Thursday, 19 May 2011

Matthew Craig reviews his BICSPE swag

Matthew Craig - creator of Hondle, Trouble Bruin and Trixie Biker - appeared at last weekend's Bristol International Comics & Small Press Expo where he had a table in the dealer room and made a memorable member of the What Is The Point In Small Press Superheroes panel.

While he was there he also picked himself up a bunch of comics, which he has read and reviewed. Take it away, Russ...


Matthew Craig's swag

Clare Lowe's THEDA BARA'S BABIES is some damn dark collage comics. Graham Pearce and MIKE BATTLE totally skewer the war comic with refined national humour that Garth Ennis would kill for. And that potassium powerhouse Bananaman is the best thing in the DANDY by miles (well, Jamie Smart aside). Next up: hmm. Giant Rhinos? In SPACE?

Sammy Borras' BEST DAY EVER and GIANT RHINOS IN SPACE were among my favrit books from last weekend. A strong post-Pilgrim indy influence, utterly harnessed to create a unique, attractive visual style, with wonderful character designs and great staging. These stories of a three-piece band and their...passionate fanbase would fit right into the classic Oni Press stable, and I dearly wish I had their ear on such matters

SPANDEX by Martin Eden. I wish I'd read em before accepting his Facebook request! These are the best superhero comics since Street Angel. And y'know that Street Angel was the best superhero comic of the last decade. 3 is really beautifully written, emotional storytelling. 4 is just fucking sublime. Surgical in its precision; unrelentingly well-paced. Curse you, Eden! Must I wait for 5?! *shakes fist*

THE BAKER STREET IRREGULARS (Morris and O'Connor) is another well-constructed and consumately modern British horror comic. A fantastical detective series with a touch of the Hellblazer/Avatar Press/Ellis about it (in the best way), BSI (that's what you're calling it) has some really nice (if occ. gruesome) art, including some attempts at ghost effects that are suprisingly effective. £2 is a great price, as well.

MOON, the lunatic cop comic by Thompson, Penfold and Matilla, is really properly good. Pratchett-esque opening scene, clever, off-beat character design, brilliant dialogue and energetic art. The overall package reminds me of the sorts of brilliant British comics that were coming out around the turn of the '90's - Sleeze Brothers, Rockpool Files, etc. - but still genuinely fresh.

YURI'S DAY (King, Bizony, Hodkinson), a biography of Gagarin and the Soviet Space Race, well told, beautifully produced; and PICK & MIX 1 from the Inspired Comics collective, which is full of great stuff with one or two properly stand-out moments. Braw!

SEEDS: Seeds is just heartbreaking: a supremely moving family memoir. Ross Mackintosh is a fantastic cartoonist, wasting not one line, either as art or dialogue. Paging through it again, I am reminded of the emotional weight of Raymond Briggs, a creator who has worked similar seams. I look forward to reading whatever Ross does next. 

JACK STAFF 4: ROCKY REALITIES is a superb example of the use of comicbook icongraphy and convention to realise troubling emotional metaphor. The characters are literally (in the literal sense) boxed in by their lives, trapped in situations and circumstances beyond their control. And even when pan-dimensional chimps and fourth wall-breaking sages literally peel the skin of the medium back for them, the characters are still obliged to follow their dharma, wherever it might lead. Paul Grist's art and command of the page are unsupassed: in a post-McCloud world, this is Textbook Comics.

Daniel J Wild and TG Sangalang's MY NAME IS CHIPMUNK really wrongfooted me with how completely charming it is. I liked the cover straight away - it reminded me of Todd Nauck's work - but I wasn't prepared for how good the whole package was. TG's art might be a little "good/badgirl" for some people's tastes, but it is really energetic and well-staged. The story is expertly constructed, and if there are any rough edges, they are smoothed over by the pace, character and dialogue.

What really struck me was how mainstream My Name Is Chipmunk is. That sounds like a backhanded compliment, but it's really not. When you look at the other superhero stuff on sale at Bristol - the emotional drama driving Spandex, the satirical nature of Mike Battle, the honest nostalgia and technical wizardry of Jack Staff, or the...whatever it is I do - My Name Is Chipmunk is the most classical indy superhero comic on sale right now. It's the sort of book that could be shelved alongside The Tick, the early Image books...any of that great stuff. And while a lot of that appeal might be down to the "well-appointed" artwork, if it didn't mesh utterly with the story, then I wouldn't be able to say it.


Matthew Craig is now on Twitter and you can read his comics at his website. Thanks for these, Matt!

If you would like to review comics for the SPBM blog just drop us a line!

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