Allen first appeared as a gatecrasher at Captain Dolphin's party. Now, like some sort of big comics company gimmick he's been given his own comic book by 'Ralphie Comix' with one of those new, hot artist types taking on the drawing chores. Not strictly true... The artist, that is... He's been around for a few years really. This is just the first time I've seen Martin Meeks take on a longer comic narrative and publish it!
Ralph Kidson's ironic, misanthropic, puerile (in a good way), and generally pithy sense of humour is as evident as ever in the scripting. These outcasts from the Alien's hive stumble through British life like there was nothing unusual about intergalactic super predators having interests outside the colony.
Ralph's sense of timing is one of his stronger points, and this is about the only weakness in translation between the script and Martin's finished pages. Martin's very much busier cartooning doesn't have the quite assurance Ralph's own cartooning whose simplicity of his style makes this comedic timing more apparent (and easier to appreciate). Even in stationary scenes Martin's vibrancy gives the impression of a loud, animated setting.
I like Martin's cartooning a great deal, as I also like Ralph's comics — it's just the idea of this comic works better than the actuality. Quibble, quibble, quibble... Yeah, well, it's still a damn good comic — so there!
Bad Animal review in the online ZUM!

Smoking single-mothers, tortoise's tongues lapping, house masonry, all put through the chunky Gane mixer and made tittersome. I wish Simon would do more long-shots because he's one of the few artists doing comics who can draw a chimney and make it a character in the story.
The Right-On Kids very funnily tell us how to make a fanzine. Vapid * heralds chuckles too, with nice gaps between the panels providing much-needed space for the eye ("God, reviewer," say the Right-On Kids , "you're so fuckin' mainstream... clarityz 4 loozerz"). And finally, Justice , a depiction of a death-row prisoner's last moments, delivered straight, with no 'meaningful' captions. It will be collected in anthologies of the future, when comics get the full cultural-retro treatment from a less benighted society.
Chris Butler
ARNIE COMIX #1 [24 A4 PAGES, GLOSSY COLOUR COVER AND INSIDE COVER PAGES] £1.50 (+P+P?) SLAB-O-CONCRETE, PO BOX 148, HOVE, BN3 3DQ. *Vapid also available as a contained mini-comic: see review ZUM!#9. Also see
Sap review this ZUM! & Arnie Comix #2 review in the online ZUM!

With Xeric Foundation funding Jessica Abel's Artbabe leaps into the more traditional American Comic Book format creating a comic which demands more attention from the general comic reading public (and hopefully wider still) than her previous (although wonderful, but admittedly thinner) photocopied editions could've attained. It should knock 'em dead!
Jessica is a creator with a confident air — she knows she's good and quietly gets on with it. Assured storytelling, interesting rounded characterisation, sound page layout and pacing, meticulous art that remains uncluttered, believable spatial depth, and the savvy to realise stretching yourself with a little experimentation can only make you a better artist.
So complete is her vision that it seems as if she wanders into her character's heads and appropriates essential moments that she commits to the page. Human level stories of love, trust and longing told with a sincere warmth and rare charm which comic creators like Adrian Tomine, I feel, have yet to master.
website , otherwise - try c/o Fantagraphics books.

