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Monday, August 31, 2009

The Real Oliver Twist. John Waller. Icon Books Ltd (2005)

Robert Blincoe was the child of an unmarried mother who was left at the workhouse in the parish of St. Pancras in London at the age of four in 1796. This placed him on the lowest rung of a rigid, hierarchical society which considered poverty the fault of the poor. As a inmate of a parish workhouse he was saved from starvation by the deeply begrudged charity of the local community. His future was bleak in the extreme, the parish was desperate to reduce the drain on its resources by moving the children on, one method was to apprentice the children to various trades. Robert Blincoe was so anxious to leave the workhouse that he hoped to be taken on by a chimney sweep, the most dreaded outcome for workhouse children, the conditions were appalling and life expectant short. In the end he was apprenticed to a cotton mill in Lancashire where he was subject to lavish abuse and degrading working conditions. Robert Blincoe defied the expectations of society to rise to a position of stable prosperity and his children were educated. He was to become a central figure in the factory hours movement due to his biography which told his extraordinary story.

John Waller places Robert Blincoe firmly within the political, economic and social contexts that he moved through. The use of child labour in the cotton mills and the whole issue of factory labour, the enormous and savage political debates that surrounded them are clearly explained. That Robert Blincoes biography had an influence on the writing of Oliver Twist is strongly suggested, it certainly had a significant impact on other novels.

This is a really well written book, the relationship between Robert Blincoe and his society are clearly developed and demonstrated. John Waller does not over argue Robert Blincoe's significance nor does he diminish his exceptional nature. This is not an impartial history, John Waller has clearly expressed views which give the book a thread of anger and passion which it deserves. This is a vivid, articulate, uncomfortable book that reveals that the same narrow threadbare arguments that were used to justify child labour have not gone out of fashion today. Superb.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Return. Hakan Nesser. Pan Books. (2008)

An enjoyable, low key murder mystery with an enjoyably cranky lead investigator. A torso is found in a forest, it had been there for some months. It is finally identified as the body of a man who had served two separate prison terms for two murders, he appears to have been murdered himself the day of his release from prison on parole. The question of how those murders relate to his death are nicely opened up and as the questions regarding his guilt mount the stakes rise as the implications of his innocence start to become apparent. The plot is unravelled at a steady pace, the reveals are staged with skill and the investigation has depth and detail to it. The conclusion is fitting and harsh.

The cast are the real attraction in this book, the mystery is well structured, the investigative team, with the heroically cranky Chief Inspector Van Veeteren are a substantial pleasure. The book has an unhurried pace, the cast are given time to emerge as individuals and to establish a claim on the reader. The reasons why Leopold Verhaven was found guilty both times, why he had to be found guilty are carefully explored as is the impact of his guilt on the little village where he lived. By adding this wider context to the mix Hakan Nesser adds colour and texture to the story that are very important. This is a very skillfully written, thoughtful story.

Richard Stark's Parker. The Hunter. Darwyn Coke (Adapated and Illustrated) IDW Publishing (2009)

A relentless and nihilistic revenge story, griping but utterly joyless. The superb opening sequence of the book introduces the reader to Parker via the reactions of others to him, before we see him it is clear that he is a hard man. He follows an ingenious scheme to get cash and then tracks down a woman and the reader starts to get a sense of just how focused he really is. Parker was betrayed in some way by the woman and a man called Mal and he has returned for revenge. The path to finding Mal is marked by Parker's cold competence as he follows up the links that lead him to his quarry. The story doubles back on itself to reveal the story of the betrayal and returns as Parker seeks his money as well as revenge. The action is driven, concise logical and quite ruthless. Parker moves to his goal with efficiency and savage determination.

The art work by Darwyn Cooke is superb, in particular the opening sequence, Parker looks like a bit like Dean Martin and that anchors the story in the time frame very effectively. The limited colours in use reflect the very narrow emotional range in the story, anger, fear and greed and a slight sprinkling of lust are all that are expressed by any of the cast. This is the greatest weakness of the book, there is no character development in the book, the cast all operate in the same narrow range, the interactions are all expressions of relative power. Parker is successful because he is the most focused on his goal, the most willing to take violent action to achieve his aim, ultimately the most powerful.

