New British Comics #3

A comic review article by: Kelvin Green

You can find out more about New British Comics at newbritishcomics.blogspot.com.

As anyone who's read my previous reviews -- all two of you -- will know, I maintain a keen interest in the British small press scene, but I never imagined that the people of Poland might share that interest. I suppose it's not that much of a surprise; since 2004, the number of people of Polish origin living in Britain has grown to between 500,000 and a million -- depending on the source of the estimate -- and little bits and pieces of Polish culture have crept into British life over the years. I have a number of Polish friends, colleagues and acquaintances myself, and one friend went the other way and is living in Krakow, foisting our bastardized language on the locals.

New British Comics editor Karol Wisniewski thinks that the British scene is vibrant and interesting enough to show off to the world, and so has put together this anthology to prove it. It's published in both English and Polish, although the contributors are all British; it's something of a shame that there are no Polish artists or writers included, but I suppose that would be missing the point.

The anthology reminds me a lot of Kazu Kibuishi's Flight in terms of the variety of the included strips, which range from one-page gags through to longer satirical jabs at modern British culture, with the odd twist-in-the-tail horror story and more arty piece thrown into the mix too.

There isn't a bad piece of work in here, although I do have my favorites. Saxonophist Charlie Parker's hitherto-unrecorded time as a handyman provides ample opportunity for comedy from writer Paul O'Connell, and the crisp linework and effortless storytelling of Lawrence Elwick is beautiful. David Ziggy Greene's artwork has less precision to it, but its wilder, almost Gary Larsonesque look is no less pleasant to behold, and his story of the -- one would hope imaginary -- dangers of alternative medicine is a fun little horror tale. I'd be lying if I said I understood Craig Collins and Iain Laurie's surreal and manic "The Quiet Burden", but it's no less effective for that, in no small part because of the stark, dramatic art style. Dan White's "Cindy & Biscuit Save The World (again)" is another highlight, with its own clever complexities, contrasted well with the bold, cartoony artwork.

Like all anthologies, New British Comics has its weaknesses, but on the whole it's a strong collection. I mentioned earlier how it reminds me of Flight, and the two anthologies also share a great sense of enthusiasm; the contributors' love for the medium is evident on every page, which is just about perfect if the stated objective of your comic is to show off how cool, fun and vibrant British comics culture can be.

 


 

Kelvin Green erupted fully formed from the grey shapeless mass of Ubbo Sathla in the dark days before humans walked the earth. He grew up on Judge Dredd, Transformers, Indiana Jones #12, The Avengers and Spider-Man, and thinks comics don't get much better than FLCL, Nextwave and Rocket Raccoon. Kelvin lives among garbage and seagulls and doesn't hate Marvel nearly as much as you all think he does.

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