Lifetime reader of comics and fan of Planet of the Apes. When the two combine I can barely contain myself. Image, Boom and Titan comics fight for shelf space with Doctor Who DVDs.
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Digital comic, Aces Weekly, has been building up volumes since 2012. Our Darryll Robson takes a look at the most recent volume and some of the comic strips featured in it.
Each volume of Aces Weekly, the digital anthology founded in 2012 by David Lloyd and Bambos Georgiou, is released in seven weekly parts. Each part contains sections from six separate stories. This means that you can sample a little bit of each comic every week or store them up for a binge read seven weeks down the line.
Volume 21 has just finished and contains a host of sci-fi, dramas and comedies. Among them are:
‘Why Don’t You Love Me?’ by P. Rainey
A surprisingly deep and moving story unfolds throughout Rainey’s comic strip. A simple black and white art style introduces the reader to a typical family with all its quirky humours. But underneath there is a sadness that pulls at the fabric of their relationships.
Rainey starts the narrative off from a very safe place, full of humour and instantly recognisable family situations; who hasn’t got the name of their child wrong or forgotten their log-in passwords? But as the weeks progress the melancholy at the heart of the family begins to take over and Rainey tugs at the readers heart strings. He plays it close to his chest, eking out clues so that there is a gradual decent from the happy family life into a darker, sadder place.
The twist at the end makes the comic stand out, especially in this format because the reader is lulled into a false sense of security, believing that the tone would be constant. But it isn’t and the final page of the final week is a true tear jerker.
‘The Gentlemen Ghouls in Leper Messiah’ by Matin Hayes, Alfie Gallagher and Bram Meehan
In a small club, David Bowie and his band entertain a crowd of hip 70’s kids but one among them poses a threat to audience members and is more than meets the eye. And so starts another investigation into the supernatural for the local police force and the Gentlemen of the title. Gothic styles and 70’s glam are mingled together in this often comedic tale which is made up of brilliant layouts and intricately designed settings. A sense of history is important to the creators and the style at times carries the story but when the art is this engaging any dips in script are easily over looked.
Leper Messiah runs through all seven weeks of Volume 21 and has twists and turns aplenty. But this is just the beginning and the story will, thankfully, continue in future issues. Imagine Life on Mars meeting Rivers of London, two very British fantasy series, and you’ll be ready for The Gentlemen Ghouls.
‘Wonderful Old Age’ by Petri Hanninen and Jussi Kaakinen
This is a short story that lasts nine pages in total but it’s a sweet, heart-warming tale of euthanasia. As a form of retirement, the workers in this future world are given a drug that will end their life. Most of the comic is set around discussions about impending death and what it means to those affected. The art work reflects a grim world but is drawn with eloquence.
Wonderful Old Age is a good example of what Aces Weekly can do that’s different from what the reader may have seen; a short story that includes everything you need within the nine simple pages. A social commentary and entertaining tale that fits snuggly into a handful of panels.
‘My Way’ by Santullo and Jok
Another short story filling only a few weeks and a few pages is My Way which introduces the reader to a stubborn prisoner who refuses to leave a prison as it is closed down. The wardens attempt to coax him out but ultimately decide to leave him to his fate, abandoned on an uninhabited prison island.
The ending isn’t much of a surprise and some of the action is difficult to decipher. However the art work is fitting for the worn, tired characters and the run down Prison Island setting. A feeling of entropy is ever present, looming over the script and the characters and even the narrative itself. Unlike Wonderful Old Age, My Way would have worked better if it had played out over more pages, allowing the reader to get to know the characters. As it stands Santullo and Jok’s work looks good but overall the story is unsatisfying.
‘Dr Queer’ by Mychailo Kazybrid and Bambos Georgiou
Dr Queer and his assistant Oddfellow find themselves drawn into a village terrorised by demons and sneaky witches. But not all is as it seems as the terrorised may be hiding a secret; will Dr Queer work it out in time?
This is part of an ongoing saga but, due to its inherent design, it is easy to pick up. Dr Queer is a tongue in cheek comedy in the old British tradition of adult comic strips. It’s like a sea side postcard version of Sherlock Holmes with elements of Cthulhu thrown in. It has as much in common with Roman Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Killers as it does modern adult comics and in that respect will probably split the readership. Some will instantly find it funny while others may not get the joke at all but that’s the beauty of an Anthology; you don’t need to please everyone all of the time.
Dr Queer has a fluid cartoon style that most British comic book readers will be familiar with, especially if they have grown up with The Beano and Viz (a UK adult humour comic). It is entertainment that plays to its strengths, referencing an historical tradition while subtly layering modern sensibilities.
These are only half of the strips on offer in Volume 21 of Aces Weekly. There is such a wide selection of creators submitting work on a regular basis that it’s difficult to imagine any volume not producing at least one comic that the reader will enjoy. Personally I have a nostalgic soft spot for Combat Colin so his inclusion at the end of the volume put a smile on my face. Other than that I would heartily recommend Why Don’t You Love Me? this kind of surprising story telling is exactly why I started reading comics in the first place.
Darryll Robson is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Occasionally he might use his Twitter account: @DarryllRobson
Aces Weekly is a wonderful blend of ideas and talent. Volume 21 has some spectacular strips and something for everything. What more can you ask for from an anthology?