Publisher: Madius Comics
Writers (3a): Robin Jones & Michael Sambrook
Artists (3a): Angela Sprecher, Paul Moore, Rosie Packwood
Writers (3b): Robin Jones, Nick Gonzo, Michael Sambrook
Artists (3b): Dan Butcher, Brian Burke, Mike Smith
I haven’t really read an anthology comic with any seriousness since the 1980’s. My comics of choice then were Warlord, The Hotspur, The Victor. I tried a few 2000 A.D.s but by that point I had found my genre with superhero comics. Roll on 30 years (that was truly depressing to write), and here I am reading Papercuts and Inkstains by the crazy folk at Madius Comics.
Ceej did a preview of the first issue back in February 2015 for the Big Comic Page and found himself pleasantly surprised with how the first 3 stories played out. Issue two came and went and issues 3a and 3b have been out for a little while now, so I thought it was about time to see how the book was maturing.
Madius have been very ambitious by releasing these two issues at once, birthing 6 very different stories for the world to chew on. Issue 3a has three brand new tales of horror, whilst 3b has two new stories and the continuing Profits of Doom.
So, to the stories, with 3a first (like duh!);
3a 1: A Roll of the Dice: This is an absurd little heist tale in which the local colour decides to save their wild west town from the evil casino. The absurdity and colour comes from town saviours who are drawn from the local bar and they are, well, a bit nuts. Sprecher’s art matches the characters quite well, with an old school Loony Tunes cartoon quality. The tale is told by skipping backwards and forwards in time, with the differentiation made by different panel edgings. It’s a helpful technique as otherwise the jumps could be confusing. The final panel sums up the tractable nature of humanity beautifully. It’s a good fun tale. Not the best of the issue, but an amusing start. Rating: 3/5.
3a 2: Vampire Wonderland: It’s the end of the world (what? again!?), and this time it’s vampires that are the protagonists (what? again!?). The vampires don’t sparkle (thank the deity of your choice) and really are secondary to this character piece. It’s short, sharp and a lovely introduction to a character I would be happy to read more about, Sabi, and the twist at the end only reinforces this. I want to see where this came from and where Jones and Sambrook want to take it. The art fits the story like a glove; Moore’s depiction of fluid action is excellent, and as the action takes place at night, the use of heavy contrasts works very, very well. This is definitely my favourite of the first three stories. Rating: 4.5/5,
3a 3: Slaycation: Sambrook and Packwood tell a tale of a group of friends who vacation together every year. This year, it seems they are traveling to their doom. However, the twist here is that, unlike Wrong Turn, these guys are pretty darned evil. Enough said about that, the fun is in the reading, and this is well worth reading. The art looks deceptively simple in some panels, and properly intricate in others. Packwood matches the art to the tale in an accomplished manner. Rating: 4/5.
Overall rating for issue 3a: 4/5.
Now for 3b;
3b 1: F.P.S: As the name suggests this story is told from a first person POV. Jones does an excellent job in writing this like a cut scene from a computer game, and Butcher does a brilliant job at making this feel like said computer game. For me, there’s a familiarity to the twist at the end of the story. It’s undoubtedly clever, and although it pays homage to the likes of Robert Heinlein, Orson Scott Card and Isaac Asimov, it’s not derivative. The story works very well as a stand-alone tale, but there is a depth of backstory that could easily be explored should Jones ever feel the need to expand, and he might even be able to tell a tale that isn’t Falling Skies. A very strong start to 3b. Rating: 4/5,
3b 2: The Perplexity: This story starts with what appears to be a standard bank robbery. For three pages it’s all about the heist. Then it’s not. Then the Perplexity himself appears, and the head f*ckery commences. I’ve read it six times now, and I still have absolutely no idea what is going on, so I’m not even going to do the pretentious thing of making it up. See for yourself, read the comic, and if you think you know what’s going on, then feel free to message me. Hopefully by then one of the Madius crowd may have told me what the hell Gonzo had in his coffee when he wrote it. Someone might even tell me what it all means. Some may enjoy the perplexity of the tale, Personally, I didn’t. Rating: 2/5.
3b 3: Profits of Doom #3: Try saying Profits of Doom without it becoming Profits of Doooooooom. I dare ya. This is the story that is the continuing thread through the anthology that is Papercuts and Inkstains. This issue follows on from a failed attempt by five suburban idiots – the aforementioned Profits – to summon the chaos lord Bulgeroth, whom they wanted to end the world on their terms. The failure wasn’t that the summoning didn’t work, it did, it’s just that the five left before Bulgeroth appeared and he bestowed his otherworldly powers onto an unsuspecting deer. The end of the world is still coming, just imagined by a deer and not Grandmaster George, and what an imagination The deer has. George wants the power back, but to get it he has to kill the deer, and that will not be easy.
This issue sees the five Prophets of Doom deal with a giant human meatball, pirate ships and cannon balls, an enormous Cerberus like kitten, an even bigger hungry, hungry hippo, a Tyrannosaurus Rex and a Terry Pratchett-alike book shop owner. I’m not sure which one is the most absurd. What makes The Prophets of Doom work so well is the very British sensibilities that Jones and Sambrook lend to the truly ridiculous situations that they place the Prophets in. These are still five mates, not the brightest sparks, surviving a very British apocalypse. I’m still waiting for some tea jokes. Smith’s art fits wonderfully with the story, and his depiction of the book keeper is brilliant. Oh, and Brad Holman’s panel at the end of the book would make an excellent t-shirt, just sayin’. Rating: 5/5.
Overall rating for issue 3b: 4/5.
You can grab yourself a copy of Papercuts & Inkstains #3A and #3B – as well as the rest of Madius Comics’ rapidly-expanding back catalogue – over at their online store.
The writer of this piece was: John Wallace
John Tweets from @jmwdaredevil.