“Stand and deliver, because Dick Turpin is back! From the hanging tree at Tyburn to the pleasure houses of Pall Mall, there’s only one thing standing between notorious highwayman Dick Turpin leaving 18th Century London to return to the open road – a nest of vampire prostitutes eager to spread their Crimson Plague!”
There you go, pretty much a perfect summing up of what you can expect from this tale; a genre mashup of gothic proportions.
The art’s nice as well, just the right side of loose, as befits something portraying the grubby, stinking streets of London. It starts off so good, effortlessly showing us the capitol in all its squalor. When it looks so dirty and disgusting that you can actually imagine the smell as you read, I think you can cheerfully say the artist has caught the right look.
Here’s page 1, as Dick Turpin looks on from the crowd of ghouls, enjoying their day out at the gallows, and watches as another man hangs for crimes he did not commit:
But there’s looseness and there’s sloppiness. Looseness to set the mood so well is great, but sloppiness is bad, especially when it really breaks the tension of the early part of the storyline. And it happens a couple of times, either with poor layouts in places, or a misleading flow to the page.
However, there’s still enough moments when writer and artist get together in the first half of the story to set up a great little mystery, full of tension and intrigue, just like this bit; the major reveal; the first time Dick Turpin finds himself dealing with something far older, darker, and hungrier, than he’s used to. Here, see for yourself…
See? Lovely bit of tension, nice artwork to go along with it.
I wanted to really enjoy this, the concept appealed, simple, easy, a lightweight historical gothic romp mixing up a famous character with a horror staple. And I did enjoy it, and it is that lightweight romp. And if you want the essential moment, the absolute moment when the romp got it right, how about this;
Come on, that’s like the bit in Stand And Deliver when Adam Ant jumps through the window. How great is that?
So I got about 20 pages of solid gothic intrigue before it all kicks off, then a little man on vampire fighty action, and then Turpin appears again with Bess and spends the next 11 pages finding impossible amounts of space inside the room to keep himself in the saddle.
And then….. oh. Actually there is no then. It sadly just stops dead. Over all too quickly, truncated and frustrating.
You see, I read Dick Turpin and the Crimson Plague thinking it was going to be a 50-something page graphic novel. Sure, I’d read the PR and realised there was a little back mattter stuff, a gallery of Turpin, bit of writer/artist background, that sort of thing. But the actual story runs to just 38 pages. Which means that by the time I’d read the intriguing setup, seen the first appearance of the vamps, and then had great fun watching Turpin and Bess dispatch vamps for 11 pages I’d been set up quite nicely for the rest of the story.
But the rest of the story isn’t there. Three panels on page 38 is all the wrap up we’re allowed, and it’s sadly a little bit of a letdown. Dammit I wanted more story, I wanted to see where Tanner and Howard were going to take it next.
So yes, Dick Turpin and the Crimson Plague is a great little gothic romp with some really nice artwork in places. But it’s too little of a great little gothic romp. I was all ready for a great read, and I feel like I got a truncated, frustrating read instead.
As is, Dick Turpin and the Crimson Plague is alright, enjoyable for what it is, but what it is, in the final account, is too damn short.