Published by Black Hearted Press, Plagued was one of the most anticipated releases going into 2014’s Glasgow Comic Con. A Black Hearted Press debut for writer Gary Chudliegh and artist Tanya Roberts, Plagued also represents the first time these two talented creators have come together on a single project. Plagued is a fantasy tale following bounty/witch-hunter Thomas Mackie (and his talking dog, Dex) through a futuristic, plague-stricken Scotland. However, when Mackie meets his most recent bounty, a witch named Miranda, the world he thought he knew could potentially be changed forever.
One of Plague’s greatest strengths is the ability of Gary Chudliegh to build a unique world where the stories can stand alone. In this single, twenty page issue, we are giving a glimpse of a new world… a new world which contains witches, plagues, thieves, luxury living complexes, the futuristic police, corrupt companies and – last but not least – Titan, one of the only plague-free towns in Scotland.
With so much of this fictional world being introduced in such a small page count, it’s highly surprising that I can say I was equally as impressed with the level of panel space given to character development within Plagued #1. In fact, following the introduction of Miranda, there are a little over 5 full pages dedicated to her and Mackie discussing their lives and current situation. The whole debut issue is very much centred on Miranda getting to know Mackie and Dex, and luckily, we get to overhear everything too.
The artwork is very much in keeping with Tanya Robert’s previous work, providing stellar cartoon art and colours throughout, with oversized eyes in abundance. The standout character design has to be Tanya’s representation of Dex, who looks adorable throughout. The only fault I could pick would be with the consistency of the artwork on Miranda, who can go from beautiful to Marilyn Manson between panels. However, this can be forgiven in a debut issue and will surely be rectified as this new creator partnership works out the kinks.
While there is very little which stands out as overly original within issue 1 of Plagued, what pushes this book from 3/5 to 4/5 for me would be the potential of the stories to come. With (apparently) 20 issues already planned out, I’m definitely on board to see where this one goes!
The Premise: Mackie, a police officer for the Reneco corporation, has dreams of moving out of the Plague ridden New Enoch ( a future version of Glasgow) and into the swanky Le Trois Sept a land of the rich and wealthy – and most of all, away from the Plague! Together with his trusty dog Dex, who he can mysteriously talk to, he has saved up almost enough when he runs across a mysterious witch who has seemingly stolen medication destined for New Enoch. Now he finds himself torn between doing his duty or trusting the Witch, even thought it happens to be common knowledge that witches that caused the Plague… OR DID THEY?!
The Verdict: LOVED IT!! Chudleigh is still relatively new as a writer, and openly admits that his first book Villainous isn’t that great (wasn’t that bad if you ask me) but with this book he has delivered something wonderful. The book has some great build-up, covering the essential groundwork (and more!) that you would want for a first issue. It also leaves so many questions in the air that you find yourself want answers too, making you desperate to read more. It actually feels more like a TV Pilot than a comic which is not unexpected with BHP editor Jack Lothian lending advice. Consider me on board for the rest of the series
Also, it doesn’t hurt that the art is wonderful. Tanya is one of my favourite artists, and I have no shame in saying how big a crush I have on her work. The colours let you feel how hard and gritty life is in the future, the style lets you get sucked into the fantasy of it all and it feels more like you are escaping to this other world. This is the main reason why I don’t like the more ‘real’ style of artist. I’ve always saw comics as an escape, and don’t feel I can escape as much when the art is made to be so lifelike. Her work with lines is pure magic, literally, the way she makes the witches magic look is unbelievable and the expressions on the faces (even the dog!) suck you right in.
All in all, this book doesn’t feel like a Scottish-made indy book, instead hitting the same high standard as some DC and Marvel books. I honestly can’t wait for issue two, and – from what Gary said at GCC – a whole lot more after that!