By Tony Cooper
Self-published, 72 Page Graphic Novels
Warning: These books contain adult themes and language
The Books: In Volume One, Lisa, a student preparing for her A-levels, is recruited by fellow student Tom, who wants to see if they can use their combined intelligence to frame someone for murder.
But is she working with him, or being manipulated into a situation that even she can’t figure her way out of?
In Volume Two, convinced by Tom to kill a fellow student, Lisa makes her way to his house to deliver the fatal stab and plant evidence of a drug deal gone bad. However, she soon finds herself alone, in danger, and wondering if this was Tom’s plan all along…
The Review: I’ve been thoroughly remiss in not reviewing The Murder Club: Useless Deaths before, which, given the subject matter, might not be the most sensible of oversights…
This self-published, crowdfunded series from novelist Tony Cooper – available everywhere digitally – posits an intriguing storyline of teenage serial killers, with some terrific twists and turns as student Lisa is drawn into psychopath Tom’s nightmare world.
Inspired in part by TV series such as Hannibal, and various manga tales, Tony delivers an involving, layered plot with two gruesomely convincing characters with looks to die for (perhaps, literally) whose antics conjure a near hypnotic attraction as you’re drawn into their disturbing lives.
Volume One opens with a ceremony to mark the passing of a fellow student, which is becomes readily apparent seems to faze neither Lisa or Tom one bit. In fact, it encourages the manipulative Tom to encourage thoughts in Lisa that, perhaps, until now, never found the right outlet. Tom is convinced he had found a kindred soul, a fellow pyschopath, although she seems to need a lot of convincing.
When Tom suggests an outlet for their murderous tendencies, to kill a student and set another up for it, Lisa still seems unpersuaded, and Tony delivers some powerful scenes as Tom pushes her along a path that he thinks is of his making.
I was thoroughly impressed by The Murder Club: Useless Deaths Volume One on its debut last year but for some reason, writing a review utterly passed me by. This was extremely remiss of me, because I was hugely impressed by the writing, script and storytelling. Volume Two has just been released recently, and maintains equally high standards, with so many terrific twists and turns that saying much about the plot would, frankly, spoil your enjoyment reading the book.
Art wise, the story has a beguiling style to it, with nods to manga but a sense of pace that captures the horror of this psychological thriller perfectly. Tony makes great use of the 72-page story length, with some wonderful, virtually silent sequences drawn in such a way that does as much to capture and enhance the central characters as some of the more dialogue-heavy pages.
While a psychological thriller isn’t often my usual reading matter, The Murder Club – Useless Deaths has such a sense of style to it, combined with a terrific script. This is definitely one of my favourite independent comic reads of the year. Try it – you’ll be hooked…
Buy The Murder Club: Useless Deaths Volume One
Buy The Murder Club: Useless Deaths Volume Two
Currently working freelance as a writer and game/level designer, Tony Cooper studied medicine at university before deciding to making video games for the next sixteen years instead. In the last few years, he’s embraced his creative side, having written novels and short stories and is now transitioning into comics, through writing and doing the art for Some Kind of Hero, a tie-in to his superhero novels, and now The Murder Club.
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.