I was raised on mainstream U.S. comics, so when I saw the professionally produced Asbestos with its anthological content of heroes/anti-heroes, I thought, "This looks interesting". Unfortunately the interest didn't last long.
Most of the strips were fairly well written, but they just did not work. They didn't feel like real strips at all, and instead came across as a mini-showcases from creators' portfolios. Some of the artists, (Carter, Charney, Humm , and the Ain't Life a Blast artist) are clearly closer to the pro-standard than others, so even as a showcase of new talent the comic falls short. The best, and only real attempt at a strip that would stand on its own is Steve Marchant's lovely little 2 pager. Drawn in a capable manner, this is the only non-action/adventure strip and it's a corker. More of this and less showing off of as yet underdevloped talent, and Asbestos might be on to something.
Nigel Lowrey
Do you remember those superhero/sci-fi comics of the early '80s? When a villain disagreed with someone he didn't say "no", he insisted shouting"NOOOO!" whilst gritting his teeth and striking a macho fist clenched pose. You don't remember? Well, take a look at Gallows in Asbestos and remind yourself. This, and a wide variety of other tired comic devices are on display in this eighties time capsule magazine.
Most of the stuff in Asbestos is technically accomplished and seems to be aimed at the commercial middle-ground once covered by such publications as Deadline. I'm sure that many of the people involved could easily find employment with Fleetway; good luck to them. However, this inclination towards creating work that can be easily assimilated into contemporary marketing schemes inevitably leads to comics that are in the main reactionary. Thus familiar, well-worn themes such as time-travel, Tank Girl clones and apocalyptic future wars (yawn!) are endlessly recycled in various disguises.
I was particularly (and probably quite irrationally) wound up by Gallows ; a sci-fi Western by Terry Humm, because I have a special fondness for the comics Western and once again I was reminded that nobody will take a risk on a straight Western story... There always has to be some crap about time-travel or Lovecraftian monsters inside the Earth (remember how they ruined Jonah Hex not once, but twice?). Gallows has all of the old cobblers you'd expect.
A few bits stand out ...mainly because they are not designed to fit the 2000AD formula... Meat Mouth by Luella Jane Wright* is a starkly executed tale of comic cannibalism... Mark Stafford & Locke's one pager Bachelor Gourmet Masterclass has a sad ring of truth... Ain't Life a Blast** is of interest in that it manages to combine Lesbianism, guns, cocaine and broken fingers yet still ultimately emerges sugary, twee and frothily escapist.
Vic Pratt
ASBESTOS [#1 48, #2 60 A4 PAGES, GLOSSY STOCK COVER. #1 HAS FREE BADGES, #2 HAS FREE FORTUNE TELLING FISH] £2×50 EACH PAYABLE TO LONDON CARTOON CENTRE. This address is probably out of date. Try: c/o The Cartoon Art Trust, 7 The Brunswick Centre, Bernard St, London, WC1N but if you have any information please mail
ZUM! *See Mitten Brain review. **See Ain't Life a Blast review ZUM!#9.

"Cool comics by Carrie and Sarah" — except this is an all-Carrie issue. Carrie can draw expressively, making collisions of askew lines and curves somehow look like perfect faces — like a loser Megan Kelso. Trouble is, too often it's all she draws, and lots of to-camera panels on black backgrounds can get repetitive. There's also no prizes for guessing which of the duo described above Carrie is; all she does is whine! And all the familiar small press subjects at that: no job, no sex life, no direction, little audience interest.
There are moments when she breaks out of that however. There's a couple of one-pagers which are more lyrical and oblique. But my favourite is the longest strip; a warning on the perils of attending Black Flag gigs in an Adam Ant t-shirts ("Black Flag kills ants on contact, okay?"). Here Carrie comes through with just enough background — proving how little detail we really need to set the scene.
Without getting too 'Journal' about this strip, she's stuck in the queue between two nerdy teenagers desperate for cool and a deadpan older lady absently scratching off her face/personality. Reads to me like they stand for her being stuck between youth and age. (Am I close Carrie?) I'm also well in favour of this development in small press vocabulary where a 'Green Day' t-shirt automatically means the character's a nerd.
Carrie seems poised to step out of small press clichédom, but too unsure of herself to take the plunge. But as her strips show her unsure about getting out of bed in the morning, maybe that's not so surprising! (Slackers, bloody slackers!)
Gavin Burrows

Assassin & The Whiner reviews in digital ZUM!

