Cup of O – Small Press Reviews

Cup of O - Small Press Reviews

This is the first week I’m dealing exclusively with review requests rather than going through my massive to-read pile – if you want anything reviewed give me a shout over on Twitter

The Kill Screen #1 (Self Published) Mike Garley, Josh Sherwell & Mike Stock

Kill Screen Mike Garley

Many people in the small press could claim the title of “most productive” but I think the case for Mike Garley deserving it most (Vs Comics, Wallace & Gromit, Dead Roots, Eponymous etc etc etc) is quite a strong one. His latest effort is a very interesting take on the “post apocalyptic infection” genre – with a dark digital twist. This first issue doesn’t give much away and serves as a cleverly paced plunge into the deep end of this twisted new reality. The possibilities set up here are quite tantalising.

Josh Sherwell‘s art is nicely loose and fits the story well. It’s all sparse lines and muted colours infused and enriched by heavy textures and nicely-placed glitch effects. Further hat-doffs to Mike Stock who does a very solid job on the lettering and (presumably) the general design of the book. A strong example of self-published comics at their most slick and exciting – seek this out like the swarming crowds did en masse at London Film and Comic Con!

Reel Love (DoGooder Comics) Owen Michael Johnson

Reel Love

Reel Love is the latest from small press sensation Owen Michael Johnson – this first act is a seemingly semi-autobiographical tale of cinema and childhood friendship that is essentially a more vague Son of Rambow.

Vagueness is the key here – as we drift through this kid’s life via pop culture homage and the occasional bit of mawkwish commentary from “cinema itself” we actually learn very little about the central character – if it isn’t Owen, then who is it? Hopefully the next two parts will cement this drifting introduction into some kind of logic. I found myself thinking – when is this? Original Star Wars in the cinema… Zelda on the N64?

Dreamlike and quietly evocative it may be – but a sense of place and character is jarringly absent amidst the familiar (if cleverly implemented) Star Wars and Lord of the Rings scenes. Perhaps that’s the point, that cinema provides a recognisable stability in an uncertain aimless world – “all life takes is a little direction” indeed. That is the appeal of thoughtful stories such as these – you can dive into meaning and spend time pondering on the deeper meanings. However – as someone who spent far too much time writing essays about this kind of thing in film studies – I’ll take a straightforward story any day!

Owen’s art is similarly unfocused – drifting between appealingly physical inkwork and startlingly amateurish figurework you find yourself wondering if it’s actually any good. I would say that it is – he’s got a strong eye for design and it scans well (his lettering is brilliant) but consistency is a major issue and some rushed elements take you right out of the story. Some panels and spreads are astounding though – and the occasional awkwardness makes the story more endearingly personal – a lot of work and undeniable heart has gone into it.

Despite my reservations I deeply anticipate the next two parts which Johnson has said will be darker and grimmer – and I’m hoping the art follows that through, and we get a greater grasp of the protagonist as his journey unfolds. Reel Love: Act 1 isn’t perfect but it has a soul to it and an honesty that outstrips many comics that attempt the same thing in a more straightforward fashion.

Flying Lessons (Self-Published) Alan Henderson

From the dark and melancholic to the brightly silly – this collection of Penned Guin webcomics from Anderson are charming if rather uneven – self-contained three panellers are hard to get right but read in one go they hit a certain rhythm that’s very appealing. Some of the jokes are cheesy, some aren’t even jokes – sometimes there isn’t even the ghost of structure. Lighthearted and likeable  but I prefer my newspaper-strip style funnies to have some sort of regular cast or … well, something else beyond a penguin.

Web Links

• The Kill Screen: mikegarley.com/the-kill-screen

• Reel Love: dogoodercomics.co.uk/reellove

• The Penned Guin: pennedguin.bigcartel.com

Owen Watts

Owen Watts is a small press editor, artist and colourist. He currently co-edits The Psychedelic Journal of Time Travel – a twice-yearly small press anthology featuring over 15 different emerging creators every issue. He has recently helped colour Ben Dickson & Gavin Mitchell’s Santa Claus vs. The Nazis for Aces Weekly which is due out as a single volume with Borderline Press later in 2014. He also runs the 2000 AD forum art competition, reviews small press comics and becomes a hippo every second Thursday.

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