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Wednesday, 7 November 2012

In Review: SPOOKS - The Fall Of Babylon / Century Club

The start of a new adventure series by Cinebook is always something to be looked forward to as they have proved to have made excellent choices of what Franco-Belgian bandes dessinees to translate into English. Their new series set in America at the beginning of the twentieth century is SPOOKS written by Xavier Dorison and Fabien Nury and illustrated and coloured by Christian Rossi. The first two SPOOKS books, which form a single story, are The Fall Of Babylon and Century Club.

In 1901 influential members of American society on the east coast begin dying in unusual or mysterious circumstances and presidential advisor Richard Clayton asks agent Morton Chapel to reform his team of SPecialists in the Odd and the OCcult - SPOOKS. Meanwhile high ranking Americans are being invited to join the shadowy Century Club which promises to fulfil their heart's desires in exchange for help from them in their own areas of expertise. However as the SPOOKS start to investigate, they are lead towards both the underworld of drugs and of the supernatural. 

SPOOKS is the English title for the series that is known as W.E.S.T. in France and has reached its sixth book there. In the French books the acronym WEST stands for 'Weird Enforcement Special Team' so why did Cinebook change it when it was already in English? Based on the cover of the first book, showing what appear to be gunslingers, the title W.E.S.T. could well have suggested a cowboy book to potential buyers whereas SPOOKS, with its double meaning of secret agents and the supernatural, is much more in keeping with what the series is about.

Xavier Dorison's name may be familiar from Cinebook's excellent Long John Silver series and here he teams up on writing duties with Fabien Nury while Christian Rossi is on art. The writing for this series is very dense with Dorison and Nury introducing six members of SPOOKS and several family members plus multiple victims and members of the Century Club in the first book alone, as well as having to move the story along. Indeed the complexity of the story and depth of characterisation reminded me somewhat of the early Blake and Mortimer books although, fortunately, here the text doesn't get in the way of the artwork as it can do in some of those Blake and Mortimer titles. That said The Fall Of Babylon did leave me wondering if Century Club would be worth reading or not, but the second book did not let me down as it could get on with the complex story having left the character introductions to the first book.

Rossi's artwork is exceedingly detailed, gruesomely so in the various death scenes, and he does like his sound effects, the number of different words used for gunshots in a street shoot-out for instance is impressive. But then so is his artwork as moodily painted backgrounds emphasise the characters in the foreground.

SPOOKS - The Fall Of Babylon and Century Club between them make for a densely written and interestingly plotted supernatural investigation. If you can wade through the multiple introductions of the first book then the second book will make the reading of this pair worthwhile and, given that we now know the characters, further titles in the series should feel more like the second than the first.

There are more details of the SPOOKS books on the Cinebook website.

There are more details of the W.E.S.T. books on the Editions Dargaud website (in French).

Cinebook will be selling their range of books including SPOOKS at the Comica Comiket Fall 2012 Independent Comics Fair in the City Of London on Saturday 10 November 2012 and at Thought Bubble's Royal Armouries Hall in Leeds on the weekend of 17-18 November 2012.

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