Awesome Comics - Issue 2 (The Awesome Comics Podcast, 2018)
Think of the exact opposite of Difficult Second Album Syndrome (DSAS), and that's precisely what you get with the follow-up to the already impressive first issue of this indie anthology that's taking the small press world by storm.Despite my somewhat facetious comment in the bottom right-hand corner of this blog, I'm not really the kind of person that demands some kind of bribe in return for favourable reviews. I'm not even that sure I really want to do that many reviews at all, to be honest. That being said, I wish it to be known that I purchased a copy of this comic of my own free will, just like everybody else, and was absolutely thrilled when I was granted permission to go ahead and write about it.
|Expect to give a whole new meaning to the term "gut-wrenching".|
The front page illustration is credited to guest cover artist Andy Bloor, who has already collaborated on various UK maindy press projects such as Into the Woods, The Mammoth Book of Zombie Comics and the Phonogram series, as well as Guerillas, Porcelain, Midnight Man and The Wolfmen comics.
And what a great cover it is too. As a matter of fact, it's fucking perfect! The art is beautifully rendered; symmetrical, impactful, suggestive, spooky, and it makes great use of a limited - but strong - complementary colour palette. Most importantly however, it stands out and just causes you to feel sorry for the poor sod's comic that ends up lying next to it.
Driving Licence to Kill
First up is the second part of Vince Hunt's post-terrorbilly, psych-horror shocker Murder Road. He is also not only the creator of long-running comic series The Red Mask from Mars, but also the co-author on Devil Kickers, which is a proper book by the way, and not a comic!
In the first issue, Vince used his mastery of the genre-specific narrative structure to introduce us to the vast array of characters and setting, as well as creating a tensely ominous atmosphere of imminent dread and foreboding. His expertise in the technique of foreplay gave us only glimpses of the demoniacal protagonist and, although you pretty much new where it was leading to, there was enough mystery and intrigue surrounding the character to keep the reader in an adequate state of suspense. However, I can assure one and all that nothing will prepare you for what happens next, as the mysterious figure finally makes his eagerly-anticipated entrance...
|Thrills, chills and automobiles.|
The story is most successful in also transmitting the feeling of terror and dread you get when watching a horror movie at the cinema. In the same way that some people tend to view these films through the gaps between their fingers, you turn each page with half-closed eyes, and can actually feel the adrenalin pumping through you as you prepare yourself for the next series of events.
Vince also puts a great deal of emphasis into providing thrilling cliffhanger endings to his episodes. The only problem with this of course, is that you have to wait another three months to see what happens next. Three bleeding months!
The Slick Soho Chick with the Killer Kung-Fu Kick
Next on the bill, we have the second (third) episode in this zeitheistian saga of the sassy seventies broad, and her exploits within the seedy, backlit criminal underbelly of Old London Town. Cockney Kung Fu is a mini metropolitan masterpiece from the successfully creative pairing of Antony Esmond and Nick Prolix, that is sure to engross, enthral and entertain.
Nick is also the creator of a highly acclaimed comix series that you are encouraged to check out Slang Pictorial, as well as the webcomic series The Sheep and the Wolves, and produces his own comic art zine It Always Rains on Sundays. Antony has a list of writing credits as long as your arm, and is in constant demand for collaborative projects of each and every description. He is perhaps most known for his work on Bingo Bonanza, Dogbreath, Little Heroes, Sliced, ComicScene, and the upcoming Coffee House Barbarian with Susie Gander, as well as being a regular contributor on Downthetubes.
|Diamond geezers?... Do me a lemon!|
The dialogue rolls off the tongue as you are reading it, like the verse of a song, so that you can easily get the gist of everything without any real effort, even if you are unable to comprehend some of the most hardened Cockney vernacular. Indeed, the whole series has been expertly devised and is a truly sublime piece of writing, from whichever way you approach it. I am certain it would be a box office smash, if it were ever to make it to film (providing they don't change a thing, of course!).
A special mention must too go to Nick's unique artistic style. His natural talent and meticulous approach is a real joy to behold for comic traditionalists like myself. He also does things I have not seen much of elsewhere (if at all), and plays with the very language of comics, using his experimentation within the medium to great effect. Onomatopoeia, lettering, panels and speech balloons all become as embedded within his work, as the art itself is intertwined within Tony's superb scripts. A creative partnership as close to perfection as you are ever likely to get.
And (almost) finally is the continuation of Dan Butcher's slightly shaken (but not stirred) action-packed, jock-strapped, tip-top, big cocked, bad cop-cum-vigilante serial Vyper ...with a twist of lemon. Dan is creator of the long-running comic series featuring the crack British superhero team Vanguard, and was recently nominated for an award in the Best UK Artist category, at the Edinburgh Comic Con 2018.
This is yet another hugely enjoyable strip, and a more than fitting way to end this compendium of collected comic cornucopia. Dan makes no secret of his passion for the action genre, and provides us with the second instalment of his own interpretation of the butch (anti) hero, presented in an American TV-style format (complete with continuity announcements). The beauty of this strip is that it is subtly presented with a very individual take on the theme, and with a great skill in emphasising what it is people love (and love to hate) about this kind of guy.
|And they say going to the gym is supposed to be good for you.|
The sparkling dialogue is what really moves this story along, and there are some absolutely classic lines (including that one in particular - which had me laughing hard!). In fact, although the series is more than good enough as a standalone story, it is the speech that really gives it that edge. This is an important element, that provides a discreet point of difference that distinguishes Vyper from other action genre comics. It is a quintessentially British technique of subtly offsetting the interpretation of a theme from its original subject. I suppose it is a form of postmodernism, but imagine it to be incredibly tricky to get right, especially in comic format. Needless to say, Dan has got it absolutely spot on. Things like TV's Nighty Night, The Office and League of Gentlemen spring to mind, but the best example of what I am talking about is something more like Garth Marenghi's Darkplace.
Dan's artwork has a glossy, professional finish to it, and this is due in no small part to his excellent drawing ability, but above all in his skill as a graphic artist. There are uses of special effects, filters and texture in his art, that demonstrate a high level of expertise in computer-aided design. This can be tricky to pull off if someone hasn't got the necessary ability to use the software, which is definitely not the case with Dan Butcher.
The Finished Article
At the back of the book there is also a section dedicated to reader's letters and fan art, which is a most welcome feature indeed, and in the true tradition of the great British comic anthology experience. Some of the replies to these messages will have you snorting your tea out of your nose, and all of the submitted art is of an extremely high standard.
All in all, a very well-presented publication with a rich mix of superb comic strip entertainment, excellent additional features, and at a price that is accessible to everyone. Get with the programme and don't miss out. This is comics, this is Britain, this is now!
If you haven't already got your copy of issue 2 (or issue 1), you can order them directly from the Awesome Comics site here.
If you don't already know about The Awesome Comics Podcast, you can catch their weekly show here.
You can also subscribe to Tony Esmond and Nick Prolix's joint Cockney Kung Fu mailer here.
All visual content is for demonstrative purposes only and is the property of the respective owners.