Astonishing beer stories is its own worst enemy. When I first saw these comics, all I saw was page after page of incredibly samey artwork with piles of dense dialogue that I didn't really want to have to wade through. Having forced myself to sit down and read it, I was pleasantly surprised.
To be honest, the main plot of the story isn't that great; an eccentric professor, (another one? A distant cousin of Sleaze Castle's Nodal Heaps?) screws up with his time machine and sends 'lad about town' Jim Zero into the past to meet Robin Hood. Jim is pretty much a cypher (at least in issue #4) and drifts through the story, but where Nigel Sambell's script scores is in the scenes of Jim's friends, back at the pub waiting for him. These characters, as apposed to the professor, talk like real people and come across as interesting folk in themselves. The story, tho' not particularly Earth-shattering, breezes along nicely, but the art destroys all the good work done by the words. It's not that Nigel is a bad artist by any means, he has the beginnings of a unique and appealing style, but the line is of exactly the same depth so there's no distinction between anything, and he obviously hates doing backgrounds 'cos there aren't any! I don't know what pen he's using but he needs to change it — rapidly. Page after page of this flat style, dull to the eye works to the detriment of the story.
Things do improve in issue #5, as Jim explodes, dies and is reborn as a new planet (!). The photocopied backgrounds of the universe work really well, and break up the book nicely. Also, here the story moves on and becomes a better mixture of the cosmic and prosaic that I think Nigel is aiming for and the comic's title implies. In the best and most successful sequence Alfie, a friend of Jim's also appears as a planet, with no knowledge of how he got that way. Very Douglas Adams!
I'm coming down pretty hard on Astonishing Beer Stories but IT'S FOR YOUR OWN GOOD! It's never going to be great, but it can be better. There's no excuse for not trying.
Pete Doreé
ASTONISHING BEER STORIES [#4 26, #5 28 A4 PAGES] £1 EACH. N. SAMBELLS , FULL MONTY SMALL PRESS, 47 UPPER GREEN ST, HIGH WYCOMBE, BUCKS, HP11 2RB. Also see review of Astonishing Beer Stories #7 in digital ZUM!

Recreational drugs, 2000AD and art colleges have much to answer for. Not because any of them are intrinsically bad, but because they encourage the production of tired, self-indulgent, cliché-ridden comics like Blags.
I was not heartened by the blotchy cover without, or the spidery mass of lines within. But a 53 page epic lead story ought to have something — oughtn't it? So I plunged in. Unfortunately, by page eight I had lost interest in the trivial convolutions of You Blaggard featuring The Fabulous Blag Brothers, by Chris Mendham and Richard Starzecki.
For a start, it strikes me that "fabulous" is the last adjective on Earth that should be used to describe the Blag Brothers. Fabulous they are not. Fatuous, or Flatulent possibly. But not fabulous. I an afraid I was not charmed by their neo-2000AD big boots design, or their tiresome and contrived penchant for British Empire spiffing-speak which seemed awkwardly inserted in place of characterisation.
Nor was I exhilarated by the confusing and wasteful page design, wherein a wasteland of white is divided up into muddled spindly compositions drawn with virtually no variance in line density or shading, as page after page of pointlessly huge pictures drag the story to its distant close. The drawing's okay, but I tired of trying to decode the over-stylised self-indulgence of the images.
The story? I can't tell you much about that, basically because there's no way of telling exactly what's going on as the drawings and narrative grow more frenzied and incoherent. Plus it's hard to care about the flat 'characters' or what happens to them... Particularly as it seems all they do is run about in endless chases with traditional super-villain types punctuated by tedious drug allegories, such as references to "special brew" tea.
Apparently, as it is revealed inside the back cover, there is an animated film version of Blags, from which a still is reproduced... The models look really good, and the photograph is well composed... Let's hope the film bears little resemblance to the comic strip.
Vic Pratt
BLAGS  [76 A4 PAGES]  £2.  RICHARD STARZECKI, 34c MUSWELL RD, MUSWELL HILL, LONDON, N10 2BG. The address ZUM! has Richard may well be out of date - any information please mail ZUM!

