Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: Frazer Irving
As painter-turned-ratcatcher Albert Oliphant journeys into the (literal) bowels of the leviathan that swallowed a community, the town of Gutsville itself feels the first stirrings of revolution, and Albert's childhood sweetheart finds herself stalked by the aforementioned revolutionaries.
There is a lot going on in this comic, which makes for a dense and entertaining read, and is nice to see in an industry apparently dominated by simplistic stories with pretensions of grandeur. The density of the plotting also goes a long way to selling the fantastic setting, by suggesting a bizarre environment that nonetheless displays all the complexity of a real community. All that said, it does seem that with so many plots all jostling for space, there isn't much room for actual plot progression, and the ongoing storylines don't seem to have developed much since the previous issue. This isn't helped by the shocking cliffhanger of the first issue apparently being casually discarded this time around, although I'm going to give Spurrier the benefit of the doubt on that.
Despite all of Spurrier's hard work in constructing both a setting and a series of engaging characters and plots, the star of the Gutsville show has to be artist Frazer Irving. His characters are expressive, his storytelling is flawless, and he generally does a wonderful job of conveying the strange and twisted fairy tale world Spurrier has created. The eerie, almost neon, colouring is part of this, giving a vivid sense of unnatural surroundings and odd lighting. Irving takes this approach even further in another striking Dreamtime sequence that, characteristically of this series, is at once a bit of flashy art, necessary exposition and a neat solution to a particular character's obstacle.
I'm concerned that Gutsville will, in the end, be nothing more than an intricate setting dressed up with gorgeous art, as the actual story seems to already be playing catch-up. I hope I'm wrong, as so much hard work has clearly been put into this title that it would be incredibly disappointing if there turned out to be no real substance behind it. Gutsville is a good comic poised upon the verge of greatness, if only the pacing can be given a bit of a jolt.
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