Publisher: Madius Comics / Little O Productions
Writer(s): Rob Jones, Michael Sambrook, Luis Roldan Torque
Artist(s): Gareth Sleightholme, Alisdair Wood, Neil Ford, Diego Simone
Release Date: 2nd July 2016 (Glasgow Comic Con)
Hot on the heels of the announcement that the first issue of Tragic Tales of Horrere has been shortlisted for a Scottish Independent Comic Book Alliance (SICBA) award, those fine folks at Madius Comics and Little O Productions have just finished work on the second chapter, a chapter which will go on sale at this weekend’s Glasgow Comic Con.
Similar in execution to Madius Comics’ Papercuts & Inkstains anthology series – albeit with a slightly more horrific slant – the first issue set out its stall impressively with the “Sambrones” writing partnership of Michael Sambrook and Rob Jones working alongside different artists (three of whom return here) on a series of horror tales. Nothing is changed here, aside from the fact that we have a special “guest story” from Luis Roldan Torque and Diego Simone, and that the tone seems to be a lot more consistent this time out. But we’ll get to that…
The first story, The Thin Place, is a classic horror tale with a seemingly innocuous set-up leading to a shocking twist. It follows two friends who take a shortcut home through the graveyard where one of the boys’ grandfathers is buried. One thing leads to another, and… look, I really can’t say too much about this one without spoiling the ending, but suffice to say that the premise of the titular “thin place” – a place where the lines between living and dead are weakest, and the dead sometimes have a chance to reach back through – is utilised brilliantly. The artwork is provided by Neil Ford, and once again his distinct, highly-stylised approach works well to underscore the genuinely unsettling story. A strong start then, and a deeply sinister tale that benefits greatly from the more serious approach utilised by “Sambrones”.
Up next we have Tupper, the “guest story” from Torque and Simone, a brilliantly executed post-apocalyptic yarn that starts in media res as a group of survivors find themselves desperately seeking sanctuary from what we assume to be a zombie horde. Tensions are running high as they barricade themselves in, desperately searching for food and finding only a lone Tupperware container filled with something delicious. This leads to some disagreement over how the limited rations should be distributed, and… well, again I can’t really delve too deeply without spoiling the payoff. Simone’s artwork has a brilliant, slightly cartoony aesthetic that doesn’t ever undermine the serious nature of the story, and Torque deserves extra praise for managing to pack such a complete, self-contained story into just nine pages. Great stuff, and enough to make me want to seek out more from these particular creators.
Up next we have The Gilded Cage, with “Sambrones” back on writing duties and BCP favourite Gareth Sleightholme on art duties. The story, which sees a former serial killer reminiscing over the frustration of his past failures (that one girl that got away), is probably the weakest of the four in this issue, but is given an extra surge of dynamism due to Sleightholme’s typically stellar visuals. Expressive characters, heavily-shaded panels and wonderfully shocking moments of gore and horror keep the pages turning, and while the ending doesn’t quite land as it should, there’s still a hell of a lot to like about this particular strip.
Finally, we have the second chapter of Grimoire, the strip which carried the bulk of the first issue – in terms of both page count and quality – and which was chiefly responsible for the book’s SICBA nomination courtesy of Falkirk native Alisdair Wood’s stellar artwork. This is a fairly exposition heavy chapter as Neil recounts the moments that led to him having half of his head blown off – without any apparent ill effects – at the conclusion of the previous issue. The supernatural-laced mystery is firing on all cylinders here, and it’s clear that Jones and Sambrook are playing the long game with this particular story, keeping the pace controlled as our group of shell-shocked friends and colleagues try to make sense of what has happened and continue in their search for answers. Wood keeps things restrained for the most part, providing suitably emotional characters during the dialogue exchanges, but is given a couple of brilliant moments to cut loose – a haunting double-page spread and an eyebrow-raising final page – along the way. Once again, this is probably the strongest of the four strips, although Tupper runs it a close second this time out.
Overall, the quality remains impressively high, and with a noticeably reduced focus on “gags” here, Tragic Tales of Horrere has definitely managed to differentiate itself from Papercuts & Inskstains in terms of tone. “Sambrones” continue to impress with their more serious output – following on the heels of cracking stories like The King’s Leap and Griff Gristle: Here Be Monsters – and Luis Roldan Torque and Diego Simone just firmly cemented themselves in my “creators to look out for” list. Tense, shocking, horrific and beautifully illustrated from start to finish, Tragic Tales of Horrere is pretty much a must-buy for horror fans.
Tragic Tales of Horrere #2 will be available at Glasgow Comic Con on the 2nd and 3rd of July, and then shortly thereafter on the Madius Bigcartel Page.