Comics Features

REVIEW: Massacre For Boys Picture Library Issue #1

Written by Mark Russell

Massacre For Boys Picture Library is a 2014 comic created by Chris Denton and Steve Denton. A comedy-based anthology comic with a variety of off-the-wall stories, M.F.B.P.L. is a very fun read with plenty of different art styles and characters, and a very British feel to it. The cover has soldiers being attacked by monsters in a jungle, while another soldier admires a butterfly in the foreground, oblivious to the incoming carnage behind him. Very amusing, and a sign of good things to come.

The first story immediately sets the tone of the off-the-wall quirkiness of the comic: “Walking Wounded”. This starts in Australia 1932, where two hunters are out looking for emus, and discussing whether or not they are just dumb birds or dangerous animals. The question is soon answered when an emu leaps out of the tall grass, slashes one of the hunter’s throat, dodges gunfire and pecks out the other hunter’s eyes. The story abruptly jumps four weeks later, where emu are apparently enemy number one down under and soldiers are called in to take out the killer birds. In scenes reminiscent of Apocalypse Now, the emu charge over the horizon and take flight, resembling helicopters, and engage battle with the army. I’m not sure if there is meant to be a continuation in later issues, but this is definitely a story I would be interested in following. The artwork is quite good, and the level of detail is lovely, particularly in the emus, even though they can’t actually fly… nor are they predators…

The next story is a bit of an odd one – a kind of superhero parody called “The Crusader: Spoonful of Jam”. It has a saturated-like colour and art style to it. It is about a vigilante superhero who looks like a cross between Judge Dredd and Cyclops, as he and his equally unnamed female sidekick thwart an evil unnamed priest. The priest has darkened eyes and leads a religious cult where blood is spilt to make jam. Good for him I suppose. The pacing of the story is very clunky, ending very abruptly with the one panel introduction to a character not introduced yet, not to mention none of the characters are named in the story. Since this is the first issue, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. All in all, bit of a weird one, but not bad.

Next is “The Zen Fusilier”, written by Greg Meldrum with the artwork by John Caliber. It is a particularly enjoyable story – telling the story of a small band of French fusiliers who seem to be skilled in the art of monster slaying, and target a Buddhist temple occupied by vicious Vietnamese versions of vampires (trying saying that three times fast). The leader of the fusiliers Captain Sartre is an interesting character; we never see his eyes, but he has quite the presence, being a bit philosophical and never shouts or raises his voice, even when fighting creepy bog monsters. The vampires are pretty creative, and a very unique version of the classic horror monsters. A very exciting story, this is probably the best in the issue.

“Bosher’s Goals” was not really my cup of tea, but might entertain readers who are into sports. Football player Gordon “Bosher” Le Fizz is kicked off the national team by manager Mickey Dolenz for ambiguous reasons. And why Bosher mopes about, his wife/girlfriend Syria decides to go her own investigation to find out what Dolenz’s true reasons are, with pretty funny results. If I had to be critical, the comic’s art, while well-detailed, it doesn’t really allow much facial expression, leaving the characters blank faced most of the time.

A short three page World War II comedy follows called “Thirty Kroner Kincaid”, about a British officer who has quite a good day while leading forces to destroy fish factories run by the Nazis. I’ll stop talking about it there, but the strip is short and sweet, and has a palette of only white, black, and various shades of red, which works quite well for the story.

“The Boys From Bashley”, written by Tim West, seems to enjoy bringing back some classic archetypes of the British and Germans together in this sitcom-like story. It is about a platoon of WWI British soldiers who are all on a cricket team together, and end up using their skills along with some improvised tactics after the local foreigners steal all the ammo. The story was the funniest and most entertaining in my opinion.

Wrapping up the issue is a short funny story about a gruff-looking man in a hat and trenchcoat who you think is a detective – turns out he is an animal hatmaker, and his mission in life is to provide clothes and hats for troubled animals – in this case, a chameleon. I won’t give the ending away of the short because it is very funny. The last story is not a comic strip but actually a short story called “Mustard”, a short sci-fi piece revolving around a spacecraft called the Iron Duke and its crew and associates. A surprising alteration at the end of the issue, but it only adds to the differentiation and variety that helps Massacre For Boys stand out from other comics. At times, the quality or size of the text is a little hard to read, but apart from that, this comic is an entertaining piece and I recommend it to all.

Do you enjoy comics that have different stories and characters in each issue? Are you a fan of British comics? Can anyone explain how emus can turn into predatory nightmares? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!

About the author

Mark Russell