With everyone self isolating, what better time than to catch up on some excellent small press comics! This month we check out three great British titles, Steve Tanner’s Clockwork Cavalier, Rich Carrington’s Mahoneys and Kev F Sutherland’s Findlay MacBeth.
The Clockwork Cavalier Special (Time Bomb Comics)
Bursting forth from he pages of Time Bomb Comics’ excellent Flintlock comes this tale of London’s finest bow street runner. When an airship begins to rain fire down on London Town and attempt to extort money and land out of the crown the cavalier sneaks aboard the airships and takes on the fearsome Captain Blood, along with the help of he new belle Tilly Quickstep. It’s a glorious slice of steampunk inspired daring-do, mixed with some pirating and pulp adventuring to make a really fun story. The cavalier is a really eye catching character, who feels genuinely unique and original. However the concept is one of those ones where you have to suspend your internal logic as if you think too hard about how a heavy machine can do all these things he does it would make your brain spin. However if you suspend that sense of fun ruining logic, then en you are left with a glorious romp of a read. It has all the classic elements of the best pulp serials, with blackmail intrigue and adventure. The artwork from Francesco Archidiacono, while not quite as polished as Gareth Sleightholme’s work in the original Flintlock stories, still has a dynamism and a sense of style to it. Especially in the scenes on the airship. The addition of colour doesn’t diminish the story at all and makes it even more exciting as a result. For those new to the series it reminded us of the excellent Lady Mechanicka, and if you are a fan of that then you love this – and vice versa. A fantastic spin off from one of small press’s most unique series, that more than justifies getting this extended run. We hope this might be the start of other Flintlock stories getting a full issue, and if you want to know why, then be sure to check out Flintlock book 4 to see what this great series is all about!
Mahoney’s #3 (Hardline Comics)
Rich Carrington’s excellent post-modern super villains series Mahoney’s is back with another very strong issue. After issue #2’s award ceremony themed issue, this time it’s a much more personal story for villain Snowstorm – but one that is set against the backdrop of an alien invasion. When Kat finds Snowstorm sleeping off a heavy night after a bank job, the team at Mahoney’s decide to hold an intervention to curb Snowstorm’s drinking. Carrington manages to balance this story of friendship and support against the usual heroic action going on in the background. Mahoney’s greatest strength is that it is able to feel like a sit com combined with a classic Bronze Age comic and manages to balance both perfectly. It evokes memories of Peter helping Harry with his drug use in 70s Spider-Man, or a Claremont/Byrne X-Men with the way it mixes social relevance and action. It does it without slowing down the action, virtue signalling or trying to be too ‘woke’. As such the story stills feel engaging and fun, as well as relevant, but also fun. It’s a reflection of what a great concept Mahoney’s is that this works so well. Carrington’s scripts balances both sides of the story, while the visuals from Brian S Dawson continue to give it a 90s style high energy aesthetic. His approach to the heroes and villains is getting stronger and stronger with every issue and his style increasingly has that Joe Madureira/Chris Bacahlo energy that we loved back in the day, as well is in the work of the team at Reckless Hero. It also has the characterisation and originality of Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon or Michael Oeming in Powers, which both have a lot of personal significance and so are some very high bars to aim for. With an awesome twist that means this story is set to continue, and which fits perfectly with the self aware tone of the series, Mahoney’s continues to get stronger and stronger with each issue and is blossoming into one of small press’ most enjoyable superhero series – which is not easy considering the saturated nature of indie superheroes. Mahoney’s tells the kind of old school superhero and villain stories which the mainstream just don’t seem to be able to do, and as such this is a must read for any jaded capes fans out there looking for something different, but familiar at the same time!
Findlay MacBeth (Kev F Sutherland)
If you were put off ‘The Scottish Play’ as a result of some bad GCSE English lessons, then don’t pre-judge Kev F Sutherland’s new graphic novel adaptation of it, Findlay MacBeth. Kev transfers the tale of murder and duplicity from a Scottish castle, to a 1970s factory – the three witches are now the receptionists, while MacBeth, MacDuff and Banquo are recast as feuding regional salesmen. The 70s setting gives it a really unique retro chic to it, and reminded us of all sorts of classic sit coms or TV shows like Abigail’s Party, with it’s kipper ties, Ford Cortinas and fondue. It’s a superb twist on this age old story and makes for a very readable reimagining. Kev mixes the original dialogue with more modern Scottish vernacular to create an interesting mix of styles, but one which seems to work for the most part. The whole thing feels authenticate enough to appease the traditionalists, but with enough nuance to make the change of location work for the story. He also layers up the humour, to make it frequently laugh out loud funny. This is often done with sight gags and elements hidden in the background of pages and see his cartoonish approach really excel. This all helps to lighten then mood overall and prevents even the darker moments from being too over wrought. However, there is still some drama there as he doesn’t sugar-coat the story and there is still plenty of murder and intrigue hidden within the marvellous monochrome pages. A really smartly put together and genuinely enjoyable adaptation, which will make you appreciate the story of MacBeth in a way you might never have thought! (While also make you have a craving for Blue Nun and melted cheese on a stick!)