Created by Dilraj Mann.
Published by NoBrow.
Oversized hardback format - Full Colour - 76 pages - £14.99.
'For years, Dalston has been home to monsters - not just the property developers who own the area. Out of the holes dug for new blocks of flats, huge beasts began to emerge. Gangs formed, territorial battles ensued... and now two friends must fight for their lives as they discover the true depths of Dalston's darkest secret.
Dilraj Mann's debut graphic novel explores friendship and corruption in an alternative vision of East London.'
I had the pleasure of chatting to Dilraj at the East London Comics Art Festival in 2016. He told me about his grand plans for this book and I've been looking forward to seeing what would be published since. I don't feel that I was let down in any way. This is a ruddy wonder of a book. It mixes the urban drama genre with the fantastical in a clever and beautiful execution of a comic!
Let's start with that cover! If you are looking to create an eye catching, bright encapsulation of a story in one image then this is where to look. The title on the left with the vertical horizontal yellow stripe and black lettering is striking and draws your eye. Next to it is a multiple person image that shows both the fantastic Manga meets Charles Burns stylistic art and the visual representation of an unfolding urban fable. If this doesn't catch your eye on a comic or bookshelf I'd check your pulse as you may be dead from the waist up...
The interiors are as good. They are retina burningly iconic in their individual and thoroughly consistent methodology. They have got a pace and a character that reflects an urgency of young and troubled city dwellers. The book opens with a fun moped vs car chase from the off. A chase that not only sets the stage visually but also sets up character and narrative. I sense a strong editorial hand on a stripped down to the bone story that reveals and extrapolates at perfect timings.
I'm an old fart. It's plain. I have to admit that I didn't like any of the characters on a personal level. But I don't think I am mean't to because walking through Dalston in real life London I doubt I would then either. Roshan, Kay and even Lolly are formulated to be real and not endearing. To say that this is 'Kidulthood' meets 'Monsters' is an over simplification. This gets into the guts of more about life in London and seems to me to have a hard reality playing alongside the fantastical elements. The voices are grounded and spell out the day-to-day lives of the kids involved (especially in the first act).
I'm typing much of this as I read this volume. Around half way through the book you begin to realise that Mann is a clever fucker. He's created this world and placed the players where they should be, he's then began to weave the story beyond what I expected. He is creating an enduring hero and a splendidly fleshed out world. It has all the hallmarks of the start of a series. It also has a cheeky sense of style and humour. There's a snark and flourish to the words spoken and the designs on show.
There is much more coming I sense. This landscape of hipster street markets and tower blocks has become the playground for something more akin to a saga with a deep running mystery at it's heart. I'm hoping as I read that this isn't a one and done graphic novel.... I will read on.
30 minutes later...
Right! I've just finished reading. I want to tell you what a fucking great ending this book has. The twists and the turns that you'll see on the page. The way that it will play with what you think you know about the story and characters and monsters and political games that are played.
But I can't. I can't spoil this. It's something that you'll need to experience for yourself.
Just promise that when you have read the whole thing you'll go out and have a good shout about what you thought.
What I will say is that at £14.99 this is a solid gold steal! Every page is dynamite.
Buy a copy!
Find out more about the creator at www.dilrajmann.com or follow him on Twitter @dilraj_mann
You can find more great books over at the NoBrow website at www.nobrow.net
Or pop along to the book's release at Gosh Comics in London on Friday the 15th of September between 7 and 9pm. www.goshlondon.com
Many thanks for reading.
Twenty-four hours later....
I showed this to a pal (he's not a big fan of comics or reading in general to think of it) who read it sitting next to me on a long drive and he said as follows...
'This is fucking great! It's like Pokemon meets The Warriors' (I kind of liked that one!)