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Wednesday, 9 September 2009

In Review: Strange Times

Reviewed by David Hailwood

The Plot:

A group of misfits are thrust together by forces beyond their control, and charged with the task of averting the destruction of mankind.

The Review:

Strange Times collects the popular web comics of Dave West, of Accent UK fame, and is almost worth buying for the cast list alone; there’s an ex-boxer who can communicate with inanimate objects, a prophetic rock that’s guiding mankind’s future, a young goth girl acting as a medium for two dead clones, a Dirk Gently style detective who notices every minute detail about the world around him but still fails to notice women, a brilliant scientist with a time machine in his head, a nerdy scientist with a suit that helps him run really fast and stop really slowly, and a robot from another planet who’s on a quest to get his stolen I-pod fixed.

Strange Times is about these characters, and more. As well as building up to the larger picture (an end to human evolution brought about by genetic manipulation, which the aforementioned characters might help avert) Dave West also takes a moment to dwell on the ‘little guys’ in the story, such as an unfortunate double glazing salesman attempting to sell his wares in a town where the windows never seem to break, and even a frog falling from the sky as part of a biblical plague gets to show his take on the situation.

The sense of humour throughout is very gentle, and the story deep and intelligent. Fortunately it is an intelligence that comes without a hint of pretentiousness. Due to Strange Times web comic roots, it’s broken up into short, manageable chapters, so there’s never an information overload.

If you need a comparison to the ‘big boys’ of the publishing world, Strange Times is the sort of offering you’d expect from Top Shelf or Slave Labour. It’s as professionally produced, skilfully plotted and definitely the best thing to come out of Accent UK’s stables so far. It deserves to be on everyone’s bookshelves, and in stores everywhere. For the time being however, it’s only available from the Accent UK website and at conventions, so be sure to seek it out at BICS if you have a tenner to spare.

Strange Times is 170 pages, black and white, with a hardback colour cover. It also contains a gallery featuring art from the likes of Garen Ewing, Shane Oakley and Andy Bloor.

Web link: http://www.accentukcomics.com/buy.html

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