December 3rd, 2013 | → 1 Comments | ∇ Graphic Novels & Comics |
So far, in my time on this planet, I’ve managed to stay pretty clear of the whole ‘print vs. digital’ thing. I imagine waves of geeks, hurtling across a field, some carrying tablets, others carrying print, each lambasting each other for ‘selling out on the medium’ or ‘not embracing the evolution of’ yadda yadda yadda. I buy both. I read both. I enjoy both and I see merit in both. However, one of the reasons for continuing to buy print is quite simple. It smells so bloody good. Literally, it’s like geek crack. Now, I know I’m not the only one. My friend, Mark, he runs a comics shop, he said the same thing. Vertigo’s books always smell amazing. As does Mark Millar’s books. One of the best things about Kick Ass 2 was the rich waft of the print. Published by Dark Horse, UXB is a surprise entry in the ‘nice smelling books’ list, as my Dark Horse collection consists mainly of their small, hardback crime thrillers that don’t really smell of anything. And yet, here we have…okay, I’m going to shut up now.
UXB, or ‘unexploded device’, is a sci-fi horror from Harvest artist Colin Lorimer, who is also the book’s writer and, as with Harvest, which also smells amazing like a moth to a flame, you can’t help but open the book and be dazzled by the sheer bleak beauty of the artwork inside. More on this shortly.
UXB tells the story of the Atherton brothers – Wilfred (aka Das Bombast), Donnchada (aka Muc Olla) and George (aka Rifter) – who live in a deserted and dilapidated Buckingham Palace (a nice touch) in post-apocalyptic London. Each of the brothers has a mysterious ‘life-suit’ grafted to their bodies, that look like futuristic cod-pieces, granting them power beyond measure. Through a series of flashbacks, we discover the origins of the boys (the pampered off-spring of billionaire industrialist parents) and the suits (the ultimate in child protective measures in the event of a cataclysmic event), all the while marrying the past and the present, until we reach the twist. And then the horror side of this book really kicks into gear, wrapping up the various plotlines and finally serving us with probably the best head explosion committed to paper.
Lorimer’s story is a break from the standard post-apocalyptic fare in that, much like Warren Ellis’ Freakangels, it brings the action down to a small scale and isn’t that concerned with the wider world. You get snippets of humanity’s fate, but you only need to look at the ruined streets of a once great city to see that this is probably the case all over. Where Lorimer also breaks from the norm is the introduction of the ‘life-suits’ and the sci-fi element that dominates the first half of the book; surgically grafted onto the wearer, they use Nano-technology to enhance the boys into ‘meta-humans’, for want of a better phrase – enhancing their strength, giving them a nifty healing factor, allowing them to create weapons of their choosing using their minds and hard-light…they’re even equipped with DVD players. It’s sort of what you might get if you crossed that cool interactive screen from Minority Report and a Green Lantern ring.
Lorimer spins a good end-of-times yarn and fills it with pop culture and film references that dominate a large proportion of the dialogue. While sometimes a little too much, it gives the brothers a good excuse to bicker and banter, thereby developing them as characters, but it’s the subtler references that influence the story itself – look closely and you’ll see smatterings of great horror and sci-fi, all combined to create something original and superbly fantastical. While starting a little slow, Lorimer builds a steady pace and sprinkles enough mystery and intrigue to keep it interesting until the twist. I keep talking about the twist, hence I’ve added little description of what happens – needless to say, it’s really rather good and takes the story in a different direction, ramping the horror and action up, building on the sci-fi he’s delivered at the beginning and producing an ending that leaves you thinking ‘what the hell was that?’, but in that sort of gleeful head-sprouts-eyes-and-legs, ‘you gotta be fucking kidding’ sort of way.
As with Harvest, the artwork is stunning. It’s dark, gritty, cinematic, detailed, beautifully lit and beautifully executed. The sci-fi elements are effectively conceived; crisp lines and brightly lit rooms juxtapose the horror, which is deliberately messy, visceral and bleak. While not a criticism as more of a curiosity, I would love to see Lorimer do ‘epic’ – there’s a nice exchange between one of the brothers and their common enemy, where said enemy drops a double decker bus onto the brother. It looks fantastic, but it leaves you almost gasping for more. His is a style that would suit horror, or any genre, on a grand scale and it would be interesting to see, if he were take this further (and the ending seems open for continuation), what he would do if the playing field was more far reaching.
UXB is fine example of a creator on form. Yes, there are a few nit-picks, like the occasional unnecessary reference and unnecessary sweary bits (not that this is a problem, it just doesn’t feel like it’s a needed dialogue response in the context of particular scenes), but it’s an original book, filled with original ideas and incredible, atmospheric artwork that commands your attention throughout. UXB is available now, digitally or in nice smelling print.
Stay tuned for a special Theatre of Terror interview with Colin Lorimer in the next few weeks.
- Pingback: An Interview with Colin Lorimer | The Theatre of Terror on December 5, 2013
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