The action in the book takes place in a nihilistic, dead world that is vividly described. It is also exhausting to read as there is no escape from it nor contrast within it. It is a gripping read, the structural problems of translating the original novel into another medium have been resolved with considerable skill.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sherlock Holmes and the Hentzau Affair. David Stuart Davies. Wordsworth Editions Ltd. (2007)

This is an enjoyable and effective blending of Sherlock Holmes and a sequel to The Prisoner of Zenda. Sherlock Holmes is consulted urgently by Colonel Sapt of the Ruritanian Royal Court, he needs Holmes' help in locating Rudolf Rassendyll, a double for the King of Ruritania. Rassendyll had previously taken the place of the king to foil a plot by his half-brother Michael and Michael's ally Rupert of Hentzau. Now Hentzau was active again and Rassendyll had disappeared. Holmes quickly realised that Rassendyll has been abducted by Rupert of Hentzau and that a very clever conspiracy in underway. The story sets of at a great pace and continues that way up to the end. The reveals are nicely paced and the climax is suitable and very satisfying.

The most significant problem this story has is to be true in spirit and sufficient detail to two very different sources, it manages this difficult task with skill. There two elements easily interweave and support each other. The classical Sherlock Holmes elements regarding deduction and planing are nicely counterpointed by the swashbuckling adventure the story requires, in particular at the climax the two elements are brilliantly combined.

David Stuart Davies has taken over the cast from both sources with tact and skill and manages to make them his own without undermining the originals. Watson is an effective narrator, Sherlock Holmes is as quick and resourceful as he should be, the Ruritanian cast are romantic and brave, the star is Rupert of Hentzau. He is a very effective villain, capable and ruthless, the correct mix of charm and savage will, he creates a genuine problem for Holmes to resolve and this lifts the book out of the risk of flaccid makeover. This is a great romp and a sincere tribute to the two glorious originals.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Spies of Sobeck. Paul Doherty. Headline Publishing Group (2008)

A very engaging mystery story set in Ancient Egypt. Nubia was annexed by Egypt and proved to be a very important source of wealth and manpower as well as a continuing source of trouble and discontent. Pharaoh Queen Hatusu finds that a Nubian cult , the Arites, have re-emerged in some force to create fear and terror as part of their plans to free Nubia and possibly take over Egypt as well. A series of mysterious deaths, including that of loyal Nubian soldier and sworn enemy of the Arites who is found strangled in a locked room, create a destabilising atmosphere of fear and concern in Thebes. Amerotke, Chief Judge of the Hall of Two Truths, is given the task of investigating these deaths and unravelling the conspiracy.

The story is well constructed, the reveals are nicely paced and the plot threads are cleverly woven together, the conclusion is sharp and fitting. The historical details are more than window dressing, the action of the story arises very naturally from the context. The details of Egyptian life, politics and religion are provided with a light hand, the cast move through them as if they belong there rather than being modern actors in period dress. Paul Doherty has a gift for quick and lively character building, the cast is large,varied and individual. They all move through the story with clear intent, the story emerges in an very appealing way from their interactions.

Paul Doherty has a very considerable talent for making a remote context accessible and not loose sight of the structural requirements for a mystery, he makes it look all very easy and it makes for a very pleasurable read.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The New Frontier. Darwyn Cooke (Writer & Artist), Dave Stewart (Colours) DC Comics (2004)

This is surprisingly unconvincing superhero story whose ambitions exceed its capacity. The story is about a period of transition, from the demise of one group of superheros to the eventual emergence of a new group. In post war America the impact of the Cold War and anti-Communist fears leads to a public and political revulsion with superheros and costumed vigilantes. Superman and Wonder Woman become full time government employees, Batman remains a renegade and the members of the Justice Society choose to retire rather than be revealed.

Against the background of increasing paranoia, the emergence of space exploration and the dawning of Civil Rights agitation, the emergence of three new superheros, The Flash, the Martian Manhunter and The Green Lantern, is woven into a bigger plot about The Centre. This plot provides a great enough threat that unity, impossible under any lesser circumstances, is required to combat it.

The art work in this story is wonderful, Darwyn Coke has a fluid style that gives life and vitality to the cast, in particular his female characters are human figures rather than the usual ill proportioned caricatures so common in superhero art. The clouring by Dave Steward is subtle and wonderfully effective.

