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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Kill. Jane Casey. Ebury Press (2014)

Very enjoyable police procedural with am engaging lead character. A police officer is shot in a car in a park  in London and other police officers are attacked. There does not appear to be any connection between the attacks and Detective Constable Maeve Kerrigan and Detective Inspector Josh Derwent have to dig very deep to find the thread that connects everything. The reveals are superbly staged, the investigation is thorough and the dark story emerges in a compelling fashion.
A first person narritive has a considerable burden to manage, the narrator has to emerge clearly and the rest of the cast have to do so as well. There has to be a careful balance between all of the cast so that the full story can be heard by the reader. Maeve Kerrigan is a smart, confident, competent police officer with enough sharp edges to be engaging and without too much baggage to be annoying or distracting. She has the confidence to share the story with her boss, Josh Derwent a man she admires professionally and finds personally annoying. While this is Maeve Kerrigan's story to tell, Josh Derwent emerges as a character in his own right  and an effective and engaging counterweight to Maeve.
Meave Kerrigan is a female lead character in a first person narration story and what is pleasantly striking is is her assured self confidence. The fact that she is female is significant to exactly the right extent, what is more important is that she is competent, forthright and hard working. She has a personal life that is just uncertain enough to provide a dramatic element without it ever undermining her. Josh Derwent appreciates Maeve's professional competence and skills while still being a little uncomfortable at her being female.
Jane Casey fruitfully uses this to create a credible tension and useful friction between the two leads and to use the differences between them to draw in the rest of the cast. One of the significant pleasures of the story is the slow reveal of the cold and clever person at the heart of the trouble, they are substantial enough to provide a real threat and force. First rate crime fiction.

A Dark Redemption. Stav Sherez. Faber and Faber (2012)

A very engaging and enjoyable murder story that builds steadily to a unforgiving conclusion. A student from Uganda is murdered and mutilated in London. Detective Inspector Jack Carrigan and Detective Sergeant Geneva Miller find that their investigation leads them into the world of illegal immigrants in London as well as the history brutal civil war in Uganda. The investigation leads to to professionally and personal treacherous directions and the pressure on Carrigan and Miller steadily increases until the price for the past is finally paid in full.
The plot mechanics are astounding, the various threads are pulled together into a gripping and horrifying way that are credible and bitterly satisfying. Stav Sherez uses the story possibilities raised by the death of a foreign national in London, a student whose field of study is fantastically sensitive for a large number of reasons really well. The implications of the death draw in a number of powerful interested parties who want to ensure that the investigation doers not stray off a preferred course. This mix of politics and police procedural is very effective, it creates a sustained tension within the story as different aims start to create friction and increase the pressure.
Lying underneath this is the personal history of Jack Corrigan and the consequences of an impulsive decision taken years before. Those consequences are still following Corrigan and as they investigation starts to get closer to the the truth, those consequences start to have an increasingly significant impact. This proves to be a very engaging way to satisfy a genre staple of giving the lead character some awkward baggage, Stav Sherez uses it skilfully to draw in Geneva Miller and to entangle her int the consequences as well. This gives him to room to develop both the characters and credibly build close quarters conflict between them that they have to both disguise from each other and manage.
The context, ranging from Uganda in the Days of Blood to the sub-culture of illegal immigrants is tightly woven into the story, it is never just exotic window dressing. The intersection between national and personal interest as well as the frightful legacy of extreme violence are quietly explored without ever being taken lightly. The cast are never submerged by the powerful context, they are entangled in it and never just puppets to the possibilities of the plot. They are all forcefully acting on their own intentions and the mix between the two makes for a powerful story.

