Review – Nightmare Fuel #1 (Cabal Comics)

Publisher: Cabal Comics
Writer: Fraser Campbell
Artist: Norrie Millar
Letterer: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Logo Design: Faye Stacey
Script Editing: Heather Palmer
Coming to Kickstarter in November 2021

Earn Money! Live a life of adventure! Harvest Dangerous Monsters! Join EctoCo and help make the world a safer more environmentally conscious place for future generations.

A decade ago, EctoCo discovered a way of harvesting an environmentally clean product from the world’s supernatural “monsters”. With products including fuel, fabrics, synthetic food and medicines, EctoCo’s Thaumic Mass Extraction technique solves all the world’s resource problems in one fell swoop while also ridding the world of the monsters that haunt our nightmares. Specialist Monster Hunter teams are dispatched around the globe to harvest this precious resource. Featuring a mixture of mercenaries, criminals and political prisoners looking to commute their sentences, these teams must descend into the deepest, darkest wilds and risk life and limb to bring you a “better future”.

Given the fact that this is a story from the pen of Fraser Campbell, EctoCo are clearly not going to be the shining knights of virtue they claim to be. It is, after all, a divine commandment in any form of storytelling that any organisation that at first appears to be purely benevolent and working for the betterment of all humanity, must ultimately be shown as evil, corrupt, power hungry and utterly amoral.

I’ll admit that I went into this story with some trepidation. It’s very rare that I’ve read anything by Fraser Campbell that doesn’t leave its mark. There’s usually something Lynchian, or at the very least something that leaves you feeling disturbed and slightly dirty when you get to the end of one of his stories, and at first glance there are a lot of opportunities for this in the world building and the characters we meet in this first issue.

On the surface, this is a horror action adventure in the style of Aliens or Predator, with some wonderfully tense scenes backed up by some great action, but there is way more going on under the surface. I don’t know how intentional any of this was, but beyond the Aliens/Predator themes, there are points throughout this issue where I was reminded of Robocop, The Fly, The Thing and Starship Troopers. There is also a very definite B.P.R.D. feel to the story that’s really cool, without it being a rip off of the Mignolaverse.

There are a number of threads intertwined in this first issue, and each has its own tone and pacing. Protheroe, the boardroom tyrant that for some reason reminded me as much of Bill Murray’s Frank Cross (Scrooged) as Ronny Cox’ Jones (Robocop) or Cohaagan (Total Recall); sets the stage for the corporate skullduggery and sinister intentions. The Monster Hunter team bringing us some tense action packed scenes, that could easily be transported to Hadley’s Hope, Outpost 41, or Planet-P in the Klendathu system. And finally, we have Arlo McTeague, an aspiring executive hiding a dark secret that could put him on the side of angels or devils and delivered with a Cronenberg-like tension.

These threads are backed up really well by the artwork, which is great throughout. Norrie Millar manages to balance a lot of different themes in this issue, from the Campy TV commercial opening that’s just screaming to have Jesse Ventura, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Bridgit Nielsen and Keith David in it, through to the action and tension of the Monster Hunter scenes.  Millar also seems equally adept with vast sprawling mountains and claustrophobic caves, not to mention the paranoid isolation of McTeague.

This is issue number one, there’s already a whole lot going on, and I’m hooked. To be fair, this was inevitable, as I’m pretty much guaranteed to enjoy anything that Fraser Campbell writes. While this isn’t his first multi-issue series, this definitely has a more “mainstream” feel than other Campbell stories I’ve read, although I’m not sure how long that will last, and I think that this will be an opportunity to bring his talents to a far wider audience, which I hope in turn will bring that audience to the more outré and psychedelic entries in the Campbell catalogue.

Coming to Kickstarter in Late November, I’ll be putting my money where my mouth is and be amongst the first to back this book.

Rating: 4/5.


The writer of this piece was: Mark Scott
Mark Tweets from @macoy_comicgeek ‏

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