Comics Features

REVIEW: The Vale, Issues 1-3

Written by Tommy Partl

Sometime in the near future, the Illuminati, a cult of old world leaders, breaks down the barriers between this world and releases all sorts of eldritch abominations upon the earth. Naturally, it doesn’t take long for these tentacle-faced behemoths to squash the human race into submission. The remaining humans have faced such horrors that they now perpetually shed black tears. Besides that, life goes on as usual.

Jan Czernowicz is one of these humans eking out a meagre existence in a small English town, Aylesbury, in Buckinghamshire. He’s unemployed and has to spend his mornings waiting in line at the unemployment office to get his welfare check. Since his main job is practicing illegal magic to bring down his monstrous overlords, he lies to get his welfare check. His pal, Shugg, is the son of the mayor, and while he has a rich upbringing, he does his best to assimilate with the lower classes—even adopting a working-class accent that is, at times, indecipherable.

Brett Uren’s designs for these characters are eye-catching—it’s a mix between the caricature of indie comics with a slightly more collected sense of composition than those comics usually have. I love that each human cries black tears; it adds uncanniness to the characters we’re supposed to most relate with. Uren shows off his eye for detail in the designs of Shugg’s parents, who are skin-crawling with their array of tentacles, wings, and claws. Shugg and Jan, meanwhile, have simpler, more rounder designs that make them pleasing on the eye. The colored covers also make use of darker tones to convey a bleak atmosphere. He even experiments with obtuse panel designs—like a page that you read clockwise, rather than in rows.

The characters themselves are believable and three-dimensional. Jan is content with being friends with Shugg, despite his hatred of the eldritch, while Shugg, despite being the comic relief at times, has a believable and compelling internal strife between the world he was raised in and the world he associates with. It may be a story about tentacled monsters enslaving human beings, but it has clear metaphors for class warfare.

I’m excited to see where this series goes. It will undoubtedly continue to strain the relationship between Jan and Shugg as Jan works to close the doors the Illuminati opened, rescuing humanity, but possibly dooming Shugg and his people. Also, the world that Brett Uren has built is well-fleshed out. Even the eldritch creatures themselves have clear hierarchies, with the lowest on the totem pole hardly pleased with their station.

The story has a good mix of comedy as well, as a tale whose protagonist is a Cthulu-esque creature dressed in a hoodie speaking in an East London accent should. Queen Elizabeth II, of course, is actually a lizard person resembling a giant gecko, and she relishes finally getting to travel in public without a hideous human flesh mask.

It’s definitely a must-read for comic lovers searching for a mix of original horror with a healthy dose of comedy.

Have you had a chance to read The Vale? Give us your opinion in the comments or on Twitter!

About the author

Tommy Partl