Comics Features

REVIEW: ‘Harvey Spig in “The Dead of Night”‘ and ‘Tales from a Lonely Planet’

In this review double bill, we take a look at two projects by Stu Perrins, co-creator of independent comics Mercury and Dark Shadow: Apocalypse. The first, Harvey Spig in “The Dead of Night”, serves as an introduction to the eponymous supernatural crime-fighter. The second, Tales from a Lonely Planet, is an anthology of different stories in a range of styles, addressing a variety of themes, and published, very nobly, in support of Cancer Research UK.

To start at the very beginning, namely the front cover, Perrins’ own Harvey Spig shows a blue-suited man falling backwards, firing a revolver up at a giant, tentacle-tongued skull monster wreathed in red smoke. Striking but fairly rudimentary, it more or less sets the tone for what’s the follow. The story’s events take place very specifically on February 26th, 1934, a promising level of exactitude that doesn’t quite pay off over the course of the comic’s half-dozen-page length. Era-appropriate, Harvey Spig is a garish noirish tale, if you’ll pardon the contradiction, with monster-movie touches aplenty. “Super spy supreme” Harvey Spig battles a hideous gorilla-like beastie along crooked highways and between ramshackle buildings – in one memorable panel, the creature blots out the moon, descending on Harvey from an enormous leap. There’s a Gaimanesque feel to the piece, though it is, like Harvey Spig itself, very slight. It’s an interesting setup, however, and the narrative device that ends the piece suggests future adventures might be somewhat more geriatric in tone. All in all, not unpromising. 6/10

After the twisted little taste-tester of Harvey Spig, Tales from a Lonely Planet is a much more substantial offering. The leap from the almost graffiti-style front cover – shown as the featured image to this review – to the recognizable art-work in the next installment of Harvey Spig in “No Such Thing as Bad Press” set up the anthology’s goodie-bag approach to its contents. In “No Such Thing as Bad Press“, a matricidal villain, Erasmus Jones, is receiving the ‘Total Bastard!’ award on the steps of city hall in front of a crowd of assembled journos. Soon enough, however, members of the assembled press are being scorched to skeletons by green hell-fire when Jones unleashes his Eradicator. Luckily the macho, blue-suited Harvey Spig arrives to save the day. The second installment, unfortunately, plays out fairly similarly to the first and so far there just isn’t the sense of irony or uniqueness to set Harvey Spig apart from the other Spirit-alikes out there. Maybe once/if the series starts to capitalize on that device, it might begin to develop more of a sense of its own personality.

With all due respect to Harvey Spig artist Nick Gonzo, the artwork is more immediately impressive in the next piece, the Niall Doonan-written, Trystan Mitchell-illustrated . dogs ., a lightly pointless, distinctly Reservoir Dogs-inspired. There’s some Tarantino-lite dialogue and a few cute shout-outs, but it all feels a bit like a Family Guy cutaway. Still, . dogs . is, for the most part, a short burst of diversionary fun before the more traditional “comic strip” stylings of Man From Space in “The Jetpack”, the trials and tribulations of a man on a clifftop with a jet-pack and a goldfish who is either a master manipulator or, well, just a goldfish. Fairly straightforward, but the amusement in Marc Jackson‘s offering lies in the ambiguity. Next, The  Terrible Truth About Mimes, by Luke James Halsall and Tim Bird, and Dr. Mike Cooper‘s Life on Mars, about a futuristic city full of hyper-intelligent, lobster-like people. The former is full of heavy black-and-white line drawings, vaguely abstract and European, while the latter is a tad cluttered stylistically but reads like something by Philip K. Dick.

The Visitor, again by Stu Perrins, art by Vincent Hunt, is also in black and white and features a warty, Herculean giant who awakens after many years to discover the world has moved on. The ending, somewhat Biblical in tone, is clever, dynamic and ever-so-slightly sad, impressive given the whole thing’s only four pages long. Perfect puts a superhero in therapy – written by Liam Kavanaugh, grayscale art by Mike Gallagher, lettering and finishing by O. S. Georg and Daryl Gilliam respectively. Impressively detailed, it explores the notion that all vigilantes, however conflicted, however well-intentioned, are essentially pathological; in a word, head-cases. They might have a point. Tales from a Lonely Planet ends with a contribution by writer Blas Bigatti and artist Jose Buenebad, a cautionary yet elegiac tale of ecological destruction rendered in vibrant watercolors. Though it may not be uniformly ambitiousl, Tales from a Lonely Planet is an intriguing little collection and, for most successfully trying something new, deserves, at the very least, a 7.5/10.

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Robert Wallis

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