Now personally, I enjoy a good whodunit story. The internal discussions the reader has as the clues help lead our heroic figures of the law to place another criminal behind bars is a thrill to watch unfold and the reasoning behind their conclusions always provide that sense of relief. I mean, how many of us watch the big reveal of a mystery and go “Of course. That makes so much sense now”? Well, I have an interesting tale to bring to you today that won’t fall into that conventional rhythm. How about I present to you a story of two detectives investigating a grisly murder, only to uncover a seedy underworld in a place where committing the most heinous of crimes could potentially mean that your afterlife could yield power and your deepest desires? And that the realms of the supernatural and reality continue to blur even thinner? All within a popular seaside town? I present to you Last Exit to Brighton, the twisted creation of Matt Hardy and Edward Bentley that approaches such dark and heinous themes with a pinch of smart wit and humour. Let’s see what awaits us in the new sin city.
Our tale focuses on Jack and Squat, two well-respected detectives investigating a murder scene on Brighton Pier- a pretty open and shut case to the the untrained eye (I mean a knife sticking out the chest is clear enough right?). But our detectives aren’t ordinary members of the squad. Squat is an intellectual genius, always planning one step ahead, whether that be for a case or to keep his partner out of trouble. And Jack is as gung-ho as any action hero but with good morals at heart, utilising the façade of a role model detective with his gun as his tool to get things done. Following the very bizarre situation and its clues, these two encounter mysterious cults, mysterious creatures, and even more mysterious individuals, each with their own dark and twisted motivations that keep this case descending into madness. We even get to witness the perspective of the killer through his own words and his true motives for his actions. The story culminates in a stand off, murder on the dance floor, and a deal with the devil himself. Hell on earth isn’t coming. Well, it has already arrived…
Despite the bizarre subject matter, I greatly enjoyed the tale that Matt Hardy brought to the table. Giving the old detective noir genre a paranormal twist is unique and well-thought out with strong pacing and unpredictability. Such a simple whodunit takes a left turn and carries on going. But the morals and themes of the story are still prevalent and highly thought-provoking as the demons are not simply the beasts that reside down below; they are also roaming the streets and living their lives. All those we encounter are tempted by sin and power, but their desires and consciences are the only things standing between order and chaos, life and eternal damnation. Who will survive the art of the deal that is laid before our selfish souls? And will this case break our detectives before the truth is revealed?
Edward Bentley was in charge of the artwork and the result is a visual marvel. The grainy shading is reflective of the comic’s noir setting; life in this world is dim and its inhabitants are just as grim as their surroundings. And when the action and fists start flying, the images become frantic and frenetic and grotesque violence becomes its own distinct scene. The subject matter lays down the perfect foundation to put twisted and vile imagery onto this comic’s pages and it seems that Bentley had a great reign of input as his creations are perfect for the story, from his caricaturist characters to the decrepit locations left to disrepair. Matt may have brought the characters to life, but Edward brought this vile world to life.
All in all, these two talented individuals have come together to present a tale that is so unique and bizarre that I was hooked from its grisly beginning to its even grislier conclusion. The characters are entertaining and complex in their methodology and actions, and considering its subject matter and genre, the comic carried more social commentary than I was expecting. Last Exit to Brighton was a strangely more thought-provoking story than I was likely to expect, but a story I was more than happy to have read.