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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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

black, white & grey cover
Reviews

Review: Black, White & Grey

Hugo Boylan – the twisted mind behind Malevolence – sent me on a review copy of his new book with Rapha Lobosco, Black, White & Grey. As with all my reviews, I have a tendency to focus on the positive – especially true when I know the creator. Consider this a ‘Why you should buy this comic’ post (because I know this is one I’d love to have a physical copy of!)

Black Lines, Grey Morals

Hugo Boylan is, in my mind, a horror writer. The first book of his that I read was a horror, so the genre sticks in my head. This new book contains five stories: DreamweaverDay JobMurphy’s DayHeavy Black, and Black Neptune. It’s hard to tell which one disturbs me most. Conceptually, they’re all different. As stories, they’re paced differently, and rely on different scare tactics. The twists, the intrigues, the Big Bads, they vary between each story. And while it’s true to say that Boylan writes horror, and that each story contains elements of horror, there’s a greater depth of genre available in this book, when one looks at the stories separately.

Heavy Black is certainly closer to science fiction in terms of its content, while Murphy’s Day relies on the expectation of an incident to keep the reader guessing, set in an otherwise contemporary world. The final story in the book, Black Neptune, is extracted from a larger story, but contains enough of the tale to raise the question that a good story ought to: just what is going on?

To complement Boylan’s writing, Rapha Lobosco fills in the pages with – you might guess from the book’s title – a blend of black, white and grey artwork. Artistically, it can appear as a choice between colouring the art, or telling a story in black and white line-work. Conceptually, especially in a collection, the use of black, white and grey creates different atmospheres for the stories. Those told in black-and-white only are the stories that rely on twists and contrasts; what appear to be simple stories take sharp turns in the opposite direction.

When grey is introduced, we’re given two different uses of the colour; Heavy Black makes use of grey to emphasise the darkness of space (the story taking place on-board a craft in space), whereas Murphy’s Day uses grey as a means of dropping us in the middle of the story wondering where we might be taken – there is no clear-cut jump, only a wait for the shift in the story, something we have to drift through, like searching in murky water for a prized jewel. (Analogy spoiler alert: we find the jewel.)

Added to the stories are an original script – which is a nice addition from Boylan – for Dreamweaver, and concept art from Lobosco – always something I like to see at the end of a book. With a dark and dreary design pulled together by the book’s letterer, Kerrie Smith, we’ve given an impressive collection of stories from two of the finest up-and-coming comic creators in Ireland.

Black, White & Grey launches at Thought Bubble 2016 (that’s this coming weekend, folks). It’s a clever collection of intriguing stories, definitely one for fans of horror, and receives an all-round recommendation from me. You can check out Heavy Black on Taptastic in its entirety if you want a taste of what the collection is like.