By Paul Rainey
Rainey’s got previous form with a long running, multi-character epic after his time travelling soap opera odyssey There’s No Time Like The Present. That was a great series, sprawling sci-fi meets tight, very personal soap opera characterisation. It concluded with issue 13 in 2010.
And now he’s returned with Thunder Brother Soap Division, another sprawling multiparter that he’s been serialising online since August 2011. This shares many common threads with There’s No Time; that sense of building something to encompass a large ensemble cast dealing with life on an ordinary and extraordinary level.
I waited this long until looking at the whole thing to give myself a good long runup at the thing. And now, with two full parts online; The Apprentice and Going Straight (in both instances click the link at then read from the bottom up), I’m glad to be able to say I think Rainey’s done it again, creating something very, very good.
It all starts mundanely enough, with little Sally Timmins, 13-year old school girl soap addict, whose life revolves around her soap obsessions, and it seems the perfect job opportunity just opened up – an apprenticeship at something called Soap Division she’s seen in the local paper
There’s several page episodes of absolute normality, with Sally heading off for her interview, excited to be in a world where her obsession may prove useful, but then it all takes a sudden, and unexpected turn for the weird.
Or possibly not, since after reading “There’s No Time” I was halfway expecting Rainey to throw something weird my way, something sci-fi amongst the soap operas, although just how weird I didn’t know.
So how about this?…..
Boom, there goes the mundane. Welcome to the weird. Off she goes to Soap Division, off to investigate the world of the soaps, far, far closer than she ever expected, jumping between our world and those delivering the soap storylines, courtesy of Thunder Brother and the self dividing proto-sphere…
Yes, think something like The Truman Show but multiple shows, spread over multiple soap planets, all coordinated by Soap Division.
Okay, no more spoilers, I’ve tried to limit myself to things either very early on, or things Rainey himself used in his teaser stuff online. But trust me, there’s a lot more to explore here, lots of everyday, lots of sci-fi weird, all mixed up and brought together very nicely by Rainey, whose art here is a real step up, really good figure work, great colours
The second storyline, Going Straight, takes us further into the multi-dimensional Soap Worlds as Sally and Thunder Brother act to prevent a security breach that could blow open the whole multi-dimensional soap opera secret. And all along, we follow Sally’s troublesome first steps into the world of work.
Rainey perfectly plays off the bizarre and incredible with the mundane and down to earth stuff, and it’s a lovely concept, all executed with flair and style.
As with most webcomics I’d always recommend letting the episodes build up before you head over and read them all in one go. Rainey’s done the job for you here – The Apprentice and Going Straight just 12 episodes each – ideal to pick up and get straight into it. The next part begins very soon. Well worth bookmarking to see where he’s talking it.