Vital Publishing Mega-review

Vital Publishing have been a constant source of some great titles and in recent times they’ve added a more diverse range to their list of titles but they’re debuting a further five books (yes 5!!!) at this weekends Edinburgh Comic Con….time for a catch-up!!!!

Generation Gun #2: Writer – John Farman, Artist – WIll Pickering

The Farman/Pickering team-up was already a tried & tested combo ahead of the opening issue of Generation Gun and while there was no doubt a title that focused on a mass-shooting in the US of A could be controversial the team are balancing that out with a multi-angle story.  The initial attack all kicked off in that opener and this second issue sees thing escalate as the core group try to stay out of the firing line while the larger plans of the attackers comes into view.

The dynamic among those under threat & the ones causing the threats is a mixed bag of ego’s and each one is well grounded enough by John’s script to build-up a balance between the fear of death coupled with the exhilaration of a plan playing out.  It’s a risky mix to throw out there in today’s climate but it does feel like there’s a much bigger message being punctuated with each issue.  Will’s art is pitch-perfect for that balance as the stark lines help grab your attention while things play out and then in a single page turn the energy of the events step up the momentum of the events that are unfolding.

Unflinching in its willingness to show just what both sides of an argument is it manages to give a level of reality to both sides rather than go all-out in glamorizing guns and their impact.  Generation Gun feels like a title some people will avoid because of its controversial topic but if it’s given a chance it could well be something that adds to the debate rather than fuels it.

9/10


Spies.3: Writer – John Farman, Artist – Stref

While the first issue of Spies hit like an explosion as Vital Publishing took a step into another genre for its comic releases, the second one eased into a world of espionage and that’s all slipped us right into this third issue.  The mission is still clear and high-flying head honcho’s are all beginning to show their motivations in what becomes an issue of character development to enforce the foundation of the series.

John’s dialogue in this issue is suitably pointed between the main foes but the familiarity that’s built into it allows a sense of history sink into the very bones of the characters on the page.  The weight of a life spent dodging bullets and out-thinking their opponents has left them weary for an easy life but they still revel in the luxuries their chosen lives and the luck they’ve tested along the way has given them.  There’s the added dimension of an impending finale and that seems to exist as an unsaid truth between everyone involved including the reader.

Stref does another amazing job with the visuals after taking over in that second issue and that seemless transition has now made sure he’s an established component of a building story.  The shadows he pours around the main action, the glint of hope and the strain of an aging cast in a young man or woman’s game is played out in much more detail in this one, giving it a poignant edge to the build-up towards the finale.  Stylish & slicker than ever, Spies stands out as a clear indication of what John & Vital Publishing can do outside the horror genre they’ve built their name in and here’s hoping that if the results are this good, that they keep on releasing more and more titles.

8/10


Midnight Massacre #1 & 2: Writer – John Farman, Artist – Mike Dabro

Vital Publishing’s core titles nestle in the horror category and while they’re bringing newer titles that broaden their range it’s good to see that they still have stories to tell that will mess with your head.  Cue the two-part Midnight Massacre and you have back-to-back stories of the Devil setting his sights on a specific soul to join him in hell.  In each issue the form he takes is different with a male character flexing his power to get access to a recently arrested criminal and in female form she works his way into a Halloween party….both with casualties on the way and some gritty truths hammered home in each of them.

For these issues I think John has produced some of his most disturbing work within the horror titles he’s had a hand in and while the gore is of a similar level, the reasoning behind those actions are on the darkest side of the choices his characters can make.  Not too surprising since the Prince of Darkness himself is front & centre but what IS surprising is the level of understanding you give him as the reader.  The cannibalism, the ease at which he/she sends people to their death with a mere suggestion and the calm within him as he does this starts to make him out to almost be some sort of vigilante cleaning up the streets.  A slick head-fuck from John.

Frank Dabro’s art is another key element of making this book what it is as the sketchy style keeps an element of risk to the Devil’s every move regardless of his form.  The calm demeanor gets a sinister edge to it which helps exude the power you’d expect from evil incarnate.  Similarly, the tone and visceral violence that’s played out is stark & shocking as it needs to be with subtle touches here and there that make the whole experience a bit unsettling.

7/10


FrankenJenny #1: Writer – John Farman, Artists – Anna Francesca Schiraldi/Taylor McTaggart

This first issue sees John team up with Anna Fransesca Schiraldi, having previously teamed up on Tales of the Damned #3, and while this still has a link to the horror core of Vital’s previous titles the pleasant surprise is it has more of an all-ages feel to it.  It follows Dr Fankenstein’s daughter Jenny as she explores the world outside the castle walls and the sight of a local villager dumping a bag into the river with what looks to be something living in it.  From here it’s a heartfelt story of her trying to conserve life and with a father like hers, it’s not something even death can get in the way of.

A far lighter tone from John in this one and it helps add another string to the VItal Publishing bow albeit with a tie to the horror themes they’ve explored before.  It’s still a sweeping & hopeful story of childhood, loss and finding a place when you’re allowed to explore it on your own.  I love Anna’s art-work on this one as the cartoony vibe gives it a Tim Burton feel to it and the use of shadowy and light keeps horror elements at bay while a more optimistic story plays out.

The short back-up story takes us a week into the future and John’s joined by artist Taylor McTaggart for this one as we see how FrankenJenny is getting on with her new friend.  This helps emphasise the much more upbeat nature of a story away from the shadows of horror and focusing on a simpler aspect of day-to-day life in a world that you know has monsters hiding somewhere.  The heart is fully on show in this one and the art is stunning with its playful use of light & dark.

7/10


Aardvark & Armadillo #1: Writer – John Farman, Artists – Tsu/Molly T

Last but by no means least is Aardvark & Armadillo which is another title that takes a step away from those horror shadows and gives us an anthropomorphic release that has a sit-com vibe to it.  It opens with the titular Aardvark sitting handcuffed in a police interview room and we soon find out that the evidence against him for murder is pretty airtight but this unsettling beginning turns out to be another in a series of similar dreams he’s been having.  Cue the jolt into the real world and the life as a comic creator turns out to be just as tough for our non-human cnetral characters.

The story weaves through his life of juggling work & sustaining a relationship and as the growing cast head to the launch of a brand new indie graphic novel the party snowballs from there before a twist on the last few pages brings Aardvark an interesting development in his quest for an easy life.

It’s clear that John’s turning his hand to inject humour on this one and while that’s something he’s done in other books there’s an added subtlety here with those animal characters he has created.  He’s joined by Tsu (aka Stuart Beel) working on art with Molly T providing some additional artwork and the cartoon/sit-com vibe that’s on show makes this a title you could see being converted to an animated show.  The lines and colour-work are precise across the issue but that adds to the overall impact of those subtle punch lines and in-gags.  Fun, funny and furry.

8/10


An already impressive line-up of stories has been seriously added to here and if you can’t make Edinburgh Comic Con this weekend (6th/7th April) you can get hold of them through the Vital Publishing website as well as some key stores that stock indie titles.  You can also keep updated with what’s next from them (as soon as John gets a rest) over on the Facebook & Twitter pages.

G-Man

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