Reviews

Review: Swift

With Thought Bubble’s comic convention on its way this weekend, Aaron Fever (Ship WreckedFrozen WasteArtos) is launching Swift, the latest interpretation of the superhero genre from an Irish writer. The creative team involved gathers a lot of experience and talent in one issue, with line art by George Kambadais, colours by Rebecca Nalty, letters by Hassan Ostmane-Elhaou, and Declan Shalvey as Editor. I was fortunate enough to get a digital copy sent to me by Fever for the sake of this review.

Swift is a classic coming of age story, about a wheelchair bound teenager waking up on the sixteenth birthday to discover he has a superpower, and needing to figure out his place in the world with this sudden change. (That’s all you get out of me on that; aside from a no-spoiler policy, I’m not here to summarise the book for you!)

Compared to other superhero books by small press creators, it makes a delightful change. We’re not given a world-saving hero in Swift, but a real, human boy who just wants to paint. We’re not given a star athlete turned Superman-knock-off, or a team of eclectic Irishness in spandez. Fever uses the genre to tell a story about how a boy finds his place in his family, and in the world.

Kambadais and Nalty perform excellently together, giving us a charming family tale with the spark of Marketing Buzz that the heroes of Swift seem to demand. There’s a lot of movement throughout the comic, with the feel of a montage rippling through the pages, loud splashes of colour making up for the silence of paper (or the whirr of my laptop fan.) With the additional of Ostmane-Elhaou’s letters, the comic guides us through one of the more difficult times in a person’s life (growing up; not all of us go through superhero training at the age of sixteen) with all the excitement of possibility, and the dread of change, blended in a way only comics can achieve.

I adored this book. There are no other words for it. Perhaps it’s the superhero fan in me, or the Young-Adult-obsessed reader that’s yet to give up on the classic coming-of-age narrative, but I didn’t want to stop reading the book once I’d started, and wanted to go back and read it again once I’d finished. It doesn’t bury itself in unnecessary complexity; Swift is an honest story, packed with wit and humour. If you’re fortunate enough to get to Thought Bubble this weekend, this is one for your shopping list.

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#ComicsAtDCC 2017

The biggest weekend for Irish comics is here: Dublin Comic Con. Thanks to Declan Shalvey, the hashtag #ComicsAtDCC began on Twitter, making the job of easily identifying what’ll be available that little bit easier. I’ve gathered a bunch of titles here from what I know about and what I could pick up info about online.

All Ages Comics

Going by my own experiences attending Dublin Comic Con in the past, the All-Ages titles are few and far between. I’ve collected the few that I know about here, to make things easier for readers with kids to find something age-appropriate for them.

Fate by Anthea West. Click here for our review.
Freya, Written by Tracy Sayers, Art by Trisha O’Reilly
Wren #13, Written by Paul Carroll and Jason Browne, Art by Jason Browne, Lettered by Phil Roe
Rabbit and Paul Cover
Rabbit and Paul, by Seán Hogan. Click here for our review.

Small Press

The remainder of the Irish small press, as far as I know, is not quite as suitable for children as the above comics. While some titles may be – it’s a judgement call by parents – there are some that might traumatise kids.

