Current Reviews


Gutsville #1 (of 6)

Posted: Monday, May 28, 2007
By: Matthew McLean

Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: Frazier Irving

Publisher: Image Comics

Gutsville is a disturbing and fascinating little book. It isnít for the weak of stomach, however. While Spurrier and Irving do not, at any point, rely on grossing the reader out as a means of shock, they do introduce a number of ideas that can make your skin crawl. The story, as introduced by the inside cover, is that 150 years ago a group of prisoners headed from England to the penal colony of Australia, were swallowed by a leviathan. Improbably, they survive and manage to build a small society, charmingly named Gutsville.

The lives of the survivors are of constant struggle as they contend with the unique ecology that has developed in the belly of the gigantic beast. In response to this, the society that has formed over the past century is a totalitarian one, tightly controlled, in which the Puritan-like religion is used as a hammer to justify executing anyone that steps out of line. These folk look to Jonah, swallowed by the whale before them, as their biblical guide, believing that if they purify themselves, they will be released from their gastrological prison.

What makes all of this so interesting is that the team behind Gutsville has created microcosms of both ecology and society. The nature that surrounds them and their lives within the beast are very different than our own. The society, having been isolated for the last 150 years, without the events or worldly influences dry societies have experienced, is a creepy reflection of mid-18th century English society. In addition to what readers see throughout the book, the back few pages are dedicated to listing the oddities that these folks encounter on a daily basis. It makes for an interesting and strangely fun combination.

There are a number of things that unfold within this first issue that promise to make the plot of Gutsville equally interesting. There is a serial killer on the loose, cryptically called the NoSunMan, which may very well not be a man at all. His latest victim was the town ratcatcher, an important role considering the need for both meat and pest control in Gutsville. This means that his role passes to his son, who is more interested in becoming an artist than working with traps. There are also romantic complications, as well as a growing dissension group that is tired of the inequality and arbitrary justice of the current government.

The most interesting of these, though, is that the English were not the only ones that have been swallowed by the leviathan. There is a smaller society of Australian aboriginals that has been co-opted by the English. These folk have managed to keep their own values and traditions, as well as magic. Most enticing of all, though, is that after 150 years new arrivals may finally be coming to Gutsville.

The story is detailed, well thought out, and very weird. If you are looking for something out of the ordinary, pick up Gutsville.

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