Reviews

Review: Clone

Clone is another new comic from Hugo Boylan, one of Ireland’s most prolific small press writers. This time, he’s teamed up with Tara Ferguson on the story, who also took up the role of artist for this mind-mess of a comic. Joined by Rebecca Reynolds on colours and Kerrie Smith on letters, this is one of those books that makes you question everything from dinner to your reflection (and, in some cases – like mine – your twin brother.)

I was warned that this would be a weird book. I did not expect this sort of weirdness. It’s the sort of lingering weirdness that akin to sand on a beach, getting everywhere, even long after you think you’ve cleaned it all up. But it’s also akin to the lasting sensation of a good drink. It’s maybe not good for you, but you want it to last a little bit longer.

When dissecting a comic, I don’t normally start with the letters, but as Smith’s intelligent design in the book comes early in the story, I’ll start there. A pair of stories unfolding simultaneously in the book’s opening pages requires either (a) the audience to figure out which is more important or (b) smart lettering. Smith helped with the latter, adding opaque speech bubbles to the messy subplot of the first act. (I mean messy in a “get it off me” sort of way; on a narrative level, it worked incredibly well.)

The story deals with a lot with identity, responsibility, regret, and insanity. There’s not a lot to say that won’t spoil the book that’ll spoil your appetite, so let’s say this: I really enjoyed the story – which isn’t for everyone, but which is worth trying – and while I won’t say it had a nice ending (nice in the “you look nice” sort of way), it was ended well. Nothing in the story is “nice”, which is perfectly fine for a book that doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not.

Ferguson’s art style is simple, but suitable. With a relatively complex story to tell in a few short pages, there’s no room for playing around with mind-numbing artwork – though I can see something more complicated being suitable for her storytelling in the future, if this book is anything to judge her taste and style by. I should note, simple isn’t a bad thing. Simple makes the story tell itself, and simple worked. The visual elements of the book were, when they weren’t supposed to be otherwise, easy on the eye. There’s a lot to fit into the book – a lot that’s supposed to look the same, if the title didn’t give that away already – and she didn’t let herself down.

Adding the Reynolds’ vibrant colours, we’re given a slightly chilling dichotomy of easy-on-the-eye images against a story that might make you want to rip your own eyes out – just to be safe that what you’re not seeing isn’t there.

Again, this isn’t a book for everyone, but fans of sci-fi horror would probably find something they like in it. It’s worth trying, and it’s worth telling Hugo and Tara how insane they probably have to have been to write this book. The comic launches at Dublin Comic Con on August 12th.

Check out the creators on Twitter:

Hugo Boylan: @hugoboylan

Tara Ferguson: @TaraaFerguson

Rebecca Reynolds: @brobexx

Kerrie Smith: pocketkerrie

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Reviews

Review: Will Sinister

One part Western, one part ‘whatever-we-can-call-Boylan’s-creative-madness’, Will Sinister is one of a few new books launching at this year’s Dublin Comic Con; we were lucky enough to be sent an advanced review copy. Hugo Boylan (MalevolenceHigh FantasyBlack White and GreySuperhero Helpdesk… you get the picture yet?) teams up with artist John Quigley (Malevolence) and letterer Kerrie Smith (Girls Like YouSuperhero Helpdesk) to bring us a new tale of death, violence, and broken expectations. With Dearbhla Kelly on cover colours, it makes for a pretty package with a rustic interior.

There’s an expectation from the book’s beginning for there to be some traditional gun-slinging and contextually appropriate racism (maybe not slurs, exactly…but hate), and in many ways we’re not disappointed. There’s a clear divide between the “cowboys” and natives, and an unravelling tale behind this particular snippet of history.

Typical of Boylan, there’s a twist in the feel of the book; also typical of him is the unpredictability of when something like this will happen. The particular splicing of spirituality with the Western tale is reminiscent of Jonah Hex and Preacher, and while the later arc of the book raises a few questions about the history of the comic’s scruffy protagonist that aren’t quite addressed, the blending of the natural and the supernatural works incredibly well in Will Sinister, while preserving the character’s dodgy integrity.

Quigley’s art gives the story a rustic, wild feel, perfect for the brutality of the dark reality of the era. Expertly capturing distress, agony and disgust, and he creates a visually disturbing narrative, with a few choice character designs standing out. As a bonus, the book contains the concept art for Sinister and his most intimate, primal companion. Perhaps its a bias for Irish small press, but it stands out as one of my favourite representations of the character.

Adding to the tale are Smith’s experienced lettering hands. There’s a sense of power given to certain characters, and the barriers between the natural and the supernatural are broken down further still with her inclusion in the book.

If I had to criticise the book, my one judgement would be that I felt like we’re left with a loose end or two by its final page, and no promise within its pages of a follow-up. Maybe it’s a personal thing, and a familiarity with continuing narratives across multiple books, but when a book ends the way Will Sinister does, I’d like to think there might be something to come later, and an opportunity for unanswered questions to be resolved. Don’t let it put you off picking up Will Sinister at Dublin Comic Con; think of this as an excuse to keep an extra close eye on future releases from this team of creators.

(Update: the story will continue. Confirmed by Hugo Boylan shortly after this review went live.)

Follow the creators on Twitter:

Hugo Boylan: @hugoboylan

John Quigley: @johnquigley209

Dearbhla Kelly: @dearbhlala

Kerrie Smith: @pocketkerrie

project-crossroads-cover
Reviews

Review: Project Crossroads

Seán Hogan, the mastermind behind Project Crossroads, sent me a copy of the book for review. For reasons I’ll describe at the end of this post, I lost so many proverbials when I read it. Combining the talents of eight of Ireland’s up-and-coming creators, this is a book I’ve been looking forward to ever since I was told about it at Dublin Comic Con. (Also, usual stuff for my reviews: I like to point out what I like, and whether you agree or not is entirely up to you. I’m completely conscious of any bias I might have towards projects, and you should be too.)

