Thursday, October 02, 2008
Trenches, published by Top Shelf Productions, Inc., 176 pages, $15.95.
David and Lloyd Allenby didn't always get along as children, nor do they as adults. David, the rowdy, worldly older of the two, is sometimes quite cruel to his younger, more reserved sibling. As both are called up to serve their country during W.W. I, however, they snipe, argue, fight and insult one another…while gaining a new-found respect for each other. It's all in Scott Mills' sometimes tense, sometimes tender, always entertaining period story, Trenches.
As comic entertainment goes, Mills hits a home run with this book. His characters, though sometimes annoying or infuriating, possess a charm that will endear readers. Though it's easy to take up the cause of the more timid Lloyd, as he suffers embarrassment at the hands of his own kin, one may even find that the bully, David, is to be almost admired at times. This work speaks well of the good to be found in all people, even if it's not on the surface. It's always a plus if a writer can make people care about his characters; this one does so.
Mills has a minimalist style of art in this book. Some panels appear almost unfinished, while the line work in others possesses a haphazard, even slightly obscuring quality. This is not to say it's not good work; it is, as it very much fits the story. It tends to capture the chaos of some of the more intense and violent war scenes, making them all the more believable, despite the "cartoony" appearance.
Mills also proves that an artist doesn't have to produce highly detailed work in order for the characters to be expressive. Trenches deftly displays anger, sadness, apprehension, heroism, and more through its characters.
Trenches is highly recommended for adults. It's not a kid's book, due to language and adult situations. Look for it at comic shops, comic conventions, online catalogs, auctions, or at www.topshelfcomix.com. For your nearest comic shop, call 1-888-comicbook.
Review by Mark Allen
"On the fourth floor landing lay the body of Nicholas Ryan, his throat brutally slashed." Thus begins the initial murder in A Treasury of Victorian Murder, the first of a five issue series of true crime graphic novels from master cartoonist Rick Geary.
A Treasury recounts three murders reported by newspapers in the 1800s, each written in unembellished, factual prose and illustrated by Geary's inimitable art.
Novelist Robert Bloch believed the greatest horror was in not knowing whether one was sitting next to a killer, and Geary has captured this feeling of paranoia perfectly. He captures without a word of dialog, each narrative like a silent movie without popcorn.
In part, Geary does so by what is missing in his missive. A reader never knows the motive for each murder. Indeed, the reader joins those average folk who lived it as they catch buses, shop, eat and work, oblivious to the viper in their woodshed.
"There," writes Geary, "they were steady, well-behaved workers, attracting little notice or concern." "They" were shoemakers, doctors, wives, brothers and sisters, and they remained unnoticed until each was found slaughtered.
In partial, Geary also does it by his meticulous artist's eye for detail in everything from genteel architecture, clothing and hairstyles to furnishings. His simple, bold line also captures a sideways glance, a subtle sneer, or a door ajar to fuel a reader's moribund anticipation. In addition, his murders are never gory. Geary understands that horror is best left to the imagination.
A Treasury, along with its sister volumes Jack the Ripper, The Borden Tragedy, The Fatal Bullet and The Mystery of Mary Rogers, is highly recommended.
A Treasury of Victorian Murder/72 pgs & $8.95 from NBM Pub/art and story by Rick Geary/sold in comic shops and at www.nbmpublishing.com.
Review by Michael Vance