The critical problem with this story is the writing, there are really goods parts in the mix, there is a lack of credible coherence that dramatically draws all the elements into a satisfying whole. Darwyn Cooke assumes too much knowledge on the readers part about the prior published history and continuity of most of the characters. Other than the Flash, Martian Manhunter and the Green Lantern, the rest of the cast trade far too heavily on assumed knowledge. There is insufficient context provided for them to understand why they are included or to reasonably understand their actions. Characters act because the plot requires that they do not from any individual response to circumstances, in particular there is one major cast member who has a neck snapping transition solely rooted in plot requirements.

Darwyn Cooke's ambition is very much to his credit, he has attempted to create a story that draws a connection to the political and social context and the superheros that would emerge from it. His reach exceeds his grasp and the critical dramatic structure required to support the story is not present and what has been delivered is a book where the parts are greater than the whole.

Star Wars Omnibus. Rise of the Sith. Dark Horse Books (2009)

A good value collection of stories set within the Star Wars continuity. There is no need to have previous knowledge of Star Wars continuity to enjoy these stories, the book opens with a few words of scene setting and then plunges straight into a series of self contained stories that require no extra information to be enjoyed. The stories are all well written, straightforward adventures with hints and allegations lightly strewn among them of a greater context.

The best of the stories is "Prelude to Rebellion", it manages the mix of action and political context most effectively and with Ki-Adi-Mundi, a Jedi Knight, a credible and fallible lead character. The arc of the story is as much a realisation by Ki-Adi-Mundi about what being a father means as it is a nicely woven political and criminal plot. The reveals are nicely paced, the personal elements are effective and avoid false sentimentality.

The final story, "Darth Maul" has the most luscious art of all the stories. The plot is simple, Darth Maul is sent to eliminate potential competition as plans start to come to fruition. The story is about carefully staged action and demonstrations of power and ruthlessness. It achieves all its aims with verve, the cast are nicely executed in every sense.

The book is marred only by the fantastically annoying Yoda and his very stupid speech patterns, he makes the rise of the Sith entirely understandable. Overall this is good fun and great value.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Assault on Precinct 13. Rogue Pictures (2005)

A tense and compact thriller that makes the most of its plot and cast. Sgt. Jake Roenick (Ethan Hawke), who is recovering from an undercover operation that went horribly wrong, is shutting down an old police precinct station house on New Year's Eve, when a bus taking prisoners to jail gets diverted to the station due to a snowstorm. One of the prisoners is Marion Bishop (Laurence Fishburne), a leading gangster who has just killed a police officer. The precinct comes under siege by a group who want to kill Bishop and anyone else who gets in the way. The film makes the most of the elements it has, the restricted space in the precinct, the need for the prisoners and the police to uneasily cooperate against the external attackers, the escalating nature of the siege and the snowstorm itself. The deft screenplay gives prominence to character development of the cast within the precinct and this gives the situation its force and weight.

Ethan Hawke and Laurence Fishburne are introduced in very well set up sequences that provide the essential motivation for their later actions in the film and gives depth to their desperate alliance. The rest of the cast trapped within the precinct, while essentially secondary, are given enough space and development to be engaging and provide some humour. Gabriel Byrne has the thankless task of proving a human face for the forces laying siege to the precinct. He does his best, the problem is that there is simply no dramatic need for him to be distinct, he just needs to be relentless, he does convey that very well.

This unpretentious thriller with tremendous performances from Ethan Hawke and Laurence Fishburne in particular, the whole cast are excellent, achieves it aims with wit and confidence. Well worth seeking out.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Crogan's Vengance. Chris Schweizer. Oni Press (2008)

A most unusual, thoughtful and exciting pirate story. "Catfoot" Crogan becomes a pirate by force of circumstance and finds that he has a talent for it. Divisions within the pirate crew that he is involved in means that he has to escape and then plan his vengeance. The story is artfully constructed, the reveals are very nicely paced, the action is excellent and matched by the smart thinking that is Crogan's greatest strength. The cast are varied and very credible, the situations are enjoyably tense and the resolutions are unexpected and satisfying, the conclusion is natural and effective.

Chris Schweizer has created a pirate story that deftly mixed the harsh details of pirate life, the savage tortures that prisoners could suffer, the delicate democracy that existed on a pirate ship that regulated the relations between captain and crew. The high spirited action that any pirate story should have is present in abundance and it mixes naturally with the details of the political context for piracy in the Caribbean. The black and white art is very loose, the faces are expressive and cartoony, the details are sparse and always pertinent. The action flows with vigour and clarity, the dialogue is crisp and pointed.