The Guards
The Guards, Written by Shane Ormond, Art by Kevin Keane
Chuck, Written by Paul Carroll, Art by Conor Carroll
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100 Times, by Katie Fleming Deluxe Edition launches at Dublin Comic Con with additional material. Click here for our original review.
Brain Fetish Cover
Brain Fetish by Kinga Korska. Click here for our review.
Carrie & Rufus, by Ben Hennessy
The Broker, Written by Wayne Talbot. Massive creative team listed in review
Will Sinister, Written by Hugo Boylan, Art by John Quigley. Check out our review here.
Clone, by Hugo Boylan, Tara Ferguson, Rebecca Reynolds and Kerrie Smith. Check out our review here.
Hoda Machine, by Leeann Hamilton
Red Sands, Written by Ciaran Marcantonio, Art by Cormac Hughes, Colours by Triona Farrell
How to Live With Your Cat, Written by Paul Carroll, Art by Gareth Luby
Meouch, Written by Paul Carroll, Art by Gareth Luby
The Waves That Breaks, by Aaron Lotsy
Frozen Waste, Written by Aaron Fever, Art by Clare Foley
The Fort Night Comic Project, Written by Dave Hendrick, Art by Peter Marry, Colours by Dee Cunniffe
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Solstice, Written by Danny McLaughlin, Art by Nathan Donnell. Books 3 launches at Dublin Comic Con. (As far as we are aware!)
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Project Crossroads, Art by Seán Hogan, Stories by Hugo Boylan, JP Jordan and Adlai McCook, Colours by Stephanie Reville and Dearbhla Kelly, Letters by Kerrie Smith, Flats by Louise Fitzpatrick. Check out our review here.
Solo-Q by Jeklly Draws

Special Mentions

Sometimes, writers and artists work on things that aren’t comics. Launching at DCC, or just released this year, are:

Maelstrom, by Paddy Lennon – Book 3 of the Flare Series
A Little Book of the Coen Brothers, a Sketchbook by Brian Burke

A Death in the Family, by Paul Carroll, launched at K-Con earlier this year

Guests

As well as all of that, attendees will also be treated to the presence of a few of Ireland’s greatest comic creators, including Will Sliney, Declan Shalvey, Stephen Mooney, John Cullen, Triona Farrell, and Robert Carey. Anthea West and Leeann Hamilton, whose books can be seen in the list above, are also on the billing.

It’s going to be a busy weekend. There’s a lot to look at it, so many books worth reading, and so many artists and other creators whose work cries out to be picked up.

I’ll be in attendance as a vendor this year, but I had the utmost pleasure of getting to review a lot of the upcoming books for this year’s event. For those who don’t know, I’m Paul Carroll – just breaking into comics, hence the plethora of new books. Because Comix Ireland is a one-man show, you won’t find reviews of anything (or by anyone) I’m involved in (with) here, which includes anything by Gareth Luby, Tracy Sayers, or Jason Browne of Buttonpress. There’s objectivity, and then there’s bias, and the line gets a little bit finer the closer you get to a book. As for every other book on the list, you’ll likely see reviews popping up ahead of other events. I personally can’t wait to see what these amazing creators, and the ones who aren’t on this list, have to offer in the years to come.

Reviews

Review: Fate

One of Ireland’s longest running web comics is taking its first three chapters and going into print. Fate, by Anthea West, is launching with a collected volume of its first three chapters (and an exclusive print-only prologue!) at Dublin Comic Con this year. The book comes with cover colours by Triona Farrell, a map by Katie O’Meara, and additional colours by O’Meara and Rebecca Nalty. Following an incredibly successful Kickstarter earlier this year, West is ready to bring her beloved back to the convention floor.

Fate is an all-ages comic that combines West’s great sense of humour with a fun and vibrant adventure story. Following the misfortune’s of the only talking dustbunny – later named by another character as ‘Bunny’ – Fate builds up a large, fantastical world with each twist and turn. In a world populated by humans, fauns, dustbunnies, mermaids and demons – and probably a whole lot more – there’s a lot to be discovered with every turn of the page and addition to the site.

West’s sense of humour and style of illustration are perfect for her intended audience, painting a colourful story world filled with friendly and easy-on-the-eye protagonists, and menacing beasts with their eyes (and stomachs) settled on hunting down Bunny. With her art loaning itself equally well to its adorable protagonist and all the nastiness that aims to devour him, readers are in for a visual delight.

The book is certainly a lot less serious than most of the other titles released by Irish creators, but that doesn’t stop it dealing with themes of friendship, prejudice, and finding courage as an unwilling hero. While it’s still quite early in the tale, there’s a lot to uncover within the story about the world, its people, and the things that bind them together. Definitely one to check out, especially if you’re looking for something child-friendly from the Irish small press creators.

