Publisher: Cabal Comics
Writer: Fraser Campbell
Artist: Lautaro Capristo
Colours: David B. Cooper
Letters: Colin Bell
Release Date: November 14th, 2015 (Thought Bubble Festival)
For our latest small press review, we’re excited to be able to take an advance look at Fraser Campbell’s Sleeping Dogs, set to be released at next month’s Thought Bubble Festival in Leeds. This one-shot introduces us to Mal, a middle-aged reformed criminal who finds himself consumed with a desire for vengeance following the murder of his son. Set in Glasgow, the story follows Mal – who does a little PR work moonlighting as off-brand superhero “The Mondo Monster” for a local comic shop on the side – in his search for answers; answers which ultimately lead him to the door (or tower block) of seemingly ‘untouchable’ criminal Mark Batton.
Needless to say, Mal doesn’t quite accept the whole ‘untouchable’ thing, and embarks on single-minded quest for retribution. Imagine Gareth Evans’ “The Raid” set in a Glasgow tower block and you’re probably on the right track. Brutal violence, spicy language and adult themes abound, so this is definitely not one for the younger readers. Those of us who are a little bit older however will absolutely love the gritty dialogue and impressively relatable protagonist as he dons his mask and tears his way through the Glasgow underworld.
The characterisation of Mal is impressively structured, and we get a great sense of what kind of man he really is over the course of the relatively limited page count. Campbell handles the exposition smoothly, explaining the situation through natural conversations rather than hitting us with an unwieldy wall of text. The dialogue is sufficiently gritty, although not quite as ‘Weegie as I’d perhaps been expecting, and if you scratch the surface, there’s a hell of a lot more going on here than just a one-dimensional revenge romp.
Capristo’s artwork is filled with energy and emotion, and is brought to life by the wonderfully balanced colours of David B. Cooper. Not too bright as to appear garish, not too dull as to appear bland, Cooper hits the perfectly mark here as Capristo takes great pleasure in displaying Mal’s grizzled features and violent tendencies. This isn’t a polished, glossy world either. Every panel has the stench of poverty and grime, with litter strewn about and furniture and walls all showing noticeable signs of wear and tear, an approach which only adds to the gritty nature of Campbell’s tale.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Sleeping Dogs is the way it manages to tell a complete, self-contained story. We don’t need to know what happened before, nor do we need to know what happens next; everything we need is right here, and the story thunders forwards at a breakneck pace before finally reaching a surprisingly poignant conclusion. While the story itself may not necessarily involve a lot of subtlety, there are several pages here that dig a little deeper into Mal’s psyche, his troubled relationship with his son and his desperation to try and make amends.
Packed with grit, violence, luscious artwork and an unmistakably Scottish take on a father’s burning desire for revenge, Sleeping Dogs is a truly gripping title, and one which deserves to be seen by as many eyes as possible.
VARIANT COVER GALLERY (L-R: Joe Mulvey, Nick Pitarra, Iain Laurie)
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Make sure to like the Unofficial – Sleeping Dogs Facebook page for more news on the series, as well as where to get your hands on it when it becomes available this November.
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