Stories revolving around a group of essentially middle class, young white adults in New York. They've got their lives ahead of them, ideals they want to fulfil, and we walk into Alex Robinson's construct for a while to share these hopes. Of course you'll identify with the characters all the more if you yourself are an aspiring cartoonist or writer as these are the main traits that Alex has chosen for his characters. The enclosed world of the small press scene will identify and love it all the more, but will it do the same for a wider audience...?
These considerations aside, Alex spins a rather intriguing little web concentrating mainly on two characters this issue: Sherman is chasing love — he's completely besotted by a woman but doesn't even know her name, and Ed is on the verge of having his comic magnum opus printed by a big shot publisher. How ever grand life looks there are hints that their pursuits may be all for nought. In both cases this is initially nice and subtle keeping you intrigued, but in the case of Ed, Alex spoils it rather by not being able to resist a bit of explicit exposition.
Alex himself is a pretty good cartoonist. He depicts events in a style that although has edges of slight stiffness and uncertainty manages to detail events in an easy clear manner. He's not afraid to stretch himself in the way he portrays events, playing up to a strength in a real deft touch with body language, that gives the whole comic a deeper level of human involvement.

Quite simply, one of the best small-press comics I've come across in a good while, kind of a cross between Liliane and Sleaze Castle, with a dash of Kyle Baker for added pep. Despite arriving midway through a storyline, I quickly felt I knew the characters and became absorbed in the storyline: book store assistant Sherman falls for his flatmates' ex-flatmate, not knowing she used to be the 'flatmate from hell'. Meanwhile, his best friend Ed gets a job as 'assistant' to a cantankerous old cartoonist who regards Will Eisner as a 'schmuk'.
It's hilarious, poignant, well-observed stuff. Well drawn, too — if a little too reliant on Rotoring-pen inking for my tastes. But, minor quibble aside, I can't recommend this highly enough if you enjoy witty, soap-style comics. Well worth the hassle of sending money abroad. Hmmm... perhaps someone should flash the 'Slab Signal' across the night sky above Hove*...?
Steve Marchant
BOX OFFICE POISON  [EACH 22x14cm PAGES, COLOUR STOCK COVER]  $2 + $1 P+P EACH.  ALEX ROBINSON, 72×17 65TH PL, APT 3-L, QUEENS, NEW YORK, NY 11385, USA. *Mooncat: Yes, this comic certainly was obtainable through Slab-O-Concrete Distro, but check on current availability. Also theres the Box Office Poison website.

The main story in here, (there are 3 shorter strips involving a starving artist, belugas in a salt lake and a video game, but I won't go into them here) starts with Andy's desperate attempts to make a few bucks whilst running a caricature booth at the near deserted Mojave Fairshow. Fortunately, (or so he thinks) he is rescued from this drudgery by a passing paraplegic athlete — Brick Holmes, who persuades him to come and work for his children's charity. Soon though, Andy gets thoroughly entangled in Brick's amazing world of self-delusion.
This story is based on a truth, (you can tell because it says "A fact based drama" on the first page) and surprisingly enough, Hartzell sees a lot of humour in the ridiculous situations that he gets into. Unusually for this sort of comic he only goes into self-analysis mode once, where he questions his motives for getting involved with Brick Holmes. Heartzell's art is of the 'cartoony and expressive' school, and easily serves it's purpose (telling the story) without being showy.
Bread & Circuses is a neat package, and this reviewer recommends it — especially for those (like me, for example) who are annoyed by holier-than-thou selfless types.
Matthew Lawrenson
BREAD & CIRCUSES #1  [28 26x17cm PAGES, FULL COLOUR GLOSSY COVER]  $2×50 (+$1 P+P?).  ANDY HEARTZELL, MOE PRESS, 6130 W. FLAMINGO #312, LAS VAGAS, NV 89103, USA. The address ZUM! has Andy may well be out of date - any information please mail ZUM!

An accountant living in the kind of near-future world — where Big Brother is watching and faceless bureaucrats run everything — gets a phone call that leads him to inquire into the murder of a relative. As his investigation deepens his life descends into an abyss of paranoia and despair which.... Do I really need to go on? You already know the plot, it's exactly the same as every other post-Orwellian nightmare story you've ever read and has been done to death, resurrected, and done to death again. Rik Hoskin is an able writer but this is weary stuff. The artwork from the ubiquitous Nigel Lowrey is a bit sloppy in places, perhaps proving that an even arguably the most prolific artist in the small press needs to slow down now and again. Unless you've been living on Mars you'll already have read too many stories like this and I can't see why you'd want to read another.
Andy Brewer
BROKEN JEFFREY  [44 A5 PAGES, COLOUR CARD STOCK COVER]  £1×50 (+P+P?)  PETER ASHTON. Try Bugpowder website or mailing Pete.

