Art, Story and Lettering by Warwick Fraser-Coombe
Suggested for Mature Readers
The Story: The first issue in the series opens with the leather masked Revenger sitting in a room that is trashed. There is cash lying about all over the floor and a drug dealer tied to a chair with a bag over his head. The Revenger is talking into his Dictaphone and declaring his brutal mission statement. (More of that in a minute).
We then experience a flashback/origin story where we learn that the masked figure is in fact an ex-soldier, Roger, who was thrown out of the army and came home to find his wife in bed with another man – a friend in fact. Adding to this downward spiral Roger’s father dies – but not before leaving him a cache of firearms and weapons hidden in his garage. Roger takes the weapons and begins to fashion a plan.
“This is not a mid-life crisis. This is not post-traumatic stress.”
At this point, the comic becomes brutally, joyously, super violent. The Revenger (as Roger now calls himself) goes on a killing spree that would put Charles Bronson and Frank Castle both to shame. Roger cuts, shoots and blows up every angle of criminal society before he is confronted by a tougher than tough, skeleton-faced police officer (in full blues, no less). This character (called ‘The Black Policeman’) recruits Roger to this shady underworld organisation, The Shadow Constabulary…
The Review: At no point does this book flinch, it never turns away and it relishes the gore. Why? I might hear you say? Well the answer is because it one hundred per cent serves the story. Whilst it remains a grindhouse styled comic, it also dwells in subjects beyond the violence and mayhem. This is Harry Brown meets The Punisher meets The Exterminator meets The Executioner. It is realistic in its depiction of violence, yet fantastical in many other areas. The appearance of talking animals and surreal encounters with nightmarish characters lead you to see beneath the surface.
It is this multi-faceted approach that endears Roger to the reader (and let’s face it, that is a pretty hard feat to have completed!) Sure, the book is bare faced in its often politically incorrect dialogue and images but at counterpoint is what I feel the creator is trying to say about a wider canvas. He has crafted a book that is also clearly about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the plight of the servicemen and women returning home to find themselves often ignored by the society they fought for. Swimming just below all the bullets and blood are the real life problems of Roger. He is a character who is blunt and feels that he has a realistic, pragmatic approach to life but he is also a mess of emotions. His life is in turmoil both romantically, mentally and physically. He is attempting to turn away from his own problems by adopting and trying to treat the illness of what he perceives is abroad in the United Kingdom that of crime and immorality.
Throughout reading this book, on every page turn I am faced with one question. Is this reality or the creation of a twisted and tortured mind? The hallucinations that occur throughout the pages would seem to suggest that this is a case of mental illness – he isn’t quite stable that is for sure. But how far is the reader to take the theory that Roger is in a completely imagined world and should we know.
In many ways, this book can be enjoyed on a number of levels. It is incredibly well told, both in the writing and the art. Warwick has a patchwork style to his art and it reminds me of a Duncan Fegredo piece in his early days at Vertigo (on a book like Enigma, for example) or even the current work of Michael Lark. It has a realistic and dynamic style but adds moments of the patchwork minglings of artistic and real crashing headlong into each other. The weapons especially, and the way that The Revenger handles them are exceptionally well handled.
Let’s not sit here and say that this book is completely serious, it is littered with English black and sarcastic humour. He is an anti-hero with a touch of Marshall Law. You cannot but help to rally behind him when he takes out a ring of high profile paedophiles for example.
Fraser-Coombe also mixes in the real world. The enemy is the corrupt politician, the corner drug dealer, the Anonymous rebellious trust fund kids out for ‘let’s pretend’ revolution. The newspapers even reflect the current state of Britain. (Oh, what paper could ‘The Scum’ be I wonder?)
I’ve harped on enough already.
Buy this book.
• Revenger: The Shadow Constabulary, 140 pages, of full colour mayhem. Collecting the first five issues. Available now direct from Warwick. £10 per copy plus £2.90 postage and packing (UK prices only. Worldwide delivery will vary). Contains scenes of violence, sex and cuss words- in other words, not for children!)
• You can find the creator at www.warwickfrasercoombe.blogspot.com or on Twitter @warfras. Warwick will also be at the upcoming Thought Bubble Festival in Leeds between 14 -15th November – he’ll be in The New Dock Hall at Table 186
Many thanks for reading.
All images © Warwick Fraser-Coombe 2015.