This is the first in a series of Small Press Review digests – like the scene itself the reviews are small but enthusiastic. Hopefully I’ll manage to tackle a few new issues every month – !
I’ve been involved in the Independent comics scene for four years now and co-edit a biannual anthology called The Psychedelic Journal of Time Travel – we sell at many UK cons and at these I hoover up a lot of other self-published books and have been reviewing them on my personal blog for quite some time. Small press comics has never been more exciting than they are right now – and the sheer wealth of genuine talent and boundless passion for the medium on display at every single convention is awe-inspiring and endlessly exhilarating.
Razarhawk #1 (Self-Published) Ian Matthews & Dani Abram
There was a lot of buzz already surrounding Razarhawk before it launched at Cardiff ’13 – the story having been in development and teased long beforehand. I snapped it up without hesitation. What you get is a solid bit of likeably punchy small pressery – that is deceptively simple on the surface. It manages to tell an engaging story without filling you in on any background details whatsoever, which is a difficult trapeze to walk but Razarhawk #1 manages it admirably. The action is well-handled and it rattles along at a brilliant pace, but here’s hoping Issue 2 (which came out at Bristol in the same year) fills in some of the gaps and gives this fun and open start a bit more weight.
It’s not perfect however; Dean’s constant use of “shit” falls on the wrong side of funny repetition and becomes irritating quickly – also a few irksome memey manga moments aren’t to my taste like using action words in asterisks in dialogue *cringe*.
Abram’s art is a great fit, being refreshingly straightforward and also brilliantly emotive at once – the sense of movement and expression seems effortless and make it clear there’s an animator at work here. There is a problem with line-thickness though that make some locations particularly look a little too clumpy but nothing is unreadable or unclear which is an eviable skill.
The colouring ranges from the subtly shaded to the flat, and I much preferred the panels with shading than without – the most striking images being the ones with harsh or bold lighting.
Dani’s lettering is solid, managing a range of effects smartly and using a neat squarish box for dialogue although SFX instead of boxes for the screams of some pedestrians may have fitted better. It’s printed with a nice thick cover and there’s tons of space on the inside front, inside back and back that could’ve been used for exposition or explanation but instead leaves three nice big canvases for Dani to doodle on at conventions!
A solid and likeable read from Matthews and Abram – I’m greatly looking forward to getting further into Kitty Hawk’s world.
New York Park (Self-Published) Andrew Scaife
A purchase from Bristol Expo 2013 – local Andrew Scaife’s one-off tale of a group of future high school students and their trip to ancient New York is bright, irreverent and full of character. It suffers occasionally from a lack of gag pay-off and Scaife’s bold cartoony art is sometimes slightly off the mark but it is an impressive début and a consistently engaging and very funny read. I know he doesn’t intent to carry on this universe but another similarly styled volume would be definitely worth perusing!
Ladies & Gentlemen #1 (Water Closet Press) Richard Worth & Jordan Collver
I bought a copy of the first and second issues off of artist Jordan Collver at a Bristol creators event in Spring 2013 and since then Water Closet Press have been busy compiling a weighty anthology of in-universe stories which I bought at the most recent Thought Bubble. Ladies & Gentlemen is a essentially a penny-dreadful. What helps enormously in this illusion is the lavishly physical artwork and lettering of Mr Collver. It is beautifully kinetic and sells the book instantly – I could go on about it for hours.
In terms of story there is a nice group dynamic between the central protagonists although most of the issue is dedicated to progressing the story rather than giving general exposition so the why’s and wherefore’s aren’t really explored. Here’s hoping the aforementioned anthology fleshes them out further and adds more weight to the world and characters.
My only complaint really is some jarring advert placement towards the end of the book that disrupt the flow of the story somewhat.
So – in conclusion – Ladies & Gentlemen #1 is a solid piece of Victoriana that, thanks largely to the unique and stunning artwork of Mr Collver and an interesting cast of characters, stands out in the saturated small press steampunky market.
New York Park: http://andrewscaife.tumblr.com/search/New+York
Ladies & Gentlemen: http://waterclosetpress.blogspot.co.uk/p/ladies-gentlemen.html
Owen Watts is a small press editor, artist and colourist. He currently co-edits The Psychedelic Journal of Time Travel – a twice-yearly small press anthology featuring over 15 different emerging creators every issue. He has recently helped colour Ben Dickson & Gavin Mitchell’s Santa Claus vs. The Nazis for Aces Weekly which is due out as a single volume with Borderline Press later in 2014. He also runs the 2000 AD forum art competition, reviews small press comics and becomes a hippo every second Thursday.