This book side steps the cliches of pirate stories while capturing the essential aspects that any pirate story needs to have. A strong plot, a believable cast and superb pacing make this a hugely enjoyable book.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Death of an Expert Witness. P.D.James. Sphere Books (1977)

This low key and very well constructed mystery novel is a contemporary version of the classical locked room mystery. At a somewhat remote state forensic laboratory a deeply unpleasant scientist is found dead, the building was locked and the keys accounted for and a large cast of possible and plausible suspects.Unravelling who the murderer is and how the act was accomplished falls to Commander Adam Dalgliesh. The story unwinds at a very deliberate pace, the investigation is driven by thought and procedure rather than by action. The large cast react to the murder and the investigation in a very natural and credible fashion, the mix of wishing to be involved and to distance themselves from the intrusions of the investigation is well written. The reveals are are carefully paced and the resolution is satisfying and unforced.

Any locked room mystery risks being dominated by the puzzle element pushing the human cast to the sidelines. P.D.James avoids this, the human cast is very much to the forefront with the puzzle and the murder itself taken as an opportunity to examine them closely. The slightly unemotional tone of the writing acts to delay the readers realisation of the depth and ferocity of the emotions that are being detailed. The victim is savagely unpleasant, the rest of the cast are largely unsympathetic, it is a considerable tribute to P.D.James skill that she makes them engaging and renders murder a genuine outrage. This is a crime story that is also a substantial drama without compromising either element, well worth reading.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Orbital Vol. 1. Scars. Sylvian Runberg (Writer), Serge Pelle (Artist), Cinebook (2009)

A very entertaining space opera that sets up a varied and interesting set of possible story threads to follow up in later volumes. While a conference on Earth meets to consider joining an intergalactic alliance, a party opposed to joining attack the conference killing all the attendees including the parents of Caleb and Kristina. Some years later Caleb is a candidate to join the diplomatic agency of the federation and he is paired with Mezoke, Sandjarr, a race that had just finished a devastating war with humanity. Caleb an Mezoke are sent to the Senestam to resolve escalating tension between a human colony and the native Javlods over mining activity. The multiple threads in the story are well introduced and the political and social tensions are nicely revealed, with a well timed cliffhanger closing the volume.

This is very well crafted, classical space opera. A huge context, an intergalactic federation that has been in existence for thousands of years, is carefully balanced against smaller scale political issues that exist on Earth and on Upsall with the Javlod population. There is a suggestion that these local tensions are tied directly to greater political currents within the federation and this gives the mission a nice set of layers to it. The cast are well defined and move with force and purpose. This volume is mostly concerned with set up, it manages to convey the information in a logical way that moves the story forward rather than slowing it down.

The art is slightly subdued, the colouring cool and there are no splash pages, the panels are varied and match the pacing of the story. The physical context for the story are very well done with an effective mix of detail and blur that suggest the alien and the long established at the same time. The cast are very well defined with the body language well expressed. First rate adventure science fiction.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Phantom Prey. John Sandford. Pocket Books (2009)

A fast paced and very enjoyable thriller, and an excellent entry in the "Prey" series of novels by John Sandford. A woman arrives home and finds blood splatters and her daughter is missing. She involves Lucas Davenport, a Minnesota law enforcement agent in the case. Davenport is reluctant to become involved as there is no body, as other murders take place that strongly seem to be linked to the disappearance of the woman's daughter the case develops into serious affair. There is a secondary narrative concerning a Lithuanian drug dealer who has fled and his wife is under surveillance while the police await his return. The two threads are nicely structured and paced, they remain separate and the reveals in each are very well done and the final resolution for each is convincing and very satisfactory.

