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Ceej Says… Master Tape: Side One review [Thought Bubble 2013]

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Writer: Harry French
Artist: Amaru Ortiz Martinez
Colouring: Lesley Atlansky
Lettering/Production: Colin Bell
Cover: Coll Hamilton

Master Tape has an incredibly unique premise, and is based around Leo O’Brien, the last remaining record executive in a universe where music has become something of an outdated concept, given the similar types of thrills that can be experienced by Earth’s youth simply by jetting around the galaxy.

The book is clearly making a pretty thinly-veiled (if veiled at all) statement about the music industry in particular, and the creative industry in general.  The notion of nobody caring about the ‘old ways’ once the new fangled styles with all their bells and whistles come along isn’t exactly a new school of thought, but rarely have I seen it approached with such ‘out of the box’ creativity as it is here with Master Tape.

Leo O’Brien is a man who, on paper, we really shouldn’t find ourselves rooting for.  He’s a typically greedy record producer with a track record of diluting and homogenising genuine talent in an attempt to make more money for himself. However, in spite of this, French manages to write Leo with just enough naive optimism to keep him on the right side of ‘likeable’ – for the most part, anyway.  Leo’s intern is far more of a decent human being, and plays the voice of reason to his ongoing attempts to find the ‘next big thing’ (or ‘last big thing’, quite possibly) and make a fast buck.

The story is paced extremely well for the most part, with frequent flashbacks managing to break up the present day narrative effectively without becoming obtrusive.  I did find one of the early action beats to be a little jarring, with the story shifting gears from zero to hysteria over the course of just a few panels, and given the strength of the early storytelling I didn’t quite see the need for what I found to be ‘gore for the sake of gore’.  That said, the overarching plot is extremely well established, as are the three primary characters, and managing to keep all those plates spinning while still keeping the reader interested and the story moving forwards is something French should truly be commended for.

Martinez brings some solid – and occasionally spectacular – artwork to the proceedings, and really cuts loose with the creativity when it comes to the more ‘alien’ aspects of the story.  Lesley Antlasky compliments his strong work with some terrific colouring, managing to convey the bleak, dystopian future of the book without ever becoming boring, and coming to life in a similar vein to Martinez when it comes to the cosmic moments.

French’s dialogue is also extremely realistic, and manages to convey a lot of information and character work without ever coming across as awkward.  The banter between Leo and his intern is realistic without becoming overdone, and helps immeasurably in enhancing the likeability of both of them.  And when the third character appears, he mananages to deliver a pretty concise exposition dump without it negatively impacting the flow of the story.

We also have another instance here of a unique character being given his own individual style of talking, and this time ‘Scottish lettering Godfather’ Colin Bell opts for a slightly less retina-scorching approach, going for white on blue instead of the lime green we previously saw in Exit Generation.  The difference is noticeable, and the effect is terrific.

Overall, Master Tape looks great, has an incredibly creative concept behind it, and features some likeable, interesting protagonists.  And that’s pretty much all I need from a book in order to recommend it.  Definitely one to keep an eye out for, folks.


Writer Harry French will be selling the first issue (or side) of Master Tape this weekend at Thought Bubble 2013, from – you guessed it – Table 2 at Royal Armouries Hall, alongside John Lees, Colin Bell and Sam Read.  I’m telling you folks, this table is rapidly turning into the place to be, and is absolutely going to be one of the first places I visit this weekend.


The writer of this piece was: 576682_510764502303144_947146289_nCraig Neilson (aka Ceej)
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