Thursday, 29 March 2012

New Beginnings - New Deadwardians #1 & Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child #1

DC’s imprint Vertigo is certainly embracing the supernatural. This week and last week have seen two new arrivals onto the shelves with a common theme of the undead and their surrounding “lives”.

New Deadwardians is the new eight-part title from Dan Abnett (who is without his normal comics partner in crime Andy Lanning) and has relative newcomer INJ Culbard providing the artwork for this title.

The story is a strange one as our main character, Chief Inspector George Suttle, is the only police officer assigned to investigating murders. Unfortunately for him this is in a time - the Deadwardian Age - where it is hard enough to die let alone be murdered. The upper classes have voluntarily become vampires with the great unclean becoming exactly that – zombies.

The majority of the comic is set up to introduce this new world and loosely how it has come about. It’s also to introduce Suttle fully and how his position in society sits. Society is a key thing with this story too - sat in between the vampires and zombies are normal humans. A lot of time is spent in the dialogue to show this; a lot of accent is displayed through the use of common spelling and the almost cockney twang to it all. It’s cleverly done and will get the reader into the whole feel of it whilst also adding to the class divide, but I didn’t find it completely enthralling. The story only really picked up for me towards the end when the mystery of how do you kill a dead person without using the only known methods was posed.

Culbard’s artwork really didn’t inspire me either. It came across as basic and far too clean for the age that the comic was set in. A time full of grime and soot yet not a single spec of dirt was to be seen. It has a very muted tone to the colours which does seem to fit but that only fed the pedestrian pace further for me.

I loved the concept of this comic but the production just hasn’t hit it for me. (Whereas I loved it! A great start to an intriguing new comic, BF)

Created in a more contemporary time, and set in New Orleans, Dominique Laveau has a similar supernatural theme to it. However whereas in New Deadwardians Suttle had a firm grip on who he was, what his life revolved around and where he fit in the world, Laveau has none of this.

The whole comic is set in Treme in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The whole area is struggling to recover and survive, which is exactly where this begins with a werewolf attack on the residents. Fighting for her life and backed into a corner something strange happens saving her life. The search for answers is then the only avenue she can go down as she needs something to ground herself once more. In all of the action she hasn’t realised the shadowy figure watching in from the background.

Further development of the story shows how underneath the city lies a long standing religions and beliefs which have fought and changed over time. Some rising, some falling but all of them still being followed to differing levels. Completely unbeknownst to Dominique, she falls into the lap of her ancestors and the potential and power that is also entwined with it. As it slowly dawns on her what might have happened, as she still cannot quite believe it, the full scope of it all comes to light. Alongside the mysticism comes a darker, riskier side. If she felt that her evening earlier was bad, well the comic ends in a more sinister situation.

Selwyn Seyfu Hinds is a strange choice for me. I’ve couldn't find any previous comic work or indeed any fiction at all but that’s not a bad thing. Fresh blood so to speak. The story is punchy and very fast paced. In fact it rarely slows down which made for a very quick read for me. Even the “quiet” moments in the comic have an undertone to them which makes you read them and look around the whole page as you don’t want to miss out on any details. Careful planning has gone into how each of the characters act and interact with distinct personalities coming through. What’s also nice is that the characterisations can subtlety change even in this single issue as our heroine starts to piece things together. A nice touch.

The artwork is by Denys Cowan who has worked on Detective Comics in the past - in fact his depiction of Henri Ducard was then taken and revised to create Liam Neeson's character in Batman Begins. The dark setting and broken imagery that Cowan creates works incredibly well and supports the writing well. It can become a little too detailed in some frames and detracts away occasionally but on the bigger pieces I found that it gave you enough and kept up with the fast story.

The two elements worked well together and made for an enjoyable, albeit rapid, issue. It didn’t really expand on all of the elements but gave enough information to dangle some hooks for you to snap up. Of the two comics this was the one that grabbed me most this week. For a different take on an era combined with mystery then New Deadwardians would be worth a look at but for pace and excitement check out Dominique Laveau: Voodoo Child.

Matt Puddy can see this year's Marvel summer event looming on the horizon

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