Publisher: Madius Comics
Writer(s): Rob Jones, Mike Sambrook
Artist(s): Angela Sprecher, Darren Stephens, Ceri Hanvey, Mike Smith, Bob Turner, Iain Laurie, Nick Gonzo
Release Date: 5th November 2016 (Thought Bubble Festival)
Those mad geniuses at Madius Comics are back once again with the latest instalment of Papercuts & Inkstains, boasting a brand new slate of typically offbeat, quirky stories and – of course – the eagerly anticipated next episode of the Profits of Doom.
The first story, “Meat the Monotaur” is pretty much Madius 101, meaning that it takes a decidedly British dilemma (running out of coffee) and gives it a wonderfully overblown context (venturing into the labyrinth in the basement of the building and battling nasty monsters to get some). The humour from Sambrones is on-point here, and Angela Sprecher’s artwork works incredibly well alongside the somewhat bizarre story, with a wonderfully caricaturized approach that really helps to sell the sheer absurdity of what’s going on, talking Smart Drives and all. Fun, lively and with a satisfying – if groan-inducing – payoff, this is a perfect way to open the issue and bring new readers up to speed about just what to expect from Papercuts & Inkstains.
“Eton Mess” is probably my favourite strip of the whole issue, and sees a Village Fete beset by grotesque abominations and demons, leaving it to ATS-trained Petunia Morley to try and save the day. Darren Stephens does an absolutely bloody fantastic job with the artwork, particularly on the aforementioned beasties, cementing himself as a name to most definitely keep an eye out for in the future. Jones and Sambrook don’t go too overboard with the gags, letting the spectacle of Stephens’ artwork carry the story, although they do manage to throw in a few gems for good measure, including an off-the-cuff remark about the coconut shy that actually made me laugh out loud on the bus. So yeah, definitely the high point of this issue for me, and a classic example of Madius Comics’ unique selling point, providing the perfect blend of silly and serious.
The penultimate story, “Where’d Wendigo?”, feels like the weakest of the four, and introduces us to a ragtag group of Girl Guides who find themselves under attack by a menacing monster during an excursion into the woods. One of the hallmarks of Papercuts & Inkstains so far has been the way that Jones and Sambrook can slot quirky pop culture references and offbeat humour into stories that could otherwise be played incredibly seriously (see: Profits of Doom), but in this strip, the balance feels a little off. There’s a little too much silliness, a little too many shoehorned references, and a little too many Predator gags (something I never previously thought was possible) for my taste, making the story feel a little bit pointless and self-indulgent as a result. Ceri Hanvey’s artwork is solid, with some cracking reaction shots and several pleasing action beats, but the overall premise (Predator with Girl Guides!) doesn’t quite live up to the execution on this occasion.
And finally, we return to our regularly scheduled episode of “The Profits of Doom” as our witless wannabe cult – accompanied by familiar-looking bookseller “Terry” (don’t call him Tel) – attempt to storm Bulgeroth’s fortress of demonic nastiness. Story-wise, it has to be said that there’s not a heck of a lot of progression to be had here, but what we get instead is a wonderful sequence where a variety of guest artists (including Bob Turner, Iain Laurie and Nick Gonzo) are each given a page to illustrate a bizarre alternate dimension that the Profits and their van find themselves lurching through.
It’s a really clever idea, and works well to showcase the wildly different styles of the assembled guest artists. Seriously, going from Turner to Laurie in the turn of the page is about as wonderfully jarring a visual beat as you could ever hope for. Mike Smith does his typically impressive artistic thang in the remainder of the strip, although there’s a few rough, almost rushed-feeling panels along the way, and while the issue itself doesn’t necessarily advance anything much in terms of the narrative, it’s still a hell of a lot of fun, which should pretty much be considered the Madius mission statement by now.
Overall then, while it’s not necessarily the strongest issue of Papercuts & Inkstains so far, there’s still a lot to like about this latest issue, and both Eton Mess and the “guest artist” section of The Profits of Doom are well worth the cover price alone.
Papercuts & Inkstains #6 will be available at the Thought Bubble Festival on the 5th and 6th of November, and then shortly thereafter – alongside the entire Madius back catalogue – on the Madius Bigcartel Page.