John Sandford has a cheerfully cynical style and a tremendous gift for creating interesting and credible characters. There is a big cast and they are all well realised, even the small parts have clear and distinct voices. This gives the book a great context, the various threads are nicely played out with a strong and spiky humour. The biggest problem with the book is Lucas Davenport, he is just not a likable character. This is not a fatal flaw, the surrounding cast provide enough of a counterbalance, it is annoying. It would be fine if it was the author's intent that Davenport be annoying, this does not appear to be the case. I get the impression that Davenport is intended to be charismatic, spiky but with enough charm to bring the reader on to his side. This is still a gripping and very entertaining thriller.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Mail. Volume 3. Housui Yamazaki (Writer & Artist). Dark Horse Magna. (2007)

The third volume of contemporary ghost stories maintains the very high standard of the previous volumes. There is no overarching continuity between the volumes so that they can be read independently without any loss. The opening story does strike a very different note, it opens with the series narrator, the ghost detective, Akiba, recounting an episode from his childhood when he was blind. The artwork for this episode is very nicely done and distinctively different to the art anywhere else in the series. The resolution to the story is equally very different. Housui Yamazaki does not do a great deal more with the set up created in the first story, it is followed up in the second story and then it fades away as a dramatic issue.
The remaining stories are concerned with how people come into contact with ghosts and how Akiba resolves the situation. As ever the set ups are cleverly done, anchored in contemporary life, one haunting is done via a mobile phone. The stories are all short, they all are very carefully paced so that that the person who is involved in the haunting is introduced and the haunting is given room to develop. This draws the reader into the story in a nice way and adds weight to the single page and double page spreads where the ghost reveals themselves. Keeping Akiba to the minimum means that he is not used up, his interventions remain effective.
For me the stand out story in this volume is one about a failed suicide/murder and the sad and finally menacing repercussions. These are too low key to be horror stories, they very effective examples of cunningly compressed storytelling, they bear re-reading as they are not dependant on a surprise to drawn in the reader. Excellent stories, a pleasure.

Friday, August 7, 2009

H. P. Lovecraft's Haunt of Horror, Richard Corben (Writer & Artist),Jeff Eckleberry (Letters). Marvel Publishing (2008)

This is a surprisingly successful adaptation of some of H. P .Lovecraft's short stories and poems. There is a fundamental difference in approach between H.P.Lovecraft and contemporary horror comics. H. P. Lovecraft creates an atmosphere by omission, he describes the reactions of his characters to events that they are unwilling or unable to describe. The events they witness, the creatures they encounter are so dreadful that they cannot find any words to adequately describe them, they can only express their own revulsion. This reaction is described with such care that the reader find themselves sharing it and their imagination fills in the details of the cause of the reaction. Contemporary horror is based on explicit portrayal of the the monsters, human or otherwise that threaten the cast, the horror lies in the detail of their actions, minutely described and presented. H. P. Lovecraft's leisurely approach does not survive transformation into contemporary preferences.
Richard Corben manages the task of being significantly more explicit than the source material with a strong fidelity to the intent and mood of H. P. Lovecraft's stories and poems. The structure of the book with the comic version followed by the full text of the story or poem that inspired it demonstrates Richard Corben's skill as a writer as well as showcasing his staggering artistic talent. The art is not black and white, the amazing multitude of shades of grey used add depth and subtlety to the stories that capture the atmosphere of the stories and poems. The cast and the settings they inhabit are drawn with tremendous solidity so that the appalling events they are entangled in have weight and credibility. The monsters come out of the shadows, not very far however and the restraint serves them well, the centerpiece remains the fear and confusion of the human cast. Superb.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Darker Domain. Val McDermid. Harper (2009)

A very well structured and tightly plotted crime story. When the daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Scotland is killed in a bungled ransom handover and her infant son, also kidnapped, vanishes there is a twenty year gap before a chance discovery in a ruined villa in Italy brings the case back to life. D.I. Kate Pirie from the Cold Case squad is assigned the case and finds that the details are hiding more than they reveal. At the same time D.I. Pirie is investigating the case of a man who disappeared during the miners strike in 1984, the accepted explanation for his disappearance proving to be untrue there uncomfortable questions waiting to be resolved. The reveals are nicely paced and the structure of flashbacks does not impede the narrative in any way, they give it weight and increase the forward motion of the plot.
Val McDermid creates a interesting and varied cast and switches the action between Scotland and Italy, the past and the present with fluid skill. The conflicting interests of the main characters in wishing to bury or uncover the past is developed to considerable dramatic impact. This book engaged me right down to the very satisfying conclusion.
The signal failure in the book was the presence of a stupid male senior police officer who had difficulty with a brighter female subordinate. This addition of a dreary crime fiction staple added nothing to the book and detracted from it when it was shoehorned in. In particular the vibrant exchanges between D.I.Pirie and a truly competent and very powerful male character underlines the limpwristed quality of her interactions with her manager. An annoying blemish on an otherwise gripping thriller.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Ice Princess. Camilla Lackberg. HarperCollinsPublishers (2009)

