In Review: Drowntown Book One

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New from Jonathan Cape Books is Drowntown, the new graphic novel written by Robbie Morrison and illustrated by Jim Murray.

In the not too distant future, flooded London remains a bustling metropolis of wealth, workers and wrongdoers. Leo Noiret is a minder, a heavy for hire, whose job provides him with a lot of contacts but not necessarily many friends. Vincent Drakenberg is the bored heir to the Drakenberg Corporation, a hugely successful and influential bio-engineering firm, who falls for the feisty Gina Cassel, co-owner of a two woman hydrobike courier service. Alexandra Bastet is a notoriously powerful underworld figure with a secret past that even she doesn’t fully know. Bastet hires Noiret to use his contacts to discover why a 19 year old girl with a London accent barely survived an aero-car accident in Egypt 17 years before and so explain that past to her.

dt panda sRobbie Morrison began his comics career writing scripts for DC Thomson’s Starblazer science-fiction digest, although they didn’t reach publication due to the title closing with issue 281 in January 1991. He is perhaps best known for Nikolai Dante, a strip about a 26th century rogue, which ran in the weekly 2000AD comic between 1997 and 2012, and which has been compiled into eleven graphic novel reprints by 2000AD publishers Rebellion. His background in science-fiction comic strips is therefore exemplary and Drowntown maintains that high standard. Split into short chapters, the book subtly moves across the years, simply defined as “Then” and “Now”, as Morrison builds depth into his cast of main characters while introducing a myriad of startling minor characters, many of whom are the anthropomorphic chimeras of animals created by the Drakenberg Corporation.

Jim Murray has previously worked on Batman and Judge Dredd stories as well as book covers and gaming cards. Here his comic art meets Morrison’s imagination full on, doing justice to the flooded cityscapes, the futuristic transportation and the gamut of different people, and non-people, the story encompasses. His women are realistically beautiful while his men are subtle caricatures of their jobs, but it is the remarkable animals that are perhaps the highlight of the art, from the dangerous hyena fixers, via the slow witted panda thug, to the outrageous rats.

dt splash sDrowntown is tagged as ‘Book 1’ and it is obviously seen by the publisher as having the potential to be an on-going series, Indeed Amazon UK, remarkably, already have a release date of 4 October 2014 for Volume 2, which Jim Murray reports he is already around half way through. Drowntown fully deserves not just a second volume but a series.

It is not often during the year that you read a graphic novel that you know will hit the “best of the year” lists in December. Drowntown is one such book – buy it now so you will understand just what they will all be raving about.

• The Drowntown blog has more details of the story and the artwork.

• Robbie Morrison’s Twitter is here

• Jim Murray’s website is here

• Jonathan Cape’s graphic novel website is here.

• John Freeman’s downthetubes review of Drowntown Book One is here

Drowntown creators Robbie Morrison and Jim Murray will be appearing at Stripped, part of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, on Saturday 24 August at 4:30pm to talk about the book. Tickets for this event are available from the Edinburgh International Book Festival box office.

This review was first posted on the Stripped Book Fest blog and is re-posted here with full permission.

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