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And Now, Jog: 3/12 comics were three days ago

Joe McCulloch

Gutsville #3 (of 6):

Glad this one’s back in action.

It’s an Image miniseries from writer Simon Spurrier and artist Frazer Irving; both 2000 AD veterans, the former was last seen in US comics via the recent Silver Surfer: In Thy Name miniseries, while the latter has provided distinctive visuals to projects ranging from DC’s Robin to Marvel’s Silent War. Issue #2 came out roughly half a year ago, the subsequent delay apparently owing to personal and familial illnesses on Irving’s part. The remaining half of the series should be out in shorter order.

I like it so far, and this issue is a GOOD indicator of why. I don’t think it’s saying too much to note that Irving’s art is the series’ most immediate draw, nor does it even need be said that the book’s concept — an unstuck-in-time theocratic society planted in an enclosed world of strange magic — allows for images that strongly recall Irving’s work on maybe his most acclaimed project, the Grant Morrison-written Klarion the Witch Boy.

But Irving’s work is better here. Perhaps the story’s particular setting, the belly of some seafaring monster, has proven inspirational; his monochrome environments swirl and roll, backgrounds typically little more than fleshy patterns sunk with color, while his human characters bend and jut expressively, their clothing or mustaches typically carrying as much weight as their body language.

The occasional monster designs are more wrinkled & creepy, and much funnier – this issue has a long-clawed wraith in a wide-brimmed hat with a huge mouth and a long, drippy tongue plastered onto its stomach. Overall, there’s a strong sense of place at work, not so much original as emphatic. Irving also has the habit of inserting a vivid glimpse of a dog’s asshole into climactic splash pages of flight, which I consider worthwhile. Plus: the occasional pause for psychedelics.

All of this serves to deepen Spurrier’s script, which is otherwise a simple enough piece of fantastical class/race/religious struggle, complete with forbidden affections between a noble-wed girl and the local ratcatcher/frustrated artist, and brewing revolution against the men that rule the belly of the beast. A serial(?) killer, weapons from the modern world I like it more for the details; exposition might be provided by a character, say, accidentally bumping into a book and reading several pages of background information to us, but there is wit to some of the characterizations, and a playful attitude exhibited toward the general concept. “Sodomitic puddle of cockpaste” is a good expression.

So right. Did I say GOOD? I said it again. About on the level I expect from a contemporary comic of the type. I don’t think the other two issues should be hard to find, so try it out.

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