An excellent crime story that proceeds at a leisurely pace and with a very large cast. A woman is found frozen in her bath in a small fishing town in Sweden, Erica Falck a writer who is in the town after the death of her parents was a childhood friend of the dead woman, Alexandra. Erica is a writer who is struggling with her current project and finds the idea of writing about the dead woman intriguing. She has never forgotten Alexandra and the sudden way her friendship ended. When it becomes clear that Alexandra has been murdered Erica's curiosity about her grows greater. Patrick Hedstron, the local detective investigating the murder finds his investigation crossing with Erica's in surprising ways.
Camilla Lackberg does not hurry the story in any way, it unfolds at a very deliberate pace with a very large cast being introduced and their actions and thoughts followed. The layers of people's lives that are revealed are carefully woven together to create a wonderful context for the action, the reveals are slowly released and they carefully create a picture of staggering cruelty and selfishness. The calm pacing of the book and the consistently humorous approach to her cast serves to finally underscore the bitter corruption that rests at the heart of the story.
This is a very engaging book, the cast are lively and very well described, they interact with each other very naturally and effectively and the time the author has taken with each of them is very well spent. Camilla Lackberg has a wry and most affectionate eye for the gap between what we want others to think of us and what we are really doing and Erica and Patrick are realised with great warmth. This is very high quality fiction and a superb crime story.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Spaghetti Western. Scott Morse (Writer & Artist). Oni Press (2004)

A really clever and substantial comic that manages to be drenched in the spirit of the spaghetti westerns while the action takes place in a contemporary urban setting. Two men in western garb, ride on horseback up to a bank and attempt to rob it. Unsurprisingly the robbery does not go to plan, the way is does not go to plan is creatively presented by Scott Morse. The planning for the robbery is unexpected and sharp and the resolution is thoughtful and completely satisfactory. The story is very slight and does not try to be more than it is, it is an carefully constructed incident rather than a full blown drama and it is not stretched into something it is not. The book is drawn in single panel pages which assists with the pacing, a greater number of panels would have hurried the story too much and detracted strongly from the atmosphere. Like the films it is not in a hurry to get to the action, it uses an extended focus on the cast to create drama as much as the actions. The sepia tones used are perfect for the rather impressionistic artwork, the details are sketched in rather than presented, the focus is on the faces of the cast.This comic is a quick read, it contains a considerable creative intelligence and artistic weight , Scott Morse is a very talented comic book author, this book is a flavoursome pleasure.

Solomon Kane. The Castle of the Devil. Scott Allie (Writer), Mario Guevara (Art), Dave Stewart (Colours). Dark Horse Books. (2009)

Solomon Kane is a Puritan who believes in facing evil with a sword and a pistol, he is a grim and dour man who follows his duty to his god and his conscience without reserve. Lacking any superpowers or a wide emotional range he is a difficult character to portray well in a comic. The creative team on this book do a great job with Solomon Kane, they give him a credible context to act in and they make a tremendous dramatic virtue out of his implacable nature. They do this by surrounding him with a large and varied cast who provide the colour and emotional backdrop that makes Solomon Kane stand out by contrast.
Solomon Kane is introduced via an ambush on his camp by robbers, this quickly and effectively establishes Kane as a savage fighter, rescuing a child hanging from a gibbet shows his more merciful side. Kane encounters a fellow Englishman, John Silent and they end up going to the castle of Baron Von Staler, the man who had hung the boy. Kane intents to meet the Baron and deal harshly with an evil man if that is needed. The baron's castle is referred to by the locals as The Castle of the Devil. Kane and John Silent are greeted as welcome guests into the castle and the story proceeds to take a very satisfactory route to a enjoyable and thoughtful resolution.
The cast are given room to breathe and the various plot strands are cleverly revealed and then equally cleverly knotted together. Kane who is more of an elemental force than a human is contrasted well with the rest of the cast who are full of life and vigour, all pursuing their various agendas with energy and will. The art has a slightly scratchy look which serves the story very well as does the vibrant colouring. Low key, gripping, this is superbly executed and thoroughly entertaining comic.