Icarus. Deon Meyer (Writer), K.L. Seegers (Translation) Hodder & Stoughton (2015)

A very entertaining South African murder mystery that is very carefully structured and leads to a deeply satisfying conclusion. Ernst Richter 's body is found in the sand dunes outside of Cape Town and the first problem the investigating team is that they have an abundance of possible suspects. Richter ran a website that provided alibi's for people who are having an affair, work that created considerable controversy. At the same time a man starts to talk to a lawyer about his deeply unhappy family history and their wine making business. The two threads run in parallel until the cleverly staged reveals start to draw them together up to the happily unexpected and satisfyingly sharp conclusion.
The plot mechanics are wonderful, the possibilities arising out of Richter's website are carefully followed and alternative possibilities are raised and managed with care and skill. The different timelines covered by the two major story threads are tightly pulled together as the hidden context starts to emerge into light and the whole scope of the story comes into view.
The context for the story is intriguing, South Africa emerges as a jigsaw where the parts have not been successfully put together, they are all close to each other, enough to see the whole picture, they have not been actually put together. The history of South Africa is still present, intruding into every aspect of life and casting a shadow over the cast.
Deon Meyer has created a very extensive cast and it steadily becomes clear that the plot is arising directly from the actions and intentions of the cast as they seek to shape and control their lives. The investigating team are competent, focused and credibly fallible. Benny Griessel is fighting a loosing battle with his alcohol addiction and the weight of it starts to pull him out of the investigation and his own life. Don Meyer sidesteps the genre staple of a dysfunctional detective with a sharp focus on the power of addiction to reemerge after being apparently dormant. The rest of the investigating team are treated with care and each emerge as people doing a job responding personally and professionally to the circumstances and pressure of the case.
The family history is clearly heading for somewhere unpleasant, the reveals control the possibilities until a final reveal that plays with readers expectations.
Don Meyer takes his time to unfurl the full depth of the story and the time is well spent as it set up the cast and the context and gives the reader plenty of room to become deeply involved in both the narratives before being captured by the jaws of a perfectly sprung plot. Smart, considered crime writing, a pleasure.
K.L. Seegers translation form Afrikaans is transparent and still delivers the accent of the original language which is important in feeling the context of the action.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Simple Art of Murder. Marcos Dominguez Garcia (Writer), Horacio Boriotti (Art), Henar Casal (Script). WP Comics (2016)

A engaging and very entertaining noir murder mystery that embraces and utilises the genre staples with energy and confidence. Phillip Conan is a private investigator who acquires a client and a murder and finds that this is only the start of trouble to come.
 There is noting unexpected in  Marcos Dominguez Garcia story, he takes the established elements of the genre and uses them in the same way that lots of others have. The substantial pleasure of this comic is the energy and conviction with which he uses them. The temptation to wink at the audience, to assure the reader that they and the writers are sharing the same joke as the ironic use of cliches is thankfully avoided, the story is treated with the level of serious intent that readers deserve. We know Phillip Conn is going to find his foot caught in a bear trap, what he will do about is is the open question. The set up for this story makes that a very inviting prospect.
Horacio Boriotti black and white art is perfect for the story, there is no ambiguity here it is a story of increasing desperation and the art gives it the edge and definition that it needs. The cast look beaten down before they start, the events are gong to push them further and further. The panel designs increase the tight focus on the cast so that details mount up and until the action explodes with a full page splash that uses red to drive home the point.
The lettering is used with considerable skill to create a nearly audible voice over to the action, it provides a smart commentary for the action, retrospective knowledge that builds and enhances the atmosphere.
The Simple Art of Murder's confident storytelling means the reader can relax into the story possibilities sure that the creators know what they are doing and that the unfolding story will be worth looking out for.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kindly sent by Kim Roberts, to purchase a copy of The Simple Art of Murder which you should for the pleasure a really confident noir story brings, you can do so from here,  http://www.wpcomicsltd.com/comics

Tales From Orbit 3. Editor Kim Roberts. WP Comics (2016)

