can’t help but feel a few may be a bit more mid-90s than early 90s – especially the rogue Spice Girls reference! The story zips along at a nice pace and although quite light and frothy it has a real sense of fun to it, even when things go a bit darker in the second half. Dan Butcher’s artwork makes the most of the rich story to really go to town with some nice action scenes and plenty of nostalgic references. However, when he is outside of the world of Vanguard his use of Photoshop textures for backgrounds can be a bit distracting and doesn’t quite work as well for this story as it did in the recent Vanguard Volume 3. This doesn’t stop it from being a really fun read though, that comes in another really well produced packaged.
Zarjaz 35 (FutureQuake Press)
Future Quake Press’ long running 2000AD fanzine is one of those book we’ve felt a bit remiss for not covering more often and so after seeing them at Troobs thought we would catch up with the new issue. It caught our eye especially thanks to the amazing wraparound cover from Jon Davis Hunt gives the whole thing an incredible polish that really helps gain it some kudos. Inside, the pages and stories are all really solid with a range of creators tackling some of 2000 AD’s finest, including ABC Warriors, Rogue Trooper, Harlem Heat and some bloke called Judge Dredd. The stories are a nice mix of one-shots and longer form arcs and the stories feel like they could easily be back up strips in the prog or Megazine as the quality is very high. The art has a very old school feel with Brett Burridge’s Dredd strip The Slug reminding us of classic Brian Bolland while Alex Paterson’s work on the ABC Warriors opener has a real Mick McMahon feel to it. As such you would be mistaken for assuming this was a forgotten official issue not just a fanzine. While, it may not quite have the complexity and intricacy of classic Prog it is a lot of fun, especially if you are harking back to a more nostalgic take on the Prog (or struggling to get into the current issues). The only downside to this book is that if you aren’t already an existing or lapsed fan of the prog you might find it difficult to follow everything or be engaged with the unfamiliar characters. However if you are new to things, they do a good job of catching up the readers to speed if they need to. A fine issue from an excellent series and long may it continue.
Cat & Meringue: The Curse of Sir Thermidor (Big Punch Studios)
Before Troobs, it had been a while since we caught up with the team from Big Punch Studios, but now we have caught up with them we’re going to have quite a few of their books on the site in the coming weeks! We start by checking out this fantastic new adventure from Nich Angell’s quirky comic strip duo Cat and Meringue. The follow up (or sorts) to last year’s The Saga of Starboy, it’s another Inktober inspired series that this times sees our heroes on a ring shaped island which is being cursed by some evil coins. With the help of brave Sir Thermidor they must fend off the advances of zombie crabs and defeat the cursed inhabitants of the islands – which include an evil battered prawn and a gnome obsessed crab! For a story about a cat and a meringue, which started out as a daily webcomic, Nich has managed to expand their world out to truly epic levels. And it is the originality and imagination on show in that world which is the star of this book. Rather than have a load of sequential panels Nich uses a single image on one page and a story block on the other, which means he can pack the text page with bags of detail and also tons of silly jokes that help to really make the most of this delightfully daft story. It’s a wonderfully entertaining read, packed full of unique ideas and bags of personality. You can see Nich’s love of classic video games like Zelda coming through in the rich and diverse world. Plus, as you would expect from a book which came out of an art based challenge, the artwork is also glorious – but unlike Starboy, this one is packed full of Nich’s wonderful eye for colour, which on show in every panel and makes it much richer as a result.