For all you fans of Dylan Teague’s sickeningly beautiful artwork, this new volume got released this week.
Available over on Amazon now.
Quick synopsis :
Dans la cité d’Asylum, peuplée de criminels en puissance, vit une micro-société carcérale abandonnée depuis quatre générations. Confinés dans d’immenses cavernes artificielles, sans issue connue, les habitants sont soumis au règlement strict et violent instauré par une entité nommée Pastor. Personne ne songe un seul instant à s’évader… et pour cause, nul ne soupçonne l’existence du monde extérieur !
So there y’go. It’s got immense artificial caverns…. I think
Reviewed by Shaolin Monkey
Oh boy, have I been looking forward to reading this! Written by Alan Hebden (Meltdown Man), and drawn by José Ortiz, The Tower King was originally published in the first 24 issues of The Eagle, in the dawn of the Eighties. This has been collected and re-released in a limited run by Hibernia Comics. I have been a long time fan of the late José Ortiz, particularly his work on The Thirteenth Floor and The House of Daemon for Eagle, and his sterling work on our favourite blue-skinned GI, Rogue Trooper, for 2000AD. It was with this in mind I was eager to get my hands on this preview copy of a comic series I often hear discussed in tones of reverence and awe.
So what’s it about? Basically, it’s a post-apocalyptic scenario. On the verge of creating endless free energy via a massive solar array, a malfunction causes the Earth to be enveloped in an electromagnetic field which permanently fritzes anything that produces or uses electricity. The opening chapter describes civilisation’s collapse, before concentrating on the Tower of London, circa the mid-1980′s (yes, this story is very much of it’s time!), and our main protagonist, MICK TEMPEST, the Tower King! Sorry, a name like that has to be capitalised – I couldn’t read it without hearing the name resound in my head every time I read the the words MICK TEMPEST!
Our erstwhile hero has managed to create a safe enclave amidst the madness and destruction around him, in the Tower of London and its surrounding suburbs. The story very quickly sets him up as an honourable man, bound to do the right thing wherever possible, yet strong enough of will to make the difficult life or death decisions this society needs. You know you’re in safe hands when your leader is called MICK TEMPEST! (sorry, I’ll stop now)
It’s definitely a fast-paced story, as our heroes career from one disaster to another. Without spoiling it too much, Mick faces a London full of Tube dwelling vicious troglodytes, incoming armies either bent on control or destruction of what’s left of the city, and all kinds of crazies, either individuals or larger groups, all gone mad from having their safe little world of electrical doo-dahs stripped away from them.
While the situations Mick gets into and survives are often far-fetched, and sometimes ridiculous, there’s no doubt this is a very entertaining read. It is also a very complete vision of the future, with careful consideration of the limitations of a society without electricity, but being surrounded by a constant reminder of what once was. There are a wonderful cast of supporting characters, some who stay with us throughout, and others who come and go very quickly, usually in a very grim manner.
It’s impossible to talk about the story without giving too much away, and I really don’t want to spoil this gem for anyone. Instead, let’s look at the art. And what glorious art it is! José Ortiz has a knack for bringing out the chaos in the writing. I have no idea what the circumstances were surrounding the creation of the strip, but it’s almost as if the artist and writer were working very closely together, so well does script and art fuse.
You can even imagine the writer goading José Ortiz – ‘I bet you can’t draw St Paul’s Cathedral collapsing on a bunch of Tube dwelling troglodytes!’ or ‘Give me massive tanks! Horses in medieval armour! Gunfire! Arrows! Explosions! People in all states of panic and terror!’
Also, the writer’s intention was to show people using a mish-mash of objects and artifacts from the pre-crash society to get by in this new world, which again Ortiz answers so well. A great example is this snapshot of an invader with a makeshift axe, a variety of protective clothing, and an old car door as a shield!