Pig Boy sits around with his mates playing computer games, watching junk on TV and generally slacking. Bunny Girl discusses the shortcomings of men with her friends and wishes Pig Boy would be more considerate, but loves him anyway.
Anthropomorphism occurs in comics in varied forms. Sometimes it's used just because talking animals are funny (Tiger Tim, The Three Bears etc.) or cute (most Disney comics). Then there's a more serious kind in which animals behave like humans — Barks' Donald Duck is the most well known example. And there's Maus, in which it seems to be used mainly to distance the reader from the horrors of the story.
Auchterlounie's work seems to be getting at something different — a humorous look at mankind considered as animals. His investigations of this angle range from the intense seriousness of The Maddening Rain* (in which the animal side of humans is viewed as something dark and frightening) to the whimsicality of Simon Cat**, to the cheerful, unstressed observations of Bunny Girl and Pig Boy. The point here is that people are animals and behave like them — the dialogue is everyday domestic stuff and, although plenty of jokes about the behaviour of the animals depicted are thrown in, only half a dozen words need altering if the drawings were of humans.
As always I'm impressed by the skill with which Auchterlounie combines intelligent scripts and simple, finely observed cartooning to create strips which seem superficial but linger in the memory long after they're read. More, please.
Mike Kidson
BUNNY GIRL & PIG BOY  [24 A5 PAGES]  £1 + 2x2nd CLASS STAMPS + A5 SAE.  NIGEL AUCHTERLOUNIE, Hmmmm... yet again the address ZUM! has Nigel may is most certainly out of date - any information please mail ZUM!. *See Inspector Trap Part 2 review. **Available from Slab-O-Concrete as part of their Microzine Monthly mini-comic series.
Simon the Cat comic online.

Strange thing about reviewing. You have a nice Marks & Spencer's sandwich and a can of Coke, and you feel alright: the review's going to be okay. You have a hangover, and the world is your enemy: the review is going to stink like a billy-goat.
BTC is cheap and cheerful, and mixes Viz/Zit-style humour with observational stories. These latter mostly concern the autobiographical musings of a 35-year old punk, and his problems with approaching middle-age, and in particular, the onset of domesticity. The one about him standing at a bus-stop and being quizzed mercilessly about his age by a bevy of precocious teenagers is actually rather spiffing, and demonstrates a good ear for the way 'real' people talk. However, the stories about his new-born baby are inconsequential and, unsurprisingly, self indulgent: too often they go for charm and end with smarm. Apart from these, the filler strips are jokey and not terribly funny, relying on dodgy 'boom! boom!' final panel punchlines.
But it's the artwork that's the real drawback. It's basically, well, ...ugly. There are occasionally some accurately-captured facial expressions, and the changes in perspective certainly demonstrates a decent grasp of the (Scott McCloud) basics. But the drawing style is too in-yer-face, too angular, and in the end too amateurish, to sustain interest in the already under-edited narrative. Hmm... Well, I did have a few pints last night...
Roger Sabin
BUY THIS COMIC  [18 A4 PAGES, SIDE STAPLED]  50p (+P+P?).  MATT DYER, 106 VICTORIA RD, LONDON, N22 4XF. The address ZUM! has Matt is potentially out of date - any information please mail ZUM!

