Saturday, October 08, 2005

Four-colour friends

The Authority: The Magnificent Kevin #2
Writer: Garth Ennis
Art: Carlos Ezquerra
Colours: David Baron
Letters: Phil Balsman

Picked up #2 of this new Authority miniseries the other day. The high quality I enjoyed so much in #1 is maintained, and there are even a few laughs. But this issue deals with how Kevin helps the Midnighter out of the fix he got into in #1. In the course of this we are treated to the story of Kev's army career, and the reasons why he joined the SAS in the first place. So this is not a funny comic really. In fact, in places it is one of the most genuinely spooky comics I've read in a long time. Good stuff, and I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes in the next 3 issues.

The Call of Chaos
GW: Black Library
Writing/Art/Lettering: various

Still looking for more material to feed my WFRP GM's imagination, I picked this volume up in my local GW the other day. Just like the Tales of Hellbrandt Grimm (ToHB) which I reviewed a few weeks ago this is a compilation of stories reprinted from the old Warhammer Monthly (WM) comic.

My previous negative comments about WM notwithstanding, one thing I do remember finding interesting about it was that it was an American-style comic that used the familiar British editorial format (and not just British btw). That is to say: it was the size of the Marvel/DC comics with which we are all so familiar, but it contained several different stories each issue, after the fashion of the comics I remember reading as a youngster.

This was the source of what I felt was one of WM's weaknesses: it was very bitty, and few of its stories developed the sort of epic plot-arcs common to both American and British comics. Even when a promising character did come along for more than an issue or two, they never really lasted long enough for the character to take off to this reader's satisfaction.

Anyhoo, oddly enough, I would have to say that this weakness of the original WM appears as more of a strength in the compendia I have read so far.

The Call of Chaos (TCoC) treats us to a total of 15 stories, ranging from 1-shot shorts, to mini-series. As with ToHG these are all 'sting-in-the-tail' stories, in this case all themed around the idea of the path to damnation that is falling for the lures of Chaos in the Warhammer Old World. Futile bloody vengance, the trials and tribulations of the servants of Chaos, grudge-bearing dwarfs, ancient curses, foolish alliances: all this and more is to be found in the stories collected in this little volume.

To single out a favourite story, I guess I would have to plump for 'Hammerbildt': the story of a man who retutns to the place of his birth from an adventurous life to discover that the adventure has followed him home. This is a nice wee story that would be a boon to any WFRP GM looking for ideas for a scenario of their own devising (as would most of the stories in this volume, naturally enough).

As for my favourite artwork, Logan Lubera's work on the 'Curse of Dubois' gets my vote here, because I've liked his style ever since I first saw him in action. This was in the Space Hulk short he illustrated for WM#0 IIRC.

I also liked the fact that the text in this compilation was largely much, much more readable than the tiny wee script I complained about in ToHG.

My remarks about TCoC can't all be positive though. There was one story that I didn't like when read it on its first publication in WM, and which I liked no more on rereading it here. That story is 'Dwarf Lords', the single longest piece in this compilation. I'm sorry to have to dump on writer/artist Paul Davidson, but this story just didn't work for me on every count. Well OK, to be fair, the idea of a bunch of grumpy and foul-mouthed dwarfs cast through a dimensional gate and having to trek and fight their way home is a good one, to be sure. But something went wrong between conception and execution I have to say.

The first thing that went wrong was the artwork. In a certain way the artwork is not bad. I mean to say Davidson can certainly draw, and he has a natural feel for the denizens of the Old World. The problem here is that, in 'Dwarf Lords', he didn't seem to know how to illustrate a comic. Page after page is full of panels whose detail is almost impossible to make out because of poor use of light and shade on top of too little simple line work to define forms. It's a bit like watching TV with the brightness turned way down.

On top of this, the flow of the narrative is poor, being more like a series of jump-cuts sustained by an endless series of retorts like “Wazzocks!” as these invincible dwarfs hack their way through a selection from an Old World bestiary.

And the plot itself is really quite poor. There are too many different encounters with not enough happening in each one, making the story read more like a violent travelogue than any kind of epic quest. And then to discover- after wading through 51 pages of this- that it is all just a shaggy dog story in the end... Well, let's just say I was not impressed.

To sum up: the 14 short strips that make up the bulk of this compilation vary from not bad to really quite good. The remaining strip is not celebrated by yours truly. For this reason I would only recommend this comic to GW fans, or to WFRP players looking for a taste of the Old World, and I would recommend ToHG first. But if you see TCoC on a shelf, take a look, because you might disagree with me.

Good reading everyone. ;)

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