Review by John Freeman
The Book: When mankind is threatened by extinction as huge meteorites head for Earth, the world’s superpowers decide to act swiftly and launch nuclear missiles to avert the threat. Life as we know it would be saved – however, something has changed.
Sightings of mythical creatures – Cryptids – are being reported all over the world. Soon, the Loch Ness monster is found dead. A week later, an angry Bigfoot is tracked down and found shot dead. Hunters and poachers the world over have new trophies to seek out…
Unknown to most, indeed a very well kept secret, is that these animals and creatures have always been living among us. They were kept out of sight and protected, by a secret group of anti-poachers called “The Watchers”, who are now both trying to figure out what is why the Cryptids have come out of hiding en masse – and how to protect them.
The Review: When London-based animation director Asa Movshovitz’s studio Keyframe Studios went into a “quiet time” during full Coronavirus Pandemic-caused lockdown, he developed an idea for The Watchers – a comic co-written with Iain Mclaughlin (Beano, Doctor Who) working with Italian artist, Luca Pinelli, with cover art and character design by Rajan Zelalem.
The result is an entertaining, if at times uneven, all-ages adventure offered game some great art by Luca, engaging characters and a story that sets things up nicely for continued adventures – perhaps not just as a comic.
The Watchers opens with a great hook to draw you in, with young trainee guardian of The Cryptids Lona facing off an angry unicorn. We have no idea, at this point, quite why the unicorn has turned vicious, or indeed how Lona will escape getting trampled, which proves more than enough to draw you into the story, as we’re quickly given the back story of exploding meteors, suddenly angry monsters and an evil corporation hiring hunters to catch them all for their new zoo.
Luca Pinelli delivers some terrific art throughout on this story as The Watchers race to save three unicorns from capture by an inept but determined hunter, Billy Wayne-Eastwood, who’s working for the avaricious Coltons determined to populate their new zoo, and who have some singularly worrying ideas about employee management. There’s a manga influence on Luca’s work which works well.
I can see The Watchers working well in series, with plenty of questions left hanging, such as what killed the Loch Ness Monster, and why the cause of the enraged Cryptids didn’t impact on humans, too… or perhaps it has, and that’s a thread for later.
Overall, The Watchers proves an enjoyable yarn, setting the scene nicely for further stories, comparing, perhaps with The Real Ghostbusters in terms of universe building and concept, which is no bad thing.
Personally, I did think the reveal of the cause of the monsters anger issues and sudden appearance wasn’t as important as introducing the lively cast, and could have been explained sooner, by way of a secondary story thread to split the action. Without spoiling the story, it would have helped build the Cryptids sorry state a little more and made their situation all the more harrowing.
But that said, we‘re treated to a great all-ages story that ends on a dramatic cliffhanger with no major blood and gore, and given how often it’s said there’s a lack of “entry point” comic stories into the world of comics these days, The Watchers certainly proves it’s entirely possible to create them, and hold their readers. Worth a look.
• The first volume The Watchers is on ComiXology and soon will be on Comichaus app
MEET THE TEAM
Originally from Israel, Asa Movshovitz has worked on numerous commercial, design and high profile broadcast projects during his 20 plus years career. Notable projects includes includes “The Gorillaz” and “Cold Play” the latter winning the MTV award Breakthrough Video (2002). Asa also worked on feature films such as Prince Caspian and the seventh Harry Potter film.
He founded his own animation studio, Keyframe Studios, in 2009 – a full service, creative studio which specialize in 3D Character CGI production and animation. Through this, he’s directed many animation projects including broadcast work for the BBC and the animation for the hit E4 comedy show, Dead Pixels.
Iain Mclaughlin was born in Dundee, and still lives there, in a house filled with books. For a time, he was the editor of the Beano and has also written stories for Commando, “The Broons” and “Oor Wullie. The writer of several original thrillers, his credits span more than 30 books and over 50 plays for radio, plus numerous short stories and TV scripts, writing stories featuring many famous characters and shows including James Bond, Doctor Who, Blake’s 7, Richard Hannay, Wallace & Gromit and Sherlock Holmes.
Following his passion for art and comics he had since childhood, Luca Pinelli studied at the International School of Comics of Florence. Following college, he published the comic Santa Maria del Popolo as a comic artist and was the colourist on another title, Nelson, for Kleiner Flug. He currently works as a freelance and as a colourist for Leviathan Labs, and also teaches at the International School of Comics of Florence.
Rajan Zelalem is an illustrator and digital concept artist based in London, a graduate in animation production from Arts University Bournemouth. Since joining Keyframe in 2017, he’s been involved in many productions as a concept artist and illustrator and lead the design team on the E4 adult comedy show, Dead Pixels.