28/11/2005. Contributed by Paul Skevington
pub: Mam Tor Publishing Ltd. 140 page graphic novel. Price: $19.95 (US). ISBN: 9-780954-998004.
check out website: www.mamtor.com/
One of the best feelings in the world is the one you experience when you're flicking through yet another literary creation and you start to get the impression that your paper-cut pinkies are clutching onto something quite special indeed. That's exactly how I felt as I read 'Event Horizon'.
This is a noble experiment, an attempt to bridge the gap between prose fiction and sequential art. At the same time, it seeks to demonstrate the utility and power of the comic medium by placing it in direct comparison to other, more established modes. To a large extent, the experiment succeeds. It doesn't just succeed, though. The hybrid creations of this artistic laboratory often achieve a grandeur and magic akin to the best offerings of SF art.
The collection starts with 'Fucking Savages' written by Steve Niles and illustrated by Liam Sharp. The form the story takes is familiar, with strong echoes of Robert E. Howard's 'Conan' tales. Despite this similarity, Niles adds a new edge to his imaginings, one both emotive and horrifying in its slow unveiling. This is complimented by the dark and strangely immersive art of Sharp. A keen understanding of form and a beguilingly textured quality to the work instantly made this strip a favourite of mine that I will be returning to.
This is followed by 'Vanishing Herd', a compelling tale written by Dan Wickline that creates a great sense of atmosphere in a story told primarily through imagery, with a sparseness of dialogue befitting the subject matter. The story concerns an ageing warrior who is tired of battle, but still wishes to serve. He finds a way to do this by becoming 'keeper of the royal herd'. In the course of his duties, he faces an uncomfortable dilemma when he encounters a new enemy, one he is not anxious to destroy. It's a great script and Kody Chamberlain's illustrations infuse it with vitality. Arrows fly, swords flash and teeth shine with convincing fluidity. The stolid, dour herdsmen is captured perfectly, I'd love to see some more material concerning this character.
There are many other high quality pieces. 'The Gallows God' by Brian Holguin and Dave Kendall is the story of a remorseless highwayman who whilst fleeing from the authorities discovers its sometimes harder to avoid your fate than you might otherwise think. It ends poignantly in an ingenious set of panels that play with narrative logic skilfully, leaving the reader reeling by the final page. Holguin's script is obviously a great opportunity for artist Kendall to shine, each panel has an incredible amount of detail within it. The full page spread of the hanging tree is good enough that I would love to have a print of it on my wall. This is not something you can always say of comic art which, through pressures of time, is sometimes more functional than fantastic.
As a good contrast to the nihilism of 'The Gallows God' is 'Heinrich Manoeuvre's H.E.A.D. Trip!' by Chris Weston, which explores the oft-neglected opportunities to the tourist industry that multi-dimensional travel provides. It's a piece that's crazily inventive in its depiction of the various alternative worlds that serve as holiday destinations. There's some very attractive places out there. Tour guide Heinrich himself advises travellers, 'Who knows, we may even visit some where the Nazi's didn't win World War 2. That'll make a refreshing change, no?!'
Combining both the gloom of 'Gallows' and the comedy of 'Heinrich' is 'Chase Variant', possibly my favourite of the strips within the book. The art by Severio Tenuta reaches from the page in wonderfully gory glory. Writer Rich Johnston's tale of a biologically engineered assassin plays out at the same time as a trading card game which seems to be intrinsically linked with the action we are observing. The final two panels are worth the price of the collection alone!
As mentioned, supporting these strips are prose pieces. 'Machivarius Point: Avatar' has some interesting ideas, being the tale of a man who lives many lives, but always returns to his central identity. Whilst on these life excursions, he often finds himself losing touch with who he is. Although sometimes a little off as far as pacing is concerned, it's good enough to make me look forward to the further instalments that will inevitably follow.
To top this off, we have some stand-alone art such as Gary Erskine's 'Trip-Tick', which consists of, as the title suggests, three complimentary images. The pictures seem to be influenced by perceptions of 'pop' culture, an interesting artistic conversation to have within the pages of this book.
This is not an exhaustive examination of the good things to be found within 'Event Horizon'. It's a book that is permeated with invention and it's not afraid to take chances. I'm glad of this, as for every mild misfire there are three stark moments of wonder. This work is a violet meteorite hurtling through the atmosphere of the graphic novel, burning up pre-conceptions and creating a pathway for new growth. This is but the first entry in a planned series of books, so get ready for the impending shower.
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