Back in the day I’d be treated on certain rainy weekends to a matinee at the local flea-pit cinema. It’d be packed with kids taking advantage of the double-feature deal of a ‘short’ followed by the main full-length release. In honour of this bygone tradition, here are two reviews for the price of one, with two recent releases from writer Fwah Storm, artist Tom Dorrington and the fine boys and girls at Reload! Comics.
‘The Asylum of Fables Pilot Episode : The Gambling Man‘
The colour cover, by Koi Quittenton displays a tooth-pick chawin’ cowboy, flicking a pair of aces into your face. This succinctly sets the tone for the eight pages of black and white content within.
The scenario is not an unfamiliar one. A small town in the old west. A Bank. A Blacksmith and a Saloon; the piano ivories are a-tinklin’ whilst hostesses eyes are a-winkin’. You get the idea.
As the title suggests, there’s a card game and that really is as far as I want to take the plot with you.
What I would like to say is that I really enjoyed the story-telling in this here book. When you have eight pages to play with, there really is no messing around.
The setting might be familiar but that doesn’t prevent the art laying out the landscape and herding you swiftly into the 1860’s. There are some great dialogue-free panels with reveals that add layers of tension as the story unfolds. Expressiveness in the art certainly bolsters the crisp, authentic dialogue throughout, whilst the no frills line-work reinforces the sense of hard living in harsh country. A sense of mystery permeates each page.
Satisfyingly, seeds are sewn that justify the final page’s leap to another level. Only then is the full pallete of this Asylum of Fables realised and by so doing, you’re left wanting more.
‘Skin & Bones : Wanted Dead or Alive Part One’
This is an absolute riot of a full-colour, 24-page booklet.
The outer front cover, illustrated by Stefano Cardo?selli, accurately reflects the tone within, with a gloriously bloody moment. A nice teaser.
On the first page we see said blond Richard Bones, jolted out of slumber on his couch by a call is from his partner in crime, Kaneda Takahashi, who on the second page is revealed to be having this conversation, while sporting bright white underwear and a studded leather collar and chain, with a gimp mask in his free hand. He has ‘a situation’.
My first thoughts are of films like The Defiant Ones, The Odd Couple, Swingers or saints preserve us, Tango and Cash. From a comic book perspective this translates to Green Lantern and Green Arrow, Captain America and Falcon or Quantum and Woody; the buddy theme!
The buddy trope is a classic genre, in film and print. The stories usually centre on the relationship between two heterosexual males. At first they don’t get along because of their differences, but by the time one arrives at the conclusion, they will have worked through their issues and become best buddies.
I am very happy to say that this book both is and isn’t this. Their issues are only just beginning.
I really enjoyed the narrative structure which drops you in the midst of their world. There is much enjoyment in the slow reveal as we see them summoned by the authorities to deal with ‘a situation’. They deal with it in an enthusiastically deranged, yet effective fashion. Concurrently, our storytellers take the opportunity to energetically display the skill-sets, predilictions and personalities of this exceedingly twisted pair.
Yet all is far from neat and tidy. They have extraordinary abilities, in a world without adversaries who are on any kind of par. This is amusingly demonstrated by a flashback which addresses a certain ‘jackass’ that thinks he’s a super-villain. The methods by which he is dealt with are very, very, very rude indeed. I hope I’m making myself clear. Rudeness abounds!
As we return to the present, the plot develops in complexity with an unexpected development, regarding their wannabe super-bad guy which leads us directly to the revelation of a truly menacing and utterly potty-mouthed threat.
The art is rendered cleanly and without fuss, with background detail applied only where genuinely necessary. There is a real sense of fizz and fun. Artist Tom Dorrington gives this book an overarching tone of irreverance and mischief. It’s important with this book as it takes the edge off the many, quite frankly disgusting and disturbed moments that are littered throughout. This is no easy feat to pull off and in so doing, maintains balance and avoids the piece becoming literally excremental.
Yes, this is a grown-up yarn. Whilst there’s a celebration of the puerile and much lavatorially inspired content, these characters are certainly living in an adult place and reacting as only warped, morally dubious, super-powered heroes-for-hire possibly could.
This is a fine example of the medium of comics being used with gusto, to tell a story you just wouldn’t get away with nearly anywhere else.
For that reason alone, I want to read Issue 2.
You can find out more about both of these books as well as the rest of Reload’s offerings at www.ReloadComics.co.uk