A Review Asks Only Whether One Can Live With It Or Die Of It

I've been reviewing small press publications on www.bugpowder.com for a few years now. Totemic small presser Andy Luke recruited me; he'd been impressed with my essay, Closing Shots From A Grassy Knoll, and was convinced that I could restore some cheer to the reviews section.

Ostensibly a scoff-mixture, Closing Shots From A Grassy Knoll discusses the pathogenic presence in UK small press of comics creators eager to produce work sterilized by an ambition to be adaptable to the strictures of an intrusive company bent on 'product development', and who derive a vanity-buzz of satisfaction from tucking themselves into deadlines and knocked-off scripts. "This budding hack is fuelled by little more than the desperation for a sense of celebrity," I wrote, "and must be destroyed."

My muscular reviewing-style grated with small press enthusiasts' indulgence in self-satisfied congeniality and writer/artist shape-throwing, but I refused to conveniently dismiss creators with throwaway compliments, employing instead a reviewing discipline based on four simple tenets: 1, perspective is to be achieved; 2, the standards by which one is judging the work are to be made clear; 3, credit is to be given where it is due; and 4, one should not be such a fucking misanthrope, you above-being-human narcissist.

Regularly achieving three of the four principles with my aesthetic evaluations, and quickly developing an obsessive-compulsive urgency for production of symmetrically paragraphed reviews, the meaningless absurdity of opinionative writing soon revealed itself to me. I was not deterred.

John Robbins

Falling Sky

Posted on February 2, 2007

Provided a perfect-bound, glossy treatment by publishers, Scar Comics, Falling Sky is a bold choice for their first graphic novel release. Relentlessly downbeat and humourless, its inherent cynicism makes few concessions to comforting entertainment, and with a resourcefully crafted but functional artwork – photo-sourced and treated with a simplifying outline, a murky two-tone and chalk/charcoal effect – it could scarcely be considered a safe-bet, commercially. However, once one settles to the inappropriately other-worldliness of glowing figures and white blood, it is difficult to resist the impetus of this well-crafted story.

When first-time kidnapper Rijuta loses her accomplices to an SAS hit-squad bent on the extermination of kidnap victim and banker, Charles Pearson, she learns that he is a man with knowledge of a covert government operation triggered by an impending apocalypse. An asteroid twenty-five miles in diameter hurtles toward earth and only the world's elite has been surreptitiously allocated safe-passage to underground shelters. With twenty-eight hours to impact, Rijuta turns bodyguard as Pearson dodges bullets in a last-ditch attempt to deliver both to safety.

Essentially an alchemy of conspiracy and cataclysm, Falling Sky is a taut action-chiller told with no-nonsense lucidity and deliberate pacing, which employs a time-lock narrative device to suspenseful consequence. Though its central characters are betrayed by a plot-driven focus – Rijuta, particularly, is underdeveloped and under-explained – and a false note is struck by an unconvincing sub-plot involving Pearson's malicious business rival, the persuasive, conscientious crafting effectiveness of creator Benjamin Dickson demands that one is captured by this refreshingly quip-free and, ultimately, disquieting read.

US size, 84 glossy pages, two-tone interior, £7.99 – available from www.smallzone.co.uk