Department of the Peculiar - Issue 1.
Written by Rol Hirst.
Art by Rob Wells.
This is the first of the small press titles that have come my way since starting this nightmare of a review a day for a month. It was given to me as a suggestion by my LCS at Chaos City Comics in St Albans. (www.chaoscitycomics.com). They also stock this issue and the second issue (as well as loads of other comicsy stuff - yeah).
The book is written by Rol Hirst who is a veteran of the UK Small Press scene. (You know those guys that sit about in a room at Bristol every year being ignored but never failing to have bags of enthusiasm. - I know because I used to be one of them.) The art is done by Rob Wells who I met oh so briefly at the recent London Super Comic Convention.
To give Rob his due credit the cover to issue 1 is very eye catching and has a certain punk crossed with the X-Files iconic flavour to it. It does what all good covers should do in that it implies story beats but is dramatic and individual. (issue 2 if you get hold of it has a 'Kitty Pryde Welcome to the X-Men....' vibe to it. Pretty snazzy).
The story itself is a British X-Files of a type. The characters are as follows.
Malcolm Drake - Manipulator / Bald / American.
Lisa Cole - Boss / Speccy / Blokes chin.
Karine Murdoch - Psychic / Bit dumpy.
They are all of them (in varying degrees of involvement) members of The Department of the Peculiar and are kind of a psychic warning system for threats to the UK. Attached to this warning centre are field agents like Malcolm. (who is also a bit of a creepy mystery).
The villain seems to centre around the evil of food preservatives and to be honest looks like he is covered in spunk (genuinely). Not that this is something I have come across a lot in real life (so far). He is kind of an overweight spunky Punisher who is on a crusade against MSG.
The book is fun and rattles along. But I am left with a feeling that I have seen all this sort of thing before. In fact I know I have seen this sort of thing - every year at Bristol. The art manages a level of story telling but does seem to be a never ending series of front facing faces that often hardly change.
I applaud anyone putting out a self published book these days and I genuinely wish them well but it needs a bigger edge and a bigger design input. I put it down feeling like it was a small press book put together in the 1980s. More photocopier than photoshop.