Coaf!? What's that!? It sounds more like the wheezing hack of an aristocrat! ...In reality it stands for Comic Artists of the Future. Surely they could've come up with a more inspiring name than 'Cough' — it's more like an apology than a name*.
With the "of the Future" declaration you have a fair idea that the artists within have mainstream pretentions. The one most likely, at this point to transpose is Ash — Who, lamentably, does a very good rendition of the pitiful strips that appear in the down-market pretenders to Viz. He's a pretty good imitator of the old Brit style of comics. The only thing I can suggest to improve the art would be to add some areas of black to nail down the page. Ash gives the impression that he finds this sort of cartooning breezily easy, but there's a contemptible lack of imagination and total lack of wit in the script. It's puerile, but it's tedious and unfunny. To quote: "To be continued .....ARRGH!?" (Do you get the feeling I don't actually like this strip.) In a desperate attempt to be positive; there is an interesting character within this crap strip — a depressed decapitated head that gets kicked around bounces about the page. A potential candidate for humour and pathos, but it would possibly suffer from comparison to Chris Ware's Sparky the Cat.
Of the other artists...
The one on the prequel/taster strip "that is as yet untitled" Chatri, has an assured delicacy that with a bit more flair (through more stretching work) could graduate into a British mainstream comic like 2000AD or its younger audience targeted Judge Dredd comic (assuming that it's still being published). It reminded me of the an artist I can only remember as Loach (rhymes with roach) who's work I loathe; a real candidate for swiping his figure drawing from soft porn mags.
Paul Eldridge's Rubbernorc has a swagger that's vaguely entertaining. However, it very much reminds me of something that I can't quite put my finger on. He seems to have a pretty good feel for portraying a rounded 3D world, but that's let down by slack, anatomy, perspective and insecure uncertain inking. The lettering is very readable, but a little shouty.
Chris Stockton's Hyperman is a superhero, mecha-suits and a relentless superbaddy mélange all delivered with a pleasant tongue-in-cheek savvy. There's a confidence in the art — and rightly so — competent stuff; if a little derived from other comic artists and not from a basis in reality. But, hey! This is cartooning, right? But, hey! there's no substitute for a grounding in reality! The real weakness here is the of pacing and choreography of action sequences which are too crammed. There's a claustrophobic urgency to get the job done, where just a little more thought and space for events on each page would create a more satisfying result. Shane Chebsey inks most of the strip and has a flow that reads faster than Stockton's own rendering. He seems to be using a fairly brutal nib (Post Office?). Perhaps he would find some finer, more flexible specialist nibs more satisfying**. Wobbly lettering on this one: use a lettering grid — and do it first.
Ian Drayton's work on his Apex strip shows a naive approach which has some interesting qualities. It's a cartoony approach trying to depict realism. I don't know what he's aspiring to so I'm loath to be picky as although it's clumsy I kinda like it.
Hunters and Killers is by Nick who is head and shoulders above his fellow contributors. The art is scratchy and covered in splatter ink — something that usually creates an incoherent mess, but Nick is in control of his approach deftly using these elements to create clear movement and rounded shading. Clever bugger! A unique technique that I can't see the UK's indigenous mainstream being daring enough to employ — more's the loss to them and their readers. If this is proved, I hope Nick doesn't become discouraged, as his work is interesting in art and story. Maybe he will be able to find a market where he can have control of both ingredients (Hah-haa! Join us suckers in the non-profit small press!).
I've waffled on endlessly, but each artist within this comic shows the promise that concentrated development should reward. I wish them luck with their aspirations — if it be the comics industry they'll need it!
CAOF #6  [40 A4 PAGES, COLOUR STOCK COVER]  £1 (+P+P?). SHANE CHEBSEY, 10 CLEAVELAND AVE, HIGH ERCALL, TELFORD, SHROPSHIRE, TF6 6AH. *This kind of self deprecating English approach was used on the ill fated newsstand comic Pssst! Remember that one? **The best place to buy nibs is from Mr. Poole who has a concession in Cornellison, Gt Russel St, London. Apologies to the aspiring inker but I can't remember names of particularly recommended nibs — try writing to a few of your favourite inkers to find their preferance.

