Monday, 31 December 2012

Review - Spooks 1: The Fall of Babylon


Let me introduce you to Lisa, my wonderful wife. 

Lisa has been reading graphic novels of all kinds of genres for as long as she could read, and her love of Batman is unsurpassed. She has recently read and digested the excellent graphic novel 'Spooks' from Cinebook, and below are her thoughts. This review can also be found on her own website The BatHobbit.


1 - The Fall of Babylon
Spooks – Published by Cinebook. Script by Xavier Dorison & Fabian Nury. Drawing and colour work by Chrsitian Rossi, French to English translation by Jerome Saincantin.

For those who are not aware of Cinebook I envy you this opportunity of experiencing their foreign delights for the first time. It’s like finding there is nothing left in this world that you have not sampled and your graphic novel pallet has long run dry. You continue in the same fashion collecting your sets but falling into the cracks of the same old artists and writers. You yourself become a stereotypical fan and long to fall from the inked path you are travelling. That all changed the day I came across Cinebook. My husband Jonathan (Farsight Blogger) left an edition of one of their prints on my bedside table knowing that I had long been searching for something to sink my teeth into and low and behold I think I've found it... 

Since the end of 2005, Cinebook has worked to become the premier publisher of the Franco-Belgian Ninth Art in English in markets dominated by American superhero comics and Japanese manga. French and Belgian graphic work on our shores were mainly known for Tin Tin, Asterix or as when I was younger Lucky Luke and co. But the edition I am about to review falls far from these and in my humble opinion stronger than many shorts I have seen before now.

Spooks 1. The fall of Babylon is a short Graphic Novel set in the East Coast of America in 1895. The first installment introduces us to a band of five men and one woman who will accompany us on this journey. The writers waste no time and on page one you are given a brief introduction to what lies in wait for you. If like me you are a total character junkie then this short ‘heads up’ if you will is brilliant. I won’t give too much away but before the story has even begun you are thrown into what you should expect from your main characters. You have a British gent knowledgeable in all areas of detective occult, Mr Morton Chapel (what a brilliant name!) introduces himself to us in superb fashion as the head of this Rag tag band of Specialists in the Odd and Occult (favorably nicknamed Spooks by Ulysses S Grant and that in itself tells you how high and deep their past has been you can only wonder at what they had done together before this story!) You then have a brutal sharp-shooter, Mr Joey Bishop. You are given a hint to how brutal this hired hand for murder is but a soft blow is provided with the simple tag ‘he fears only one thing, his feelings for Kathryn Lennox’ which opens all kinds of questions, he is later described as chubby but in certain shots he displays an unexpected bout of manners to what he feels is right for a ladies eyes to see. His enforcer companion is always a Mr. Bart Trumble and you are shown that he is an old hand at the Occult where Mr Bishop on the other hand is as green-horned as they come. My favorite is Angel Salvaje, a Native American Exorcist who is rescued from the Gallows for what the laymen call Murder. You then have the shadowy Mr Richard Clayton, fired from his job for asking too many questions on his countries safety he takes matters into his own hands and enlists the help of Chapel and his crew. Which lead them to the Lennox family... of which I will say less!

 The story begins with the demise of the East Coast elite and the appearance of a strange symbol that vanishes as soon as it arrives. People of normal social ranking committing acts of evil and murder are becoming far too rife in the social circles of the Senate. Richard Clayton wants answers immediately and the only man he can trust is Morton Chapel. Together they pin each clue together and follow the dangerous trail through murky alleys and opium dens. You have the feeling that all of them apart from Bishop and Ms Lennox know what waits for them and there is no question at any point that whatever they are hunting is unholy and the plan when they find it is uncertain. However! They never question that they will and even those who wade into the unknown do so with a bravery and valor that you want to be explained further.

I have read many graphic novels and indeed books that have had a stab at the occult and whilst I grant that there is not that much to research as you can indeed just ‘make it up’ it is not done so with any wit or expertise. It has become a raging trend to butch up vampires and humanize werewolves and it is refreshing to see a company tackle the trend with intelligence and 18th century finesse. In a time when nothing would have been known about Witchcraft or Satanism other than what the puritans left behind and what your grandmother had told you to get you to eat your greens, you feel that each character given to us by Dorison and Nury are tomes on an Arcane shelf being brushed off and made ready for use again and for that I am grateful. I am about to sink my teeth into the second installment ‘The century Club’ and exited does not cover it after the cliff-hanger reveal that ‘The fall of Babylon’ gave us. Christian Rossi's artwork is exemplary and refreshingly citrus in feel, the colors of the east coast dust waft over each page at times and the stark black and white scenes are harsh in reflection as the atmosphere seems to carry in the sometimes brutal and brave dialogue. This has quickly become a favorite of mine and I hope for it or the crew to carry on forward. If you are looking for something new, well written and beautifully presented in the styles of old then look no further you will not be disappointed. 

Cinebook retail this beauty at £6.99 and I cannot think of anything that would dazzle in your fine collection then this.