Writer: Fraser Campbell
Artwork: Iain Laurie
Colours: David B. Cooper
Lettering: Colin Bell
Serving as the latest collaboration between writer Fraser Campbell (Alex Automatic) and artist Iain Laurie (And Then Emily Was Gone), The Edge Off is, as you might expect from the track record of its creators, a bizarre melting pot of concepts and themes. I’m going to call it “Lynch Noir”, in as much as it manages to skilfully blend the finest traditions of pulp noir detective novels with the unbridled weirdness of classic David Lynch.
The story is based around Lee, a “fixer” who wakes up to find that his daughter Kayla has been abducted. To make matters worse, he realises that whoever took her also spiked him with “Rapture”, a hallucinogenic drug which is making his attempts to track the kidnappers down a little… trippy, to say the least.
Laurie’s artwork is perfectly suited for delivering the unrelenting weirdness on display here, with the story continually flitting between actual reality and the twisted, drug-addled reality of our leading man. Shadowy corners become filled with grotesque tentacles, faces contort into horrifying masks and heads are popped like freakish balloons by the screwdriver Lee carries with him at all times – this is classic Laurie from start to finish.
There’s an unpolished, almost rushed quality to some of the artwork which I think actually serves to enhance the frantic nature of the story. And while he’ll be the first to admit that his work is something of an acquired taste, the fact remains that Iain Laurie seems to have been put on this earth to draw weird shit, and when it comes to drug-addled hallucinogenic horror, there are few artists better suited to the task.
David B. Cooper’s colours feel almost intentionally harsh throughout, particularly during the more hallucinogenic sequences, giving the book a jarring quality that, again, really enhances it unconventional narrative.
Rounding out the creative team is Colin Bell, who gives the book a slick presentation which belies its unusual approach. All too often, books like these can become a little too abstract with their lettering, making them almost impossible to read at times. Here however, Bell serves as the anchor that keeps the book in place, ensuring that no matter how weird the story or artwork gets, we still know what people are saying and thinking.
Campbell’s hard boiled pulp narration works well to deliver the story, with some fantastic lines of both dialogue and monologue throughout. Like everything else in this book, it’s almost intentionally disorienting at times, but it gives us enough information to keep the pages turning and Lee’s story surging towards its conclusion.
However, while it’s undoubtedly an enjoyable read (providing this level of weirdness is your kind of thing), and for all of Laurie’s mind-bending artwork and Campbell’s finely tuned turn-of-phrase, it doesn’t quite break out of the box in the way I hoped it would. That is, until the final few pages.
To even hint at what happens would be to diminish its impact, but it immediately prompted another couple of rapid read-throughs, and has been stuck in the back of my mind ever since. It’s a fantastic denouement to a story that feels like it’s going one way, only to sideswipe you right at the very end just when you think you have it all figured out. Fantastic stuff from all involved.
The Kickstarter launches later this month, and honestly, I think you’d be an absolute idiot to miss out on this one. In an industry where ‘playing it safe’ has become almost seen as a virtue, it’s thoroughly refreshing to see a creative team unapologetically doing their own thing. And, when the result is something as utterly memorable as The Edge Off, it’s an approach that definitely needs to be rewarded – in this case, by throwing money at it.
You can thank me later. Once you’ve stopped sobbing and scratching your head, of course.
The Kickstarter for The Edge Off launches on February 20th, so make sure to follow the Official Facebook Page for all the details once it goes live.