Another deeply satisfying science anthology from Tales from Orbit, the continued high level of diversity and quality is rapidly becoming the signature of this book. Making strongly flavoured diversity into a subtly harmonious whole is a considerable feat which this book make look easy.
With the great cover by Gabe Ostley setting the scene the stories between the covers include the following,
Outpost Pluto. James Johmson (Writer & Artist). Rescue missions are a science fiction staple for really good reasons, they offer multiple story possibilities. In this playful story James Johnson sets up a story and then neatly switches the outcome. The friendly art and colouring pull the reader into the sharp conclusion.
The Lovers. Julio Paz (Writer), Cristian Navarro (Art), Nikki Sherman (Letters). Wonderfully unexpected, thoughtful and unsentimental, this is an alien abduction story that follows a different path to an satisfying conclusion. Cristian Navarro's subtle, telling black and white art is intimate and comsic as required. It captures and amplifies the story ideas and nuances with precise care. Nikki Sherman's letters are natural and unobtrusive, they quietly provide information without ever drawing attention to themselves, a subtle skill.
System Crash. Martin John (Writer), Bryan Randall (Art) Nikki Sherman (Letters), is a thing of beauty, a strong story with mouth watering art and graceful colouring. A space ship suffers impact damage that proves to be considerably more than anticipated.The crew find themselves under attack and need to respond. The extraordinary art and panel design by Bryan Randall capture all the story elements and draw them out to the full. The cast are a mix of human and cyborg, graceful cyborgs it should be said, and the context is detailed and physically strong. The colouring is a delight, it is used to enhance the details and the depth of the art, drawing out the details of the cast and context and giving the story a extra emotional impact.
The Adventures of Galaxy Girl in Outer Space: Refueling Andrew Tayor (Writer), Gabe Ostley (Art) is a compressed space opera that has everything it should have all tilted at a angle to make it sharply funny. Landing her ship to refuel leads to trouble for Norman. The story is blackly, sharply funny, using the genre staples with wicked effectiveness. Gabe Ostley's art and vivid colours combine to give both the bold outlines and action of space opera and makes it all happily off-kilter, both fitting seamlessly together.
Misery Loves Company, Andrew Clark (Writer), Joe Deagnon (Art) is bleak and gripping, a deeply unsettling tale of revenge. A woman who wishes to become someone else does so, the results are not what she had hoped for. A very powerful idea that is superbly realised in a compressed space.  Joe Deagnon's art conceals and reveals the dark heart of the story, the expressive intensity of the cast capture the rage and horror of the story.
Rob and Stew Escape from Slave Camp 9. Jack wallace , Andy Thurman (Writers), Juan Fleites (Art & Letters), Chris Allen (Colours). After the robot up[rising Rob and Stew find themselves enslaved and performing for robot audiences. They seek to escape to a human camp they have heard of and are assisted by a robot Fred Flintstone, who tells them the true history of the park and the uprising. A very sharp an funny story, told with vigor and relish that really makes the most of the story ideas and possibilities. Juan Fleites art gives the human cast and the robots clear expressive personalities, making the action scences powerful and the quiet moments credible. Chris Allens colours are strong and vivid, they give the context the strangeness and slightly cartoony feel it requires .
Tales from Orbit is everything an anthology should be, it is wide ranging and engaging, showcasing the extraordinary diversity of science fiction from hugely talented creators.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kinfly sent by Kim Roberts. To purcgaser a copy of Tales from Orbit 3 which would be a really good ideas as excellent science fiction comics are a great way to celebrate the closing of the year, it can be purchase from   http://www.wpcomicsltd.com/comics

Phaeton Proterra. Maria Lantsuta. (Writer and Art) WP Comics (2016)

Very entertaining science fiction story that has an intriguing context that is skilfully used. Humans can travel across the galaxy via the Proterra, a parallel info-world. Such a resource is attractive to those who would loot it and so it is protected by a security force, Mercury. An attack by a a serious criminal, Horus is responded to by a Mercury team and it does not go well. The implications and repercussions of the event ripple nicely through the issue setting up story possibilities.
Any first issue has a number problems to solve in a limited space, set up the context for the story, introduce the cast and give the reader a reason to return for the next issue. Maria Lantsuta manages all three with craft and economy. She wastes no time in establishing the context, the opening page takes care of that with a lovely balance between the text and the art. Then the reader is plunged directly into the action as a information burglary develops in an unexpected fashion. The story mixes the private concerns of the cast with their security duties very credibly, the cast are given the space an opportunity to emerge in their own right.
The art is a pleasure to read, the cast move naturally in their context, the action scenes are very well choreographed, they move fast and have an impact, the quieter moments are expressive and thoughtful. The cast are good looking and , thankfully, well proportioned. They move with grace and confidence, their body language is as clear as their speech.
The colouring is subtle and engaging, it is science fiction colouring that quietly and effectively develops the context and details of the circumstances that support the context. The balance between the art and the colouring allows the cast and the action to come to the fore while firmly anchoring them in a specific time and place.
 Maria Lantsuta has compressed a considerable amount of story detail, action and explanation into a single issue without every making it overcrowded or clumsy, the cast have a heartbeat beneath their armor that engages the reader. This is very high quality, crafty science fiction that makes story promises that I look forward to being delivered in unexpected and intriguing ways.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kindly sent by Kim Roberts, to purchase a copy of Phaeton Proterra, which would be very good idea  since smart science fiction comics are clinically proven to enhance living, you can get it from http://www.wpcomicsltd.com/comics