Check out Anthea on Twitter at: @antheawest

 

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

Reviews

Review: The Broker

Launching at Dublin Comic Con, The Broker is the first book from podcaster Wayne Talbot. The book has an interesting publication history (and it’s not even out yet!), originally intended to be released across three anthologies by Lightning Strike, and changing creative teams when it stood out by itself. The original creative team consisted on Wayne Talbot as writer and Miriam Abuin on lettering, both of whom remained throughout the entire project. For the book’s first act, pages 1-10, Ruairi Coleman served as artist, with Timothy Brown on colours. For the remainder of the book, Brian Corcoran assumed the role of artist, with Talbot picking up colours. Ciaran Marcantonio resides over the book as editor as it reaches convention tables for the first time.

The plot of the book seems less tedious after putting the book’s history into words; conceptually, it’s simple, and thematically appropriate for the current political climate. Talbot deals with corruption, brutality and conspiracy throughout three acts, pacing the tale incredibly well across each part. The protagonists are believable in almost every aspect – we’ll let the team away with the superb reflexes of their heroes due in part to the fact that comics allow a certain distinction from reality. Nothing is held back between the twists and turns of a plot centring around Brokers with their own visions of how the world should run, and wicked and scrupulous means of achieving their goals, playing with lives as chess pieces.

Readers can be understandably concerned when they hear about the change in artist between two parts of the story, but fear not: Coleman and Corcoran’s styles compliment each other well. Where Coleman dealt with some of the more explosive scenes of the book, relying on dynamic movements between panels, Corcoran deals with the forensics in greater capacity, picking apart the plot with a fine pen. It helps that each artist deals with a different primary protagonist, with Corcoran and Talbot creating a new tonal quality to the book as it enters its second act. Talbot and Brown’s colours blend well together, and while I would personally question one particularly vibrant background colour choice, Talbot succeeded in completing the colouring of the book as well as any seasoned creator could hope.

Between them, Talbot and Brown created a theme of colours to track throughout the book, working with Abuin’s lettering to tie the whole piece together neatly. Reds carry violence, purples hint at the presence of the antagonists, and oranges case a light on Catelyn’s past.

The risks involved in changing teams are many, but a book like The Broker was perfectly designed to make use of it in the best way. I would question it if the division in acts wasn’t apparent in the writing, too, and any reader should worry when they see such a drastic change in a book’s lineup; thankfully, The Broker blends its second team’s styles with its original creators.

A couple of side notes before I finish: I love that there’s a soundtrack to listen to while reading the book (interior back page, for those of you yet to read the book), and; Catelyn is perhaps my favourite single character from an Irish small press book. As well as being incredibly Bad Ass, she has a few choice panels that really stand out for me towards the end of the second act. When you’ve read the book, then you can ask about it if you don’t immediately spot what makes her so relatable.

I look forward to something new from Talbot, whichever creative team he works with. And, while this is no criticism of The Broker, I’m thankful that the next project he’s announced is less contemporary in nature, so that we might see more of how he creates, and less of the current politics that fills newsfeeds daily.

Follow the creators on Twitter:

Wayne Talbot: @waynetalbot

Miriam Abuin: @miriamabuin

Ruairi Coleman: @ruairicoleman

Timothy Brown: @artoftimbrown

Brian Corcoran: @_brian_corcoran

Ciaran Marcantonio: @ciaronious

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

Reviews

Review: Red Sands

‘Mad Max’ meets vampires in Red Sands issue 1 from Lightning Strike Comics. I received a digital copy of the comic from the book’s writer for review. Written by Ciaran Marcantonio, illustrated by Cormac Hughes, coloured by Triona Farrell, and lettered by Bob Kelly, the book collects two parts of a tale originally published in Lightning Strike 6 & 8.  

