Editor In Chief: Karol Wisniewski
Featuring Lawrence Elwick, Paul O’Connell, Dan White, John Miers, Matthew Craig, Richard Johnson, Dave Thomson, Craig Collins, Iain Laurie, Rob Miller, Wilbur Dawbarn, Van Nim, WJC, David Ziggy Greene
I’ve previously covered NBC#2 here. It was yet another fine anthology in a time that seemed like we were drowning in the things, with each new anthology delivering someone or something new to rave over. But it’s not the case this time with NBC#3, and that may explain some of my minor disappointment with the issue. It’s good, but not good AND new, at least not to me. Of course, the thing with anthologies is that, although I may not be discovering something amazing here, you might.
However, like I say, don’t let my mild disappointment cloud the review – there’s some good stuff and at least one great strip….
The whole thing kicks off just gorgeously – a really strong and iconic cover from Lawrence Elwick; inspired design work and great art that really sets the standard high. And then we’re into the comics, with the very first strip; Dan White’s “Cindy & Biscuit Save The World” as perfect a start as you could wish for.
(The lead in line; “this is going to require stealth” had me grinning from ear to ear. But Dan White’s Cindy & Biscuit Save The World quickly takes a darker, more domestic, turn.)
“Cindy and Biscuit” manages quite a bit in it’s short 7 pages, starting as a neat little adventure, it does a comedic turn into slapstick comedy with a lovely sense of timing and then twists right at the end into something rather upsetting and full of sadness. It’s rather brilliantly done.
Cindy’s a country girl on a mission. And fortunately, in the back of beyond so favoured by Alien visitors, there’s a lot of saving the world to be done. But the great comedy action sequence is merely the start of her heroic adventure, not the end:
(6 panels and Cindy goes from conquering heroine to frightened, mistreated little girl. Powerfully done by Dan White)
Her real heroism comes when she heads home. Seeing this little thing have her life brought crashing back down to earth with the harsh rant of an uncaring parent (and it doesn’t seem a one-off thing either) – that’s when you realise the bravery in Cindy’s life is just staving off despair enough to go out and save the world once more.
The power of it is all in a few pages of tragic reality acting as a perfect counterpoint to the triumph of what has gone before. It’s a lovely strip, full of everything you want, 7 brilliant pages.
After that we have several really good strips, but they do rather pale into comparison with that cracking opener. Old favourites (by now) Elwick and O’Connell have a couple of great Charlie Parker strips (always a delight) and there’s the first (I think) outing for another iconic character from the pair in Alfred Hitchcock; Master Of Suspense.
(“Ink vs Paper” by John Miers)
“Ink vs Paper” by John Miers just didn’t do it for me at first, but by the end of his 10 pages he’d convinced me that what initially seemed like an insipid rip off of Antonio Prohías’ classic MAD Magazine strip Spy Vs Spy was actually a rather nicely done homage with a neat resolution following a madcap chase between the two monochrome leads.
(“Here Comes The Neighbourhood by Matthew Craig and Richard Johnson)
Next strip of enjoyable note is Matthew Craig and Richard Johnson’s “Here Comes The Neighbourhood“. Craig’s comics (Hondle, Trixie Biker et al) are well enjoyed round these parts with their typical mix of nicely done characters and a big dollop of cheer – sometimes wrapped in sadness or melancholy perhaps, but they’re a celebration of humanity for the most part.
But not here. Neighbourhood is a comedy sure, but it’s a scathing and dark one, attacking today’s mass media, celeb obsessed cultural vacuum where someone as worthless to the gene pool as Kerry Katona makes a fortune simply by being alive, stupid and always available for interview.
Taking Big Brother and it’s ilk as a starting point, Neighbourhood simply takes it a little further. If everything is televised, and if your life is just a gameshow, open to the whims of the public, how bad do you want to play? In ten pages, Craig delivers a dark, funny, scarily believable tale with a nicely sketched out cast of diverse characters. Most enjoyable, and the art by Johnson is rather nice as well. Rough in places, but there’s a lot of promise of these pages, a real improvement on his previous work in the other Matthew Craig written series; the Brummy super-saga Bostin’ Heroes.
(Wilbur Dawbarn’s “Wonderland”)
Wilbur Dawbarn’s strip “Wonderland” is good, funny stuff following some Faun-thing through a door in a wardrobe, where he discovers electricity, the city, music, drugs and one-night stands. And I do really like his loose, fun art style. But the ending of a cross species one night stand is blown. And it’s blown with a glance. Right at the end, his Faun-thing looks up instead of down. And that little mistake, where down is escape gone missing and the resolution of the gag, up is merely a sweater. Ruins the gag, took me out of the fun of the strip and blew the ending.
(Is that too picky? It sounds it reading back over it. But Dawbarn’s better than that and that look really yanked me out of the strip.)
(Warwick Johnson Cadwell’s “Von Trapp”)
The inclusion of WJC and David Ziggy Greene at the end was welcome after a small run of hmm stuff. WJC’s art, no matter how light the story is, is always something gorgeous and interesting to look at. He’s one of the most visually impressive artists of the last few years to break through I reckon. Likewise Greene’s strip is neither original or splendid, but his storytelling and expressive, madcap cartooning carry it through to at least prove an enjoyable end to NBC3.