Faith Fallon Issues 1 - 3. Steven Pennella (Writer & Artist). Insane Comics (2016)

A very engaging and entertainment hard boiled story about an aspiring film star Faith Fallon and the dark story that surrounds her. Faith Fallon was once Dorothy an actress who had a part in a play about a child killer. Dorothy made a serious mistake and was punished for it. She leaves New York for Hollywood where embarks on her journey to be Faith Fallon, star.
Steven Pennella's extraordinary art dominates the story and rightfully so.The art is a deeply considered mix of 3-D modelling, drawing and carefully placed and paced panels. Any page has multiple elements which strongly support the story structure.
Steven Pennella has taken a considerable risk with the structure of the story, it is split across the cast and time, shifting as it unfurls to capture the elements of the story. This has considerable potential to be messy at best and simply confusing at worst, the combination of the art and story structure make for a satisfying whole.The art can support the various narrative threads and provide a context for each one so that the reader is never stranded. The multiple narratives in turn provide a framework for the art to rest on and make sense of the  mosaic that the reader is presented with on each page.
It is the story itself that is the key element to the comic and in particular the lead character Faith Fallon herself. She is a wonderful lead character, she has the bottomless drive and will to achieve her aims that captures the reader. She is never a passive recipient of events, to the fullest extent of her power she is shaping and pushing them. What provides the energy in the book is that she is pushing against a cast as fully committed to their own ends as Faith is to hers. Where those interests coincide they cooperate, where they do no they actively work against each other. This makes for a story that is constantly shifting and moving, it is restless and engaging, the reveals are cunningly staged to alter the reading and understanding of what went before or what will come in the future.
Hard boiled is a difficult genre to get right, the utter lack of empathy that the cast have to have to act the way they do can be draining for a reader. Action is vital, like sharks a hard boiled cast have to be constantly in motion to bring the reader along with them. What they lack in sympathy they make up with for in energetic greed and brutal resolve.
Steven Pennella has captured the moving spitit of hard boiled stories with care and precision, his cast are  engagingly rapacious and the stunning art gives him the room to mix up the narrative so that the cast have plenty of room to demand and hold the reader. Faith Fallon is a gripping comic and an intriguing hard boiled mystery story, a wonderful combination.
Chief Wizard Note: These are review copies very kindly sent by Steven Pennella, to purchase Faith Fallon  and you should to have the deep pleasure that only creativity and craft deliveries, they are available from  .
insanecomics.com

Monday, December 5, 2016

Chronicles of Terror No. 4. Kim Roberts (Editor) WP Comics (2016)

