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Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Review Round Up: Pasties, Khaki Shorts and Thief Takers!


Over the past couple of months several indie press folk have sent us comics for review and I have to apologize for being slow at publishing reviews of them. downthetubes remains a site created in spare time between paid work (offers always welcome) and I've got behind with this aspect of the site. The good news is that David Hailwood has now stepped up the plate to be our small press/indie press Reviews Editor, and if you want a plug here, please send your comics to the address below. (But make sure you continue to send us press information to the usual e-mail address, thanks)

Premable over, let's cut to the comment, firstly for Rob Jackson's joyous Pasty Anthology, a 28-page black and white title with colour cover dedicated to the Cornish-created pastry delicacy that you can fill with anything (purportedly the reason why the devil never crossed the Tamar river, by the way). Combining the talents of Matt Badham, Jim Medway,
Steve Butler, Francesca Cassavetti, Dave Hughes, Ant Mercer and of course, Rob himself, this is a fun title, evidenced from the outset by its Planet of the Apes-inspired cover. Favourite elements? Hard to choose, but Steve Butler's twist in the tale 'Keeping Fit' and Francesca's 'Chewing Gum' are in there, but some of the grotesque eating habits displayed in Rob's own 'Shortcrusts #2' don't just make for strong comic strip, they'd look great on t-shirts, perhaps.

comic_khaki_shorts20.jpgAnother anthology title, Khaki Shorts #20, has also been winking at me from the corner of my desk for a while: Glasgow's longest running small-press comic offers another fantastic assembly of talent that includes Neil Bratchpiece ('Apocalypse Now & Then', featuring Amazilian, the most anatomically incorrect woman in comics, ever, surely), loads of Rob Miller's 'Star Trudge', 'The Wildebeests' by Shug and much more. Khaki Shorts is simply bursting with the kind of frenetic energy that some pro titles used to have: personally I think some strips would benefit from a larger page size rather than the A5 format ('Dollyforce 2020', in particular), but with a cover price of just £1 one pound, who's complaining?

comic_thieftakergeneral2.jpgFinally for this round up, there's Storm Comics two issue mini series Thief Taker General, which we frist plugged back in (gulp) June (see news story). Writer-artist Michael Crouch has worked hard on this true-life story adaptation, telling the story of two legends of 18th century London, Jonathan Wild and Jack Sheppard. It's an impressive piece of work, with some qualification.

Of the two issues, the first features the better art (but I'm not keen on the cover) but #2 seems, well, rushed, somehow, as if Michael was setting himself a challenge of getting the book out to a self-imposed deadline. There is better composition and storytelling in Issue 1, although in some establishing panels his wonderful attention to detail and careful recreation of 18th century life sometimes distracts from the central characters in a panel. Script-wise, the second issue also seems a trifle muddied: I have to confess I lost track of who was who, although the three-page set piece of Jack Sheppard's esacpe from prison is a visual gem.

Thief Taker is good with plenty of promise and I think Michael has the makings of a fine talent, properly tempered by stronger storytelling and better figure work (this is what all editors say, but it's true). With the huge number of 'historical comics' on the market in the pro sector, there should be no shortage of work for a honed talent.

• If you have a small press or indie title you would like us to review, send them to David Hailwood, Flat 5, The Saltings, Bognor Regis, West Sussex P021 2RJ. Press information should still be sent by e-mail to the usual downthetubes e-mail address, thanks.

• For a measly £2.50 (PayPal accepted), free postage in the UK, you can buy Pasty Anthology from Rob's web site at www.robjacksoncomics.com. Rob's blog includes sample Pages and more info: www.robjacksoncomics.blogspot.com

Khaki Shorts #20 is on sale from Avalanche Records, the Arches Cafe and Bar, Ychai Ovna, Play it Again Sam in Glasgow and Deadhead Comics in Edinburgh. More info and ordering: www.myspace.com/khakishorts.

• All three Storm Comics titles - the scifi tale After Life and Thief Taker General #1 and #2 - can be bought in one fell swoop for £8.00 inc. p&p, a saving of £1.25, from the Storm Comics web site at www.stormcomics.com.

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