Bryan Talbot's name is most associated with 200AD comic, as he provided strips for Blaine, Nemesis The Warolck and Judge Dredd. But after several years of superheroes and the supernatural, he wrote and drew The Tale Of One Bad Rat, a beautifully scripted and rendered voyage of a young girl doing battle with the spectre of sexual abuse.
The story starts with Helen homeless on the platform of Tottenham Court Road tube station, begging for change and being harangued by an over-zealous Christian crusader. After encounters with a trio of prostitutes and an amorous and sleazy MP, she falls in with some well-meaning but occasionally volatile squatters. Events take a sudden turn for the worse, and she hitches out of London when her recent past starts catching up with her. From this point it's a visual and personal tour-de-force, as Helen begins to work on the source of her demons against the stunning backdrop of the Lake District.
As Alice In Sunderland (one of Bryan Talbot's later books) focused on the links between Sunderland and Lewis Carroll, One Bad Rat ties itself with the life, works and movements of Beatrix Potter. The title and cover both pay homage to the range of books penned by Potter, and Helen has a long-standing obsession them. Furthermore, a series of enounters and locations in the Lake District echo her life and movements through that part of the country, which is where she drew a lot of her inspiration.
The Tale Of One Bad Rat is still in print, and is a comic I can't recommend enough. It's wonderfully written, with a good deal of research into and, more importantly, sensitivity to the obviously charged subject matter. The characterisation is strong and Bryan Talbot made a point of drawing from life models, which adds the grit and emotion necessary to the proceedings.
Visually it hits the right notes all the way, from the gaudy neon-dappled drizzle of East End London to the epic vistas of the Lakes. Comic books are by nature static in their presentation, but The Tale of One Bad Rat feels very much like a moving road trip.