on 18 June 2012
As reviewed on my 2000AD blog Brit Cit Reviews.
One of the great things about 2000AD is its relatively high turnover of new strips. Sure you have the old classics like Dredd and Strontium Dog, but 2000AD has never been a comic to rest on its laurels, continuingly bringing us brand new strips too enjoy. Sometimes they don't work and are forgotten about pretty quickly, but other times the new strips stand head and shoulders over the rest of the prog as a classic in the making. Fortunately Absalom falls firmly into the latter category.
Around this time last year I was pretty excited about the forthcoming debut of Absalom. As a spin-off of supernatural horror strip Caballistics Inc I had high hopes for Absalom before it had even started. Cabs Inc had been one of the best strips of the 21st century so far, so anything to do with it had to be good. That has certainly proved to be the case as Absalom is perhaps well on its way to surpassing its parent strip in every way. Absalom is one of those rare strips where everything is absolutely perfect...the writing, the art, the characters, the premise...everything is firing on all cylinders.
Having a good lead character is absolutely vital to any comic strip, particularly when he lends his name to the strips title. Inspector Harry Absalom is a fascinating leading man, riddled with incurable cancer yet apparently unable to die, he remains something of a mystery despite the reader knowing quite a bit of his backstory. We know that he is in fact hundreds of years old as is revealed in the first strip in this collection, having been witness to the signing of The Accord between the British Government and Hell itself, centuries in the past. Yet he also appears to be a modern day detective in the vein of Inspector Frost, albeit one who enforces a treaty made with Demons and Monsters. What's particularly great about Absalom is that this is just a job for him. Most supernatural investigators are portrayed as being interested in little outside their job. But for Absalom it's very much something he has to do, rather than something he chooses to do. The supporting cast are noteworthy too, including an apparent mole and a rather unusual little man who you really have to read the strip too be able to fully understand.
The art by Tiernen Trevallion is absolutely stunning throughout. His attention to detail is particularly noteworthy, just check out some of the backgrounds on the Ghosts of London strip. That panel with the Dog running off with a severed head is particularly hilarious. But it would mean nothing if the writing didn't back it up. With Gordon Rennie on script duties though, you know that the writing is going to be first class. All three strips included in this trade are absolutely must reads and I can't imagine there is anyone who reads 2000AD who wouldn't love to read Absalom. It should also be pointed out that Rennie makes sure you don't need to have read Caballistics Inc to be able to read Absalom, no prior knowledge is necessary.
In my opinion Absalom is the finest strip to debut in the prog since Stickleback's debut about five years ago now. As I said everything comes together to form a perfect supernatural horror strip, and one which looks to be even better than Caballistics Inc ever was. I sincerely hope that Absalