Writer: John Lees
Artist: Alex Cormack
Colours: Alex and Ashley Cormack
Letters: Shawn Lee
Release Date: 23rd January 2019
After a strong start last month, the second volume of ComixTribe’s SINK is now in full swing with the latest story, entitled “Lead Balloon”, going on sale this coming Wednesday.
This latest issue reintroduces us to Jordan, a member of the “Dickheads” street gang who we previously met briefly in issue 5 (“White Dog”). We join Jordan just a week before his 30th birthday as he finds himself facing a terrifying dilemma. Y’see, in order to be promoted from a lowly “Dickhead” to a “Witness”, gang members have to prove their worth by carrying out some mean or crazy act of debauchery or violence. Oh, and if they don’t manage this by the time they turn 30, they have to pay a visit to notorious gangland leader Si McKirdie to receive something called the “Lead Balloon”, after which they’re never heard from again.
The problem is, Jordan’s basically a good guy. He’s motivated primarily by peer pressure, but is understandably terrified of the “Lead Balloon”, so enlists the help of his friend Emma (also last seen in issue 5 trying to track down her missing dog) to help him carry out something relatively safe and inoffensive in order to advance to “Witness” status.
Perhaps what’s most impressive about SINK as a series is the way writer John Lees has managed to build such a rich cast of characters around his fictional Glasgow suburb. Seven issues in, the place feels terrifyingly real, with its own complicated mythology and social hierarchy, not to mention more than its own fair share of urban legends.
Each issue is standalone, but this one perhaps more than any other feels the most interconnected. Familiar characters like Jordan, Emma and McKirdie feature prominently, there are allusions to other established characters (including a great nod to a certain shovel-wielding vigilante), and previously throwaway background moments are expended in horrific detail (remember that terrifying bus that our leading man missed all the way back in issue one?)
By this point, you can feel just how dialled-in Lees is to the inhabitants of Sinkhill. However, in spite of the grit, grime and violence, this is actually one of the most uplifting issues of the series so far… until it isn’t. Without venturing into the realm of spoilers, the ending is about as ‘SINK’ as you could imagine, and you can practically visualise Lees cackling away at his keyboard while delivering his gut shot of a finale.
This issue also features a welcome return to form for Alex Cormack, who seemed to be veering a little too heavily into the realms of over-the-top gore in recent issues. This is a far more restrained, far more controlled Cormack, utilising his detailed and scratchy style to convey the expressions of his characters to perfection, and who nails the beats, be they humorous and tragic, with a real sense of flair.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s still some shockingly violent moments here (well, one in particular) that Cormack tackles with trademark gusto, but I think the ‘less is more’ approach works wonders in making that particular moment land quite as effectively as it does. It certainly caught me unawares, that’s for sure.
At the end of the day, if you haven’t hopped into the back of this particular van, you really need to remedy that. While it’s deeply rooted in Scottish culture and some of the dialogue may be a little dense for non-locals, Lees and Cormack have created one of the most haunting, thought-provoking and downright shocking comics I’ve read in quite some time, and this latest issue is unquestionably one of the best so far.
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