Ortiz delivers, and in spades. He has an almost frenetic style of inking – it looks like he’s drawn it at speed, leaving rough edges, crazy cross hatching and big daubs of black ink. Yet within the chaos you can see such control of form, movement and shadow. In the less action packed sequences he tones this down a bit, and proves himself a master of character and expression. Each individual on the page, of which there are sometimes dozens, have their own individuality facially, in shape, and in body language. He uses light and shade beautifully, and when combined with his knack for individuals and expressions, it’s unsurpassed.
At the start of each new episode, the first page is usually taken up with one giant image of death, destruction or danger, surrounded by a couple of sub-frames. This gives Ortiz the chance to get up close and personal with his subject, be it steam trains full of aggressors, chieftan tanks on the rampage, or The Tower King himself in mortal peril. These are where you see the best of him as an artist – the dynamic fast-paced inkwork combined with his eye for creating the most interesting and energising frames. It’s up close and personal, and I found myself poring over these for quite some time.
All in all, I’d say this is heavy on the action, which is relentless, but occasionally dwells on the human cost of the tragedy of the disaster. It is at turns funny, gruesome, captivating, ridiculous, and suspenseful, but overall a real page turner. When this was serialised it no doubt had the readers on the edge of their seats at the end of each episode, waiting desperately for next week’s instalment to roll around as quickly as possible. I blasted through it on first read, as I moved from one crazy vignette to the next.
Afterwards I went back for a closer look at the artwork, and this truly is where the longevity of this comic lies. While Alan Hebden’s script is entertaining, it is José Ortiz’s incredible work with ink and brush that really draws you in. Each frame is packed with detail, much of which you miss the first time around. Once the detail is exhausted, you revisit it again for the superb characterisations, and then again to study the intense dynamic form and shading.
I think you can probably guess by now I highly recommend this compendium of The Tower King. I understand it’s a limited run of 200 copies, so I encourage you to snap this up as quickly as you can.
Work in progress on an upcoming IDW cover as posted on John’s Twitter feed
Looking good already
Podcast available via itunes or the Libsyn Webpage as a direct download
Life during wartime
The Royals: Masters of War #1 by Rob Williams and Simon Coleby with colours by JD Mettler and lettered by Wes Abbott.
Review written by Eamonn Clarke
To read more of Eamonn’s reviews go check out his Thank you for your Attention blog
As covered in a Megazine 345 article Two of the Prog’s creators venture out into Vertigo with a new series. It’s super-heroes but with that 2000AD inflected flavour. The basic premise is that members of the European royal families have super powers but a pact prevents them using them in wartime. That is until world war 2 and the blitz when a young Windsor prince decides to take matters into his own hands. Once one royal has acted the doors are open for all the others to intervene.
Coleby produces some lovely artwork, particularly the scenes of the bombed ruins of London, and Mettler’s colours are great. As for the story it may be too early to tell yet, which is strange when we have 22 pages of sequentials in a 32 page American floppy. 2000AD stories have to grab our attention in just 5 or 6 pages but this longer format still leaves me unsure. It’s also annoying that to have full page glossy ads, a 6 page teaser for American Vampire and a bizarre 2 page spread of character design sketches for another comic called the Wake. Can you tell that I don’t like current American floppies very much?
The first 8 pages of the story are a flash forward to a future clash between two powered individuals in the ruins of a Berlin church. And that’s a problem, because it reminded me of the prologue sequence from Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell’s Zenith. Now that was probably OK when Zenith was buried in 2000AD’s archive, but now it has been released in an overpriced hardback and will soon be out in more reasonably priced trades, so the comparison is easily made and rather striking. This doesn’t mean the Royals will be a bad series, it does show some promise. I’m just bothered by this early parallel.
It’s an interesting concept, and it’s from two of 2000AD’s finest so for the moment I’m cautiously sticking with it for a few issues at least. Rob Williams knows what he’s doing so it could well prove to be one of the very few US floppies I buy regularly! Or even the only one.