By Olly MacNamee.
A monthly review spotlighting the best titles the industry has to offer. Well, has to offer me anyway. Other comic-book titles are available.
This is the second installment of Mac's Books looking at two other titles out now this month. So, if you like the way they sound, go seek them out. Or, ask for them at your LCBS
Writer: Monty Nero
When reading the fourth issue of Monty Nero and Simmons Death Sentence London No. 4 I was fondly reminded of the days when British comics bit back at social injustices. Social injustices that are even more prevalent today than they were back in the dark days of Thatcherism and unchecked capitalist greed of the few. Back then, Crisis was the descending voice of a drowning generation and in Monty Nero, Pat Mills has a bastard child. The punk rock sensibilities of early 2000AD resurrected, like a modern day King Arthur, coming to save us at the time of our greatest need. Particularly given that the world is far worse today than then.
The story of unchecked capitalism and conspiratorial cover ups is a tragic one and people fight the power whenever and wherever they can. Nero's soap box from which he can shout is comics while the characters that fill theses pages are the voices of Broken Britain juxtaposed with that of the, frankly ridiculous, political elite. The backdrop is a riotous, chaotic London not too far removed from the real London riots of 2011. A Hieronymus Bosch vista of angry disenfranchised 'yoof', beautifully illustrated by Simmonds, who have been empowered by the deadly sexually transmitted disease, G+, which can be used for both selfish and selfless reasons. Roots, a drug dealer uses here Poison Ivy like powers to grow the best bud in all of Brixton while also looking after her community in times of trouble; an anti-hero that chimes with modernity. No radioactive spiders in sight. The death sentence that the G+ virus curses its victims with is also, paradoxically, liberating. If they know they're going to die, what's there to lose?
Within this riotous world we are offered both the familiar and the unfamiliar. While London burns, the mayor (not too far removed from London's own adulterous Boris Johnston) is safely tucked away enjoying, shall we say, the perks of the job and the perks of the privileged, seemingly unaware of the growing unrest and growing body count. Alongside the viciously satirical presentation of a toff mayor are the people of London. The drug dealers, hipsters and lovers, all with their own personal problems that they need to deal with while all around its seems that it is the end of days.
This is clearly a superhero story with a conscience. There are real echoes with real life events and real life politics and the frustration, with an elite, careless establishment is one I can relate to all too easily. We live at a time when a Conservative government is ripping apart any semblance of a caring welfare system in the UK, when fat corporations are getting fatter and dodging taxes that can only spell doom for the hard up and the poor. This is a country on a precipice and Nero and Simmonds captures this in spades, albeit with a healthy dose of super heroics that is not out of step with the narrative.
This is an issue with a lot of action; or rather a lot of reaction to unfolding events as we follow our rag tag cast of various persuasions rage against the machine and deal with events in a street-smart sensibility. Or, in the case of the capital's major, simply ignore the noise and carry on carousing. There are no two dimensional Lex Luthors or Dr Dooms to be found here. Why should there be when the world is producing super villains who make the four-coloured comic variety seem like wimps in comparison?
More Black Mirror than simple black humor, this is a comic that balances the dramatic with the socio-realistic and still has room to introduce a hokey concept like super powers into this realistic world. And make it work; Captain Britain, take note. There are new would-be heroes in town and they know who the real bad guys are, and they ain't Hydra. For the politically minded as well as for those readers maybe a bit bored with the same old dualism so prevalent in comics today.
Admittedly, when I read back over this particular review it reads more like a rally cry for a fairer system, but I do hope what it really does is encapsulate the mood, the language and the sense of politics Death Sentence London is commenting on through its varied voices. This is what, for me, makes this comic a must read. And, the sumptuous artwork doesn't hurt either. Get this while you can and look out for subsequent issues coming your way.
Death Sentence London No. 4 is out now! Go look for it.
Writer and Artist: Luke Cooper
Creative Consultant: Alex Dawn
The first of a proposed series of one-off stories set against the rich, tragic tapestry of modern society ad the horror we do to others, Figments tells the story of a young woman, Chloe Addison, trapped, it would seem, in her own vicious nightmare and under attack from a button-eyed creep. As is the wont of dreams, Chloe stands on ever shifting sands, but is not the victim she initially seems to be. Being as pliant and fluid as dreams often are help her out, but more than that would be saying too much in what is a relatively short read, but one accompanied by some polished, clean lined art from Luke Cooper, both author and artist of this strip.
Cooper shows in this new story that he is clearly developing as an artist since last I wrote about him when covering his recent Kickstarter campaign, and clearly enjoys focusing on somewhat vulnerable women who rise to the challenge and refuse to be victims any longer, whatever their awful circumstances or backgrounds. Chloe is no different, but her story is more fantastical because of its setting.
Figments is a horror story dealing with the real-life horrors of the physical world, while exploring the horrors that our mind can create, especially after traumatic events in our lives, like the one Chloe has had to deal with. Think A Nightmare on Elm Street meets This Is England: a very socially relevant horror.
You can order Midwinter Dawn – Figments as a pdf download online here.
That really is it for this month.
Be seeing you.
Olly MacNamee teaches English and Media, for his sins, in a school somewhere in Birmingham. Some days, even he doesn't know where it is. Follow him on twitter @ollymacnamee or read about his exploits at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or don't. You can also read his articles fairly frequently at www.bleedingcool.com too.