Chain Mesh is kind of a comic relay race, loosely linking some of our top creators:
Laugh! As Vasectomy Man's stitches burst, as painfully seen by Steve Martin.
Marvel! At Sean Eckett's fantastic art. Lucifer never looked so loverley.
Puke! As Captain Shit-For-Brains gets his face fried thanks to Luke Walsh.
Forget! Plot, it doesn't matter. Okay there's a bit about the devil — a sort of Hugh Hefner type down on his luck drawn in fine faded dandy style by Jonathan Edwards. Then there's a brief interlude for the Caption Convention jam page (Pigs, eyeballs, aliens) before the super-heroes kick in. This section confirms what I always suspected — get a super-hero in the groin and he's powerless.
So what do you get for your dosh? The Prince of Darkness, pathetic muscled heroes, and a roll call of artists that includes Mooncat, Chris Hogg, Alex Mason, Rich Holden, Gavin Butler, Pete Doreé, Andy Roberts and Bernado Moldanado.
Oh yeah and a dick joke as a climax.
Not bad, not bad at all.
Carol Swain

If you order this large anthology through the post, expect to hear a very satisfying thud when it hits the doormat. Comic Express is a substantial tome, a thick slab of comic, A2 folded, which makes it as big as a tabloid newspaper. Quite something in the age of US sized comics and puny A5 comics.
Comic Express is the showcase publication of the Liverpool Cartoon Workshop — founded by Ian Hering, who sadly died back in March. As ever with comics produced by cartoon workshops, it is a real mixed bag. However it is in the nature of such classes, that the talents involved are going to be  untried and raw, so to expect a high a high standard of quality work at this stage would be to miss the point. Still, despite the range of abilities on display (or possibly because of it) Comics Express is a very enjoyable read. The mag is like a big firework display, shooting off in all directions at once. The artists here are full of energy and enthusiasm for the cartooning medium, and their work is fresh, if sometimes crude. I can't trawl through the entire comic and review everything therein, but here are a few things that caught my eye, both good and bad:
Shroom by Mark Allen, will be familiar to you if you've ever read Inkling. The post-modern, post-holocaust musings of Mark's mushroom-headed hero are crisply and clearly drawn, but manage to leave me a bit non-plussed. I'm not quite sure what the strip is about , and I suspect Mark isn't sure either.
Skunkman by John Bishop, is as you might expect, a superhero spoof. The world isn't exactly short on superhero parodies, and John's artwork is not quite as focused as it should be (yet), but strip wins you over anyway by being actually funny.
Hello I love You by Richard Woods. There's a nice balance of shade and light in this professional looking strip, which puts me in mind of Ian Gibson. Good likeness of Bill Clinton too. Shame the story is one of the oldest chestnuts in SF fiction.
Missing Link by David Gough. Not much of a story here. In fact there's barely a story at all. However, we do get a glimpse of a very strange world and it's superbly drawn. I'd love to see this idea expanded on.
Lomax — script by Rick, art by Stephen Brotherstone. A 3 page fragment of a much larger work. There's not enough here for me to comment on the storyline, but the artwork is excellent. Very clean and tight, reminiscent of Adam Hughes. Like Hughes, Stephen Brotherstone can draw attractive women very well, and as the comics industry caters mostly for male adolescent needs, this means Brotherstone has, most likely, got a big career ahead of him. Good for him.
Virus by Gary Dormer. A manga style strip, so poorly drawn that the reader has to work hard to make out what's happening. However Gary's good at perspective, drawing buildings and computer consoles. What he's bad at is the human figure and page layout. Despite these flaws, I still rather liked his strip, and look forward to seeing how he develops.
As well as the other strips besides the ones mentioned above, Comic Express has a section which features short gag strips and one panel gags. This section is much less successful than the comic strip side of the mag. A lot of the gags have clearly been done as class exercises, and as such have a forced quality about them. Some do shine through though: my favourite in this section is Maureen Meets Bob by Kapricorn, a strip about social embarrassment that had me both cringing and laughing. It's crudely drawn but the style suits it.
Comic Express has one further thing: and uncannily accurate pastiche of a Frank Bellamy strip, called Full Fathom Five. This is by Bill Naylor, who I suspect is the 'Bill' named as course tutor and editor of Comics Express. The magazine is worth getting for this strip alone.
Darryl Cunningham



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