While the divide in the story as a result of how it was originally published it slightly jarring (right up until the next page turn, that is), each part of the story presents the reader with different sets of information, and charges the tale with tension amidst the dystopian history lesson. Years of working in comics – and a collection that would leave casual buyers in awe – have prepared Marcantonio for the creation of this horrid world, haunted by a burning sun, long nights, and bloodthirsty vampires. There’s a nice blend of tension-building with the narrative guidance of the book’s protagonist, providing us with all the information we need to understand what’s happening in the moment, without providing all the answers.

Hughes’s artwork loads itself well to the style of the story. Snippets of gear changes and exploding blood bags capture quick movements, while lines of tension are drawn between panels as characters square off against each other, poised for strong words. With the addition of Farrell’s colours, the story is brought to a dark and bloody life. Cool blues and stark yellows dominate the pages of the book, with deep reds drawing bloodied warning lines throughout the book.

There’s a lot to like about this book. Dealing with issues of parentage, survival and the common good, this vampire dystopia is much more than meets the eye. The book is reminiscent of classic genre flicks from the 80s and 90s, from Mad Max 2 to From Dusk Till Dawn, with a climate change apocalypse thrown in for good measure.

While the exact cause of the events that led to Red Sands is still uncertain, one thing is clear: dying is almost inevitable. The sun will burn you up, human or vampire. The vampires will drain you as quickly as you drain your fuel tank. And, if Red Sands Testament (Writer: Marcantonio, Artist: Robert Carey, Colourist: Ruth Redmond, Letterer: Miriam Abuin) is anything to go by (a bonus story at the back of the book!), the battle is being fought on all fronts.

Red Sands is definitely one to check out for horror and sci-fi fans, and to give readers a good idea of the sort of stories Marcantonio can tell ahead of his upcoming graphic novel Neon Skies.  

Check out the creators on Twitter:

Ciaran Marcantonio: @ciaronious

Cormac Hughes: @fhiacha

Triona Farrell: @treestumped

Robert Carey: @robcareycomics

Ruth Redmond: @ruth_redmond

Miriam Abuin: @miriamabuin

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Reviews

Incandescent Memories #1-3

Brian Burke, one of the creators of Incandescent Memories, sent me all three books for review. It’s been some time since I actually received them – and I already had a hardcopy of one, so I was able to see the sort of quality intended in the printing of them – but various complications got in the way of actually writing a review (including thinking I had already done so, and not realising for another few weeks. Life is difficult sometimes.) But here we are: three issues of a comic by Brian Burke and John Devlin. As per usual, I don’t get overly critical. (The Irish comic creator circles are quite small, and they’re all so lovely it’s difficult not to become friends with them. Being a voice of reasoned applause and pointing out things I like is easier for me on a personal and editorial level.)

Collected Comics

The first thing that one should know when picking up Incandescent Memories is that the book collects several stories in each issue. Each issue holds one thing in common, aside from its creators’ names on the cover: The Bandit King. Serialised across each issue, it’s the one continued narrative throughout each book.

Otherwise, the books present us with separate, fun stories from each of the two creators.

incandescent-memories-3-cover

Taking turns in writing and illustrating each others’ work, Burke and Devlin give us a fun look at what each of them is capable of. Issue 1, the bumper four-story book, contains stories with each creator taking alternate roles, as well as providing solo stories where they act as writer and artist.

The first issue remains my favourite, but it has the benefit of containing more stories than the others. While readers can’t reasonably expect the same volume of work every issue from these two creators, it works as a great introduction into the sort of material the two Dublin creators like to make. The additional concept art in issues 1 and 2 also help to show off the drawing styles of each artist isolated from the actual stories within the books.

Overall, Incandescent Memories is an exciting comic to watch as new issues are released. With the continued tale of The Bandit King – a humorous fantasy story – written by Burke and drawn by Devlin, returning readers have something to look forward to, while new readers have additional stories to entice them into the potential of each creator.

Highly recommended, and a good sign of things to come from Dublin’s comic crowd.

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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.