Writer: Harry French
Artist: Amaru Ortiz Martinez
Colourist: Lesley Atlansky
Lettering/Production: Colin Bell
Cover Art: Coll Hamilton
Release Date: On sale now!
When we left issue one of Master Tape, Leo O’Brien – the world’s last remaining record producer – and his intern, while fleeing for their lives, had just stumbled across Salmo, the sole survivor of a mysterious alien race. Facing almost certain death, Salmo broke into the ancient hymn of his people, stunning the pursuers into rapturous silence with the sheer beauty of his song. However, while the angry punk degenerates may have heard the ‘one true music’ in Salmo’s voice, all Leo could see were pound signs dancing before his eyes.
Once again, writer French deserves credit for helping keep Leo relatively likeable, given the fact that – as a self-serving, cynical record producer – we probably shouldn’t be rooting for him. Yes, he wants to get rich, but he does it with a certain level of bumbling charm that keeps our hatred from building up too much. A lot of this is down to his interactions with his intern, and their wise-cracking back and forth exchanges help us realise that, despite outward appearances, Leo isn’t necessarily such a bad guy. French’s gift for witty banter really carries this title, providing an abundance of chuckle-worthy moments along the way and keeping things satisfyingly light-hearted, even when the bullets and axes start flying. The bloated caricatures of the “corporate fat-cats” are also brilliantly realised, particularly when their all-consuming greed to get their hands on Salmo causes them to assemble in a glorious ‘Mad Max meets Wacky Races’-style convoy of destruction. It’s also almost impossible not to find yourself grinning while reading a comic that features gems of dialogue like “Have at thee, you intolerable, crusty reprobates!”. Go on, I dare ya.
Amaru Ortiz Martinez’ artwork is pleasingly cartoony, with over-exaggerated facial expressions and some occasional, Tom and Jerry-style violence. Dark and gritty this book is most definitely not, and to be honest, it’s all the better for it. Some of his panels do look a little rushed from time to time, and the level of detail in his work definitely ebbs and flows throughout the comic. In spite of this, he definitely manages to nail the high points, embracing the inherently ludicrous nature of some of the storyline twists and turns, and seemingly having a blast with the vehicle-based mayhem that ensues throughout this issue. Lesley Atlansky provides the colour with her usual flair, although the occasional panel does look a little flat from time to time. Once again however, she rises to the occasion in the big moments, giving the book an impressive visual flair. Credit must also be given to Colin Bell for his lettering and production abilities, and while a lot of the time his work goes underappreciated (or glossed over altogether, usually by myself), the fact that these comics look so slick and professional is a true testament to his skills.
Similar to recent “Read French Comics” release Exit Generation, there’s a lot more than just zany cartoon hijinks and wisecracking banter going on in Master Tape, with a not-so-subtle statement being made about the superficial nature of the music business, and the lengths some people will go to discover (and in turn exploit) the ‘next big thing’. Obviously there are a lot less flying axes, bazookas and shark tanks in the real music business – at least I would hope so – but the message is received loud and clear. At the same time however, this isn’t a joyless, preachy book by any stretch of the imagination. Yes, there’s a message buried beneath the surface, but it comes a distant second to the brilliantly fun story that French and chums are telling. A comic that’s all but guaranteed to put a smile on your face as you read it, this one is well worth a look folks.
You can grab yourself a copy of Master Tape: Side Two (as well as the side one) right now from the RF Comics Webstore.
The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson (aka Ceej)
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