Writer: John Smith
Artist: Paul Peart
Letters: Ellie De Ville
Release Date: 2nd June 2021
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Wading waist-deep in dinosaur carcasses, scattered human limbs and an entire arsenal of “tactical nuclear artillery”, John Smith’s script for the second half of “Slaughter Bowl” must easily have made the majority of this comic’s audience carry a massive grin across their faces throughout the entire length of the race. For whilst the utterly insane sport’s coverage does contain the odd commercial break to allow the film crew to focus upon Chief Plastic Surgeon Cliff Hammond’s financially-fueled efforts to save Stanley Modest’s sick wife, the vast majority of this graphic novel’s sense-shatteringly paced final four instalments predominantly focus upon the bespectacled serial killer’s homicidal efforts to get his Parasaurus called Myrtle across the finishing line in one piece; “Stan! You gotta snap out of it! This is it, Stan! Your big chance!”
Happily however, so simple a plot such as ‘first past the winner’s post’ doesn’t mean that what follows is in any way sedentary or dull, thanks to the British author penning a number of high-octane set-pieces involving heavily-toothed carnivores mercilessly tearing chunks out of the numerous competitors in the most grisly way imaginable. Indeed, this so-called sport’s kill count is phenomenal, with the tournament’s initial death actually taking place just outside the starting stalls when Salvator Ligotti’s bright green Triceratops catches “a trip wire with his very first step” and decapitates participant Number Thirty-Four.
Smith is also somewhat innovative in just how his exhilarating story is told by using the Word Television News Service coverage to ‘skip’ any boring bits and repeatedly whisk the reader straight into the very heart of the action wherever on the 120 mile endurance course it is taking place. This technique means that despite a few scenes depicting the rider’s purchasing either armaments or life-saving medical aid during a well-timed pit stop, Paul Peart’s marvelous illustrations are never really more than a handful of panels away from depicting some ghastly moment of unqualified carnage on the racing track – even if “the co-creator of Tracer” includes a disconcerting viewpoint straight down into a Megalosaurus’ digestive tract when DJ Jackmaster Chill and his accompanying Harry Camera are shockingly swallowed by the ferocious giant lizard.
Ultimately though, this entire publication lives or dies by the quality of its conclusion, when Stanley’s soft demeanour is finally put to the test against the homicidal barbarism of Mister Throat. Excitingly, Smith’s penmanship doesn’t disappoint, and even manages to throw the book’s bibliophiles a few curve balls within the final pages as the literally legless defending three-time champion goes tooth to tooth with his closest rival just mere inches from the race’s end.