Created by Martin Simpson
Published by Soaring Penguin Press
“Needlemen are the dark enforcers of a dystopian city of slaves. For one particular Needlman, a seemingly everyday investigation will spiral out of control and comprehension….”
The Review : This is a collection of a series that was previously published in the Soaring Penguin Press anthology series Meanwhile. It is however new to me and was kindly sent through to us at The Awesome Podcast by the creator Martin Simpson. I opened it on my phone and immediately swapped messages with Vince and Dan on how ‘Freaking great’ this book looks.
I think the cover is worthy of a mention. It immediately stands out. The face of the Needleman (aka Agent Rasp) is that of a cross between a steampunk zombie and a funeral director in a 1970s western. A wizened and skinny tough guy with a bow tie. He looks out at you with vicious efficiency from the cover daring you to try something. Either side of his face are the flared lights of a golden city shooting up into the night sky.
‘They only wanted black and white. Do you see?’
I am taken immediately by Martin Simpson’s art. He combines some cleverly interlocking panel arrangements and then throws in some gorgeously detailed splash pages full of mood and menace. The Needleman comes across in his intentions as a cross between Judge Dredd in that he is prone to acts of sudden and violent punishment and the characters who seem faceless and mechanical crawling over the movie Dark City. Simpson portrays the humans as grey in a bright world of light and gold. There’s some remarkable design work on show here.
This is a city where the life of its inhabitants is cheap. The people are crammed into city blocks and named only as numbers. The Needlemen are the feared enforcers, snuffing lives out with expertly effective bullets. They use the Needles of their names to torture and interrogate.
Rasp is a special case. His voice is portrayed in square and black backgrounded speech balloons and he narrates much of the action. He is tasked with tracking down an escaped and missing female employee working in one of the factory complexes. He finds something else. Something that may well change him.
This is a book that I highly recommend. Something that you really need to read for yourself and I have purposely left out a couple of the splash pages that will blow out the bulbs in your downstairs toilet with how incredible they look.
I would say that the last third suffers a little from too much talking and that there is a moment right towards the end that may have spoken to much of what they said without the need for a couple of pages of explanation. But this is a small aside from what is a book that speaks to much and does so with absolute style.
What did Rasp find?
The revolution will be lead by the artists… (They just need to keep off Twitter for five minutes – sorry, couldn’t resist that).
• The Needleman collection will be launched at Thought Bubble later this month, and will also be available from Martin at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October.
Many thanks for reading.
Some Soaring Penguin Press titles…
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Antony Esmond is a comic reviewer and writer – his hips don’t lie.