Link to 2000AD – Contributors include Mike Collins, Patrick Goddard and Dylan Teague
Review by Nick Roberts and Kehaar (cheers guys). Due to the episodic nature of this book I’ve merged the two reviews and broken them down by story. More info on 10thology can be found HERE and after it’s initial launch at this years Cardiff Expo where it sold out it will be going on general release this summer. There is also an exhibition of original artwork in the pipeline.
Anyway, on to the review :
10thology is the brain child of Stuart Tipples, his idea was a seemingly simple one. Ten stories, ten pages, each with a Welsh flavour, written by and drawn by Welsh creators. Sounds easy.
Yes I’m being facetious, it’s testament I think to Stuarts sheer bloody mindedness and hard work that 10thology exists at all. That he and the others involved in the project have produced such a high quality book is something I think to be applauded and congratulated.
I have to admit I have been scratching my head somewhat over exactly how to do this review, I know albeit slightly, some of the creators involved and Wales suddenly got a lot smaller. I had visions of a mob of pitchfork wielding Welsh comic creators descending on my home much like the scene in Frankenstein (not that I live in a castle). So I will try to be honest with the review if I don’t like something I like to think I have the balls to say so, but I like to think that I can also give a reasoned and articulate reason as to why I didn’t like it. Conversely, if I like it expect much praise.
I’d heard rumours of something brewing in the depths of Wales and until given the opportunity was unsure what 10thology would actually entail. In fact what I have uncovered has confirmed my suspicious, long held, of a veritable cauldron of bubbling comic creativity in the land of Cymru.
In order to unveil some hint of the contents of the anthology I shall proceed with my thoughts on each in turn. I shall endeavour to guard against lurkers on the threshold of the tale’s plots.
The Sleeping Knights of Craig-Y-Ddnas
Words Stu Art
Art Mike Collins
Colours Chris Carter
So kicking of 10thology we get a story from the man behind the project Stuart Tipples. The story is based on an old Welsh story from the Mabinogion which is a collection of Welsh legend and myths. This story unsurprisingly feels the most classical Welsh story out of them all and is a story of how one mans greed get’s the better of him and the price he has to pay for that greed. The art by veteran artist Mike Collins is great and the colouring really lifts it’s all and gives it a very classical feel. The panel layouts are also worth mentioning they are framed by the story title down the right hand side and the page number, sounds simple but it gives it all a feeling of a classical legend being retold which in effect is what it is.
First up is the Sleeping Knights of Craig – Y –Ddinas written by Stu.Art, Art Mike Collins and colours Chris Carter. A whimsical tale that appealed to me as touched upon the Mabinogoin and therefore through it the Matter of Britain. It is a good clear story with a neat twist some lovely art and reminded me of a short Sandman story in its art and style. The colours were marvellous. I thoroughly enjoyed it and the tale was the highpoint of the anthology for me. That does not mean there are other charms within this volume.
Words Rich McAuliffe
Art Jenny Clements
Dai Hard see what the writers done there a very clever play on words, apparently the writer is some hack called Rich McAuliffe? – nah me neither. Joking aside this is by far the lightest strip in the book and that may come as a surprise to anyone who read Rich’s Dark Judges book from last year. The story, well it’s an action movie homage set in the Queens Arcade, Cardiff were we find two inept terrorist planning to blow the Tom ‘The Voice’ Jones up. So it’s up to security guard Dai with the help of Gareth Edwards to foil their attempt. The story is a great little fun one shot but for me it’s the art that’s the star. Jenny Clements art is beyond cute and looks like it’s bled straight off CBeebies and landed in Dai Hard but you know what it works amazingly well as comic book art. The panels flow well throughout and the facial expressions and movements are spot on. Job done well I think.
It is a light tale with nice appropriate expressive art and a good vein of comedy (which surprisingly for Rich does not involve the macabre, the scatological or the bedroom.) It did take me a second reading to comprehend how the climax of the story occurred, but all the hints were there it was just my hasty first reading. I suspect it also has the highest density of Welsh references I have ever seen.
The Valley of Gwadni
Words & Art Simon Wyatt
If there was a prize for the best title in 10thology Simon Wyatt would win hands down with his Ray Harryhousen inspired The Valley of Gwadni. Well you couldn’t have a book from Wales and not mention the national obsession of Rugby. Here it’s thinly disguised in Simon Wyatt’s rhyming story of sibling rivalry and giant Kraak birds. Now I’m no sports fan but even I recognised some of the famous faces in the White Feather Clan. The art by Wyatt is great and his style is very distinctive but for some reason the colouring seems a little heavy to me. But cutting the guy some slack he did write a rhyming story which is no mean feat.