Chronicles of Terror commitment to providing diverse, smart and deeply engaging comics continues unabated, which is just wonderful. The big tent approach to horror stories and the extraordinary array of talent gathered here is a vivid testament to editorial imagination and commitment. The suitably seasonal cover by Haraldo sets the scene for a clutch of great stories, stunning pin-ups that celebrate the long dark nights of Christmas with  black humour and buckets of gore. Christmas time is a target rich environment for horror stories, the unexpected perspectives and angles that the stories here use is a deep pleasure. Included among the excellent set of stories are the following:
The Never. Eric Gahagan (Writer), Pietro Vaughan (Art), Nikki Sherman (Letters). When Christmas come so does darkness and a visit from the anti-santa. A gripping and creepy story that packs a big punch in a small space as something very nasty comes down the chimney. Pietro Vaughan's black and white art captures the contrast betwen what is going on in the house and finishes with a stunning panel that reeks of excited malice. Nikki Sherman's letters are quiet and natural in the panels, they reveal the story with clearly different voices being heard.
Reindeer. Paul Bradford (Writer), Allen Byrns (Art), is an astonishing mix of traditional Christmastime ideas and a horribly clever and perfectly paced savagery. Allen Byrns' muted colours and sketched art capture the low key drama that the reader very uncomfortably completes for themselves. The lettering is superb, it is used as a significant aspect to the whole story design, in particular the landmine of the final narration box.
A Christmas Carol, Gabe Ostley (Writer) , Chris Allen (Colours) is a gloriously perverse version of Christmas haunting, Hell and mayhem. Gabe Ostley goes full tilt and beyond and the story benefits for the momentum and hell-for-leather approach. Chris Allen's colours are a match for the energy of the writing and art, they bring out every manic element and turbo charge the story up to its fantastic conclusion.
The Ancestors. Hunter Eden (Writer), MC Carper (Art), Chris Allen (Colours & Letters), is a gem of a story and an astounding comic. The ancestors gave way when the priests came, gave way but did not go away. They come in the depth of winter looking for good children and bad children. What happens to both is brutal, a folk tale that has claws, teeth and a taste for blood. MC Carper's art captures the folk tale core and is completely contemporary in the controlled used of panels to manage the tempo of the story. The ancestors are a subtle balance of human and wolfish, while being neither but wholly themselves. Chris Allens's colours are pitch perfect, they capture tone of fairy tales and the grim events they can so lightly present.
Unwanted Gifts. James Johnson (Writer & Art). James Johnson's distinctive art and willingness to take creative risks with his writing contribute to makes a very twisted Christmas story.
Christmas Eve. JoJo King (Writer), Alister Lee (Art) , Nikki Sherman (Letters) manages to mix cute and horrifying with excellent results. JoJo King risks making a cute childish misunderstanding joke that is black as pitch and actually works. Alister Lee balances all the aspect of the story with  with care and detail so that child's perceptions of events and the actual events fit together rather than uncomfortably jostle each other. Nikki Sherman's lettering never draws attention to itself, it sits so easily as part of the art and story.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kindly sent by Kim Roberts, to purchase a copy of Chronicles of Terror No. 4. which in the season of goodwill would be a generous act for yourself to get great comics to warm you, it can be bought here  http://www.wpcomicsltd.com/comics.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Snowvenge. Kim Roberts (Writer), Haraldo (Art), WP Comics (2016)

A short and very entertaining story that proves, with lashings of blood and rage, that revenge is best served freezing cold. A successful bank robbery  has a treacherous aftermath. A snowman and a dying wish lead to a great deal of trouble and sharp and satisfying conclusion. The astounding cover is not a flase promise, the contents deserve this cover.
Kim Roberts has packed a geat deal of story into a short space and the compression works really well. Starting in the middle of the action, the reveals are really well staged, a simple idea is given huge force and strength as there is more than one motive at work. Kim Roberts takes the time to establish the cast and then gives classic confrontation that is more than just nasty, there is a desperate need to finish all the unfinished business of the day before time runs out.
Haraldo's art is a deep pleasure to read, it is packed with details that draw in the reader and emphasise the action when it gets serious, The transformation at the heart of the story is brilliant, the creature is bursting with murderous vitality and rage. The idea is funny, the execution is stunningly horrifying and captures all the aspects of the situation with flair and wit.
The colouring is clear and precise, the details of the cast and context are given depth and detail, the expressiveness of the human and non human cast is amplified greatly. The choice for the eyes for the creature of revenge is clever, they are just what boiling rage would look like. The lettering is quiet and unobtrusive, there are much fewer sound effects thatn could have been expected, the strenght of the art creates its own soundtrack in the mind of the reader.
Kim Roberts and Haraldo have managed to deliver the cause and effect that really good horror uses to draw in and capture the reader, the cast are more than monsters and victims, in a short space they are given the chance to be failing humans and that gives the story is tremendous force and impact.
Chief Wizard Note: This is a review copy very kindly sent by Kim Roberts, to purchase Snowvenge, which you should to get the present of a superb comic and all its attendant seasonal joys, you can get it here    http://www.wpcomicsltd.com/comics