Those Lost at the Crossroads

Project Crossroads is an anthology of three stories, all illustrated by Seán Hogan, with colouring by Stef Reville and Dearbhla Kelly, assisted by Louise Fitzpatrick, and with letters by Kerrie Smith. The stories were written by Adlai McCook (Retired), JP Jordan (Shift), and Hugo Boylan (Ducksworth’s Last Stand).

Retired

Do you like Men in Black? Do you like cool alien designs? Retired tells the story of Britain’s only Man in Black, in a post-alien-attack world. It’s fast-paced, begins with a sense of dread, and makes a clear point about the successes and failures of heroes. There’s not much else one can say about the story without spoiling it, but you can expect: some amazing looking aliens, colours that pop off the page (you’ll love the aliens; not all at how Hollywood makes aliens look, and in the best way possible), spaceships, and a wicked shot of London.

Shift

For the fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer out there (that’s a lot of people, right?), Shift is the story of a house-party in Ireland, and its immediate aftermath. It has everything you can want in a YA Horror story: humour, believable characters, a twist (every story needs a twist), and something I’d only have to redact from this review before publishing it. Jordan’s print-comic debut sets a high bar for his future in the industry. With no disrespect to McCook and Boylan, Shift was my favourite story (of three awesome tales!) from the book. (I grew up with Buffy, even when I was probably too young for it, so there’s definitely a good genre fit.) Shout-out to Reville for the tonal change in colours to match the turning point in the story. (Also, look out for a few Easter Eggs in this one!)

Ducksworth’s Last Stand

Every tale has a twist, and I don’t want to spoil Ducksworth’s. What I can say is that, while there’s a big jump in the story, Boylan manages to maintain a continued narrative about the titular character. It’s clever and a little bit distressing (if you’ve read my other reviews of his books, or anything else he’s written, you know to expect that) and it caught me completely off guard. A little bird also told me that artist Hogan may have had some input into some of the more vile aspects of the story, with their combined efforts in writing and illustrating the tale making this a disturbing conclusion to the anthology. (Which, of course, is what we expect.)

Bonus concept art!

I’m a sucker for concept art, and Hogan has provided. All manner of monster are covered in the back of the book, part of the preparations for illustrating the stories as they exist now. From the aliens and the humans to a redaction and a furious Ducksworth, the concept art provides an interesting insight into the creation of Project Crossroads.

Project Crossroads will launch at Thought Bubble this weekend. For those of us unfortunate enough to not be able to attend the Leeds convention, there’s an Irish launch of the book in The Big Bang in Dundrum on November 9th. Somehow, all eight creators of the book will fit behind a table for a signing.

One More Thing

At the start of last month, I sent Seán a wee message of Facebook. I’ve been holding off talking about it in too much detail since then, but here we go: in a first for Comix Ireland, I’m working with the creative team of Project Crossroads to make a short documentary about the creation of the book. Production is still underway, but here’s a sample screenshot I sent to Seán as an idea of what he can expect visually:

Seán Hogan Interview

I may have captured him talking while making that. Anyway, the documentary will be released later this year. (I am acutely aware that it is November already.) As well as exploring the creation process of Project Crossroads, interviews with the creators have so far provided a few gems for those interested in the comics industry in Ireland as a whole.  With a bit of luck, a fair amount of effort, all the tea, and probably some weeping, I’ll be backed up when I say that you won’t want to miss it. Watch this space, and the ol’ social media. My excitement for this project knows no bounds.

Malevolence Cover
Reviews

Review: Malevolence

Launched at Dublin Comic Con, and then again in a library in Clonmel (because libraries are cool, and that’s where the artist lives), Malevolence is a new horror comic from writer Hugo Boylan and artist John Quigley, with Dearbhla Kelly on Colours and Kerrie Smith on Letters. John asked me, before I met him at DCC and talked the ear off him (and attempted in vain not to be sold almost everything from his table), if I would review Malevolence. As usual, don’t take the review too critically – I know I won’t while writing it!

Twisted

One word sums up the book. Twisted. From Boylan’s writing, to Quigley art, Kelly’s colours, and even Smith’s lettering. The individual elements of this comic twist together to make something uniquely engaging. I wouldn’t want to spoil the plot for you, but the basics you need to know about Malevolence are these simple facts:

1. The comic takes place across three decades.

2. The comic is filled with fleeting moments of madness.

3. The comic wouldn’t make much sense without Kelly and Smith’s contributions.

Colourful Dread

Most comics can get along with a strong story and a skilled artist. Black & White is an acceptable standard for storytelling. But colour brings this one to life. Colour is the only way we know when we are within the story. Colour invites us through three decades of horror. Without colour, an element so vital to this book, everything else would need to change. The book would need to be re-panelled, re-organised, maybe even re-written to a more linear story. But linear is common. Colour allows for Boylan and co. to create their non-linear nightmare.

Colour is the vital piece of dread that the books need to truly come alive.

When Smith’s lettering gets taken into account, the genre of the book is really played up expertly. There’s a lesson to be learned from letterers all-over about how to turn a writer’s words into part of the art itself within Malevolence.

The book builds upon a beautifully horrid concept and executes it in terrifying fashion.

You can get your hands on Malevolence – and you really should – from Hugo Boylan and John Quigley directly. Hugo can be found at @HugoBoylan; John can be found at @johnquigley209.