This is a fine prehistory tale of the potential originals of Wale’s National Game. The art has a high impact and those I felt sure I missed some jokes due to my poor knowledge of Rugby nethertheless it was a fun ride.
Words Chris Lynch
Art Patrick Goddard, Mark Smith, Dan Harris, Stu. Art & Craig Lewis
You have to admire the stones on Chris Lynch, Devolution is a massively ambitious story, not that story really covers what Chris has tried to do, concept I think works better. Chris’s concept for his first entry in 10thology was for a comic strip that can be read left to write or top to bottom and not only that, there are five different artist’s involved each drawing the same character but at five different points in time. And do you know what he almost pulls it off, the story does work if you read it either way the only problem is it just falls slightly short in the final couple of panels and ends rather abruptly. Given a longer format I’m sure the concept would work better. The only other problem I have with this strip is Dan Harris’s art which is a little out of kilter with the rest of the artwork and it does jar a little when scanning through.
There is some lovely art in this and I initially started to enjoy it as polished romp through local history in the style of magnificent Alice in Sunderland.’ It was not be and story started shape into first one thing and then another, weighed down by the somewhat pompous voice of the protagonist. The end result was that I lost interest and when the last panel did not deliver a conclusion I was more disappointed. This is a shame because the artwork was excellent and it maybe that the story given a broader canvas might prove more enjoyable but it felt like a stilted and rushed first chapter to me.
Words Steve Morris
Art Stu. Art
This is the first of two prose stories in 10thology, as a short story it’s fine and has a nice take on time travel. I have to be honest I did struggle to find the inherent Welshness in this story, yes the characters names Gwyn and Bryn Morgan but really I think this story could have taken place any where. Another little niggle, the two characters are introduced as brothers but later in the story they are referenced as friends, now I know brothers can be friends but if you’ve gone to the trouble of stating they are brothers why call them friends later in the story. Like I said a small niggle but it did drag me out of the story. On an entirely different point Stu. Art draws nice clocks.
This is a distinctly Pratchett by way of Neil Gaiman story but with more bitter and boyos. I’m not usually a fan of prose in the midst of comics but when I returned to the story I enjoyed – especially as it had a beginning and middle and an end. The illustrations were appropriate but did steal from the readers use of their imagination.
The Edge of the World
Words Jon Rennie
Art David Young & Lucy Artiss
The Edge of the World is set in Wales in an unspecified future, a spaceship crash lands in a desolate waste land and the pilot is guided to safety by a local boy. Obviously something major has gone on as along the way they encounter a fearsome monster which is duly dispatched by the boy. As the only black and white strip in the book the art in this story works really well, again the characters are stylised and very cute, almost manga-esque, the dialogue is sparse so it does help that the art is strong. My only criticism of the story SHEEP!!! Yes the story reverts to the stereotype of sheep farmers, quite why a little boy in the wilds of Wales in the far flung future would be shepherding sheep escaped me.
This is a nice post-apocalypse story – had the aircraft been an autogyro it could have been from Things to Come but this was combined with lovely story telling (particularly on 3 panels with only one word balloon on page 64 of my copy after ‘stay on the path.’) It had a definite feeling of menace and did a lot more with the story with limited dialogue than many of the tales in this anthology. The art is a bit manga which isn’t normally my cup of tea but gives a innocence to this strip which suits the story and the story telling is superb.
Words & Art Terry Cooper
So we come to Project Phoenix which for me was my favourite story in 10thology, but maybe that highlights my taste in comics more than a comment on the content of 10thology. Project Phoenix works well as an introduction or a part one of an ongoing story but it’s by no means a one and done story. Terry Cooper’s story sees police woman Catherine Prime waking up in a strange hospital ward after seemingly being in some kind of accident. However the truth is a hell of a lot stranger and more interesting than it first appears. This really is a great story although it does feel like it’s setting up something ongoing, if it was part one of a thrill in the galaxies greatest comic I would be waiting with baited breath until next week. Just don’t mention Torchwood.
In the authors notes it’s been very clear this is a project that is dear to the author’s heart for a long time. There are a lot of good science fiction ideas in this strip. The art works well and there is nice draughtsmanship with the drawing of equipment. However I was disappointed that this opportunity was used to produce an exposition heavy origin episode as opposed to a self contained story for the anthology. There was nice sense of action in the art and humour in the dialogue and I personally would have preferred to seen those attached to a dramatic narrative and the origin could have waited. Though I’ll be first to agree a lot of concepts would need explaining. I liked it but felt it could have been suited to an anthology and given use a self contained adventure.
The Hidden Flame
Words Jamie Lambert
Art Dave Clifford
So I’ve never read any Dexters Half Dozen and Hidden Flame is a Dexters Half Dozen story. The story involves Dexter and the Half Dozen returning a stolen Dragon egg liberated from the Nazi’s, back to its native Wales. The story flows along nicely and the art looks great coloured, from what I’ve read Dexter is usually black and white, based on this they should definitely move to colour. A special mention needs to be made for Dave Clifford’s dragon splash page which is truly epic and one of the best renderings of a Welsh Dragon I’ve seen.
By those pushers of anachronistic tank technology, the Dexter’s Half Dozen team of Jamie Lambert on words and Dave Clifford on art. I have to be fare here and say the choice to use Dexter’s Half Dozen might not be appropriate for the anthology, on the other hand those I love Dexter’s Half Dozen and story is self contained. It’s also kinetic snappy fun making use of a famous Welsh trope and joke on the way (and I’m not sure if there is a nod to Temeraire there too,) but I am biased.
Words Chris Lynch
Art Stu. Art
This is the second prose story in this anthology and it’s the one that’s given me the most problems. As a reader of 10thology I can never fully appreciate what has gone into producing this book, a lot of hard work and a hell of a lot of time, but there is a problem with Blood Brothers. The story is fine and the splash pages by Stuart are very, very good but somebody really should have proof read this story before it went to print on two occasions the same passages are repeated after one another. It’s a shame in a book that is obviously punching and reaching above its weight that it’s slightly let down by something like this. I really hope it’s just a plot device and I’m just being stupid and missing the cues. There I feel like a right bastard but like I said in the beginning you have to be honest.
A Misfits meets Hellbalzer story of a teenage defender of a housing estate sink hole mixing up with some very ancient and very Welsh. I liked it but I might be being thick but it appeared in my version that several multi-paragraph sections were repeated verbatim and if it was a narrative device it didn’t seem to but seemed to be a type setting error. I might just being half witted but it did break up what was a nice naughties tale. The artwork complements it nicely.
Words Peter Rogers
Art Stu. Art
And so we arrive at the final story in 10thology, Pete Rogers’s Red Cave. This is a creepy little horror story set in the village in Wales with the massive name, no I’m not going there. A young boy is having premonitions of people’s deaths, Dalton Strange a paranormal investigator arrives in the village to try and help the family.
Death and horror ensues. The art work in this story by Stuart Tipples is cracking, the first panel is brilliant the Heddlu sign on the tape is touch of genius and really hits home the Welshness, such a simple idea but it works extraordinarily well. Another little trick that is pulled of brilliantly is you never see the little boys eyes, he wears glasses all the time but they are always lit white, again a simple idea but it’s creepy a hell.
I really like the art here and the story builds quite nicely but it seems to miss a few dramatic beats to put me fully in picture. The last page in particular though artistically powerfully still leaves me confused as towards the overall story. I think I understand it but I’m still a bit confused and have read it twice. Again it could be my half wittedness.
Pin up by Dylan Teague
Great pin up by Mr Teague but a Welsh flag and the Welsh Space Agency is pushing your luck slightly but when the art is as good as what’s on offer here who cares.
Dylan Teague gives us a lovely peace of art promising potential futures with a Welsh Space Agency which I really like with my soft sport for low tech ‘national’ Sci-Fi. I love to see more on that theme.
There is much to admire in 10thology, all the stories are of a high standard and the art work is top notch. For an independently produced book the quality and production values are superb. Congratulations to Stuart and the gang on a fantastic job. Good gear.
You can find me on Twitter @nickroberts101 and you can also check out my blog at
Overall the anthology confirmed that exciting things are happening beyond Offa’s Dyke amongst those people most rooted to these islands in our humble corner of pop culture. It was an enjoyable read and I shall be tempted to purchase a copy and would recommend you to do the same.
As I sit here writing, who knows what awe-inspiring graphic creations are being conjured in that land both ancient and terrible that lies just a few short miles away from my study, across the Dee.
(This review was written after listening to 15 HP Lovecraft podcasts in a row….)
(Kehaar is one half of the excellent Dissecting Worlds podcast available through the Geek Syndicate network)
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