Something For The Weekend...Stranger Kisses

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With Ellis's newest plot-meister book, Strange Killings, underway, I felt the need to revisit Stranger Kisses, a more normal followup to Strange Kiss - you know the one, it had men giving birth to lizards and other family entertainment.

Stranger Kisses is more normal in that it deals (on the surface at least) with a much more down-to-earth scenario - William Gravel, the British secret service chap from the first book, is employed as a bodyguard by a prominent politician, to safeguard his life whilst he engages in a publicity-boosting bust of a snuff movie cartel.

Of course, this being Warren Ellis, it all goes to hell rather rapidly, and the real situation behind the snuff movies and some of the violence is quite nasty indeed. Artist Mike Wolfer is to be praised for stretching his imagination and showing the full effects of the violence - maybe exaggerated a little for effect, but he shys away from nothing.

Furthermore, the functional artwork of Mike Wolfer is enriched tremendously by the tones of Dan Parsons which give it an unusual feeling of solidity and reality that you won’t find in most other comics. In short, Stranger Kisses looks fantastic.

As for William Gravel, is it me or is he essentially John Constantine with guns? Think about it, after all William Gravel is a trench coat wearing, smart-ass, dry, sarcastic, caustic, English magician and John Constantine is…uhh…see what I mean?

In addition, both seem to get mixed up in intensely horrific and macabre businesses, which, of course make up the respective plotlines of both the series and they even talk the same (“Be my guest, squire” in SK issue 1 is pure unadulterated Constantine, and there are numerous examples where that came from). They even look similar.

The main difference is that Gravel is not adverse to firearms and that the stops which bind Hellblazer have been well and truly pulled out for Stranger Kisses: upon reading it rather rapidly becomes quite clear that there has been no attempt in the least to account for taste. This is Hellblazer without Vertigo’s censorship, and although it lacks subtlety it makes up for it in dark raw-edged, stomach-turning horror. Its far from being bedtime reading and those people that get offended and write lots of letters should definitely veer away from this and go back to their tame superhero comics.

Stranger Kisses is ultimately far better in execution than Strange Kiss, it maintains a steady rhythm and pace and it develops the situation nicely, looks better and reads better. That isn’t to say Strange Kiss isn’t good, because it is – it’s just that this is a progression from it.

This is pure unadulterated sickness from a master of the world of the strange, but it's also clever, well-constructed, engaging, elegantly crafted and a fantastic read and I recommend it to adults wishing to read something less watered down than the average comic.

Stranger Kisses plus much more is published by Avatar Press, and are available at your local comic shop, on back order if not on the shelves. Check out their website at http://www.avatarpress.com/ for more information.

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