Writer: John Harris Dunning
Artwork: Michael Kennedy
Release Date: 28th June 2018
TUMULT is the latest offering from London-based SelfMadeHero, and sees writer John Harris Dunning collaboration with artist Michael Kennedy on what is a stylish, gripping slice of contemporary crime fiction.
The first sixty pages or so deliver a wonderfully engrossing character study of our leading man, Adam Whistler. From a growing sense of dissatisfaction with his life to a freak accident and self-destructive holiday indiscretion, we see him hitting the ejector seat on his horribly perfect life, ending a ten-year relationship and sabotaging his blossoming career in the pursuit of something more.
Into this downward spiral of alcoholism and frustration comes Morgan, an enigmatic young lady who Adam meets at a party. Passions are ignited, sex is had, but before Adam knows what’s happening, she is gone. However, when a chance encounter sees their paths crossing again soon after, Morgan claims to have no recollection of the tryst, referring to herself as “Leila” and hurrying away. This contradiction ignites a mixture of obsession and concern within Adam, which quickly drags him down a rabbit hole of murder, mystery and shady government-funded organisations.
Dunning does an impressive job with the characterisation throughout the course of this 184-page graphic novel, infusing Adam with some intriguing, somewhat contradictory character traits. There’s an understated sense of detail and observation to his inner monologue that helps make him feel infinitely relatable, and while he has no shortage of personal issues and flaws, it’s difficult for the reader not to become quickly invested in his story.
Dunning also does a great job with Morgan/Leila herself, keeping her enigmatic and engaging throughout, while providing us with brief snapshots of some of the key moments in her life that brought her to this point. Extra credit should also be given to Adam’s best friend Marek, a charmingly obnoxious individual with a knack for providing friendly advice through the prism of classic ’80s action movies.
On the visual side of things, Kennedy displays a measured hand throughout, providing pages that are sometimes light on detail but always packed with expression and a knack for sequential narrative. The palette is muted throughout, but Kennedy employs some neat visual cues along the way, such as the changing colour between different captions to denote different narrators certain, as well as certain sequences being given a yellowed, aged appearance to make them stand out from the other pages.
It’s a book which flows rapidly and smoothly throughout, making it all too easy to devour the entire story in a single sitting. Obviously it’s difficult for me to delve too deeply into the various twists and turns without diminishing their impact, but suffice to say that the story we think we’re getting at the start ends up to be completely different from the one we end up with, as the layers of narrative are gradually peeled away over the course of the book.
The crime thriller genre can sometimes be a difficult one to capture in the comic book format, given the frequent reliance on inner monologue and lengthy exposition. However, I’m happy to report that Dunning and Kennedy have done exactly that, delivery a stylish, engrossing thriller with a well executed hook. Highly recommended.
You can find out more about the creative team – as well as where to get your hands on a copy of the book itself – on the Official SelfMadeHero Website.