It struck me that we’ve been talking to British comics creators this month, telling you about the ones who we’re now representing on our webstore, talking to editors and so on, but I haven’t actually posted a review. Well, since Chris Lynch of the wonderfully monikered Monkeys With Machineguns press kindly sent me a PDF of Making Deals With Devils, their second collection, it’s time to change that.
Making Deals with Devils manages to pack four short, creepy tales into its 36 pages. The tone is set right from the cover, with its skeletal Roman soldier, which has a fine Mike Mignola quality to it I thought (no bad thing since Mignola is one of the best). Each tale is relatively short, but this seems to be no impediment to Chris and partner Stu.art creating a suitably menacing atmosphere, which the heavy-ink, black and white artwork suits perfectly.
Left Behind starts with a man, Mark, in dazed despair, wondering why his partner Kirsty has left him. Slumped dejectedly among packing boxes he muses on why she would leave him, what he did wrong and why she left her cat behind. What looks like being a morose tale of a jilted lover soon takes a more macabre turn when Mark follows the cat hoping to be lead to Kirsty. Again the artwork reminds me a bit of Mignola here, or Steve Parkhouse’s moody style in Angel Fire, while the dialogue is suitably grim:
“There’s something about being left. It’s like finding out you were broken, faulty, when you thought you were working. Suddenly everything inside you feels sour and hollow like a dead fruit.”
Which isn’t to say there isn’t some knowing humour in this collection too, spooky and disturbing as it is. For example, Mark complains that nothing works in the flat, even the knives won’t cut – eyeing the view outside he comments “I guess suicide’s out the window then.” In Thirty Pieces that humour is again evident in a tale of a cab driver suddenly overtaken by supernatural events. Crowded and pursued by spectral Roman soldiers on horseback after picking up the wrong fare, our cabby gets a mite ticked off and decides to sort out these soldiers from beyond, swerving into them. When his passenger screams at him, demanding to know what the hell he’s doing our cabby replies “same thing I’ve been doing for twenty years – driving like I own the road.” There’s a line from someone who has obviously read his fair share of A Cab Driver Writes in Private Eye.
The Exchange looks to be a straightforward tale of people selling their home, moving on, changing their lives. It is only as the tale progresses that the reader’s suspicions are raised that there is more going on here than a simple real-estate transaction, with the growing menace aided by some nice touches in the artwork, such as a close-up of an old lady’s face, flecked with cake crumbs, which is very disturbing (although damned if I can articulate exactly why, it just is). I can’t really say much more about this one without blowing the ending, but it reminded me very much of the sort of short tale Robert Silverberg used to conjure (again that is a compliment).
The printed version contains a fourth story which I haven’t seen yet, with Wrathbones, the Macabre Machiavelli from Issue #0, now back in the early period of the French Revolution dealing with a desperate nobleman in Deathbeds and Heirlooms. All in all I thought this was a cracking little collection, trading mostly in creepy atmosphere and twists rather than simple gory horror. Much as I enjoyed a nice bit of horror gore from time to time, it is the more atmospheric tale which sticks more effectively in your mind and returns unbidden in the small dark hours of the night when you hear a scratching at the window. I think this will appeal to anyone who enjoyed Angel Fire, Mike Mignola’s work or short spooky tales like those by E.F. Benson. And at a mere £2.39 it is a pretty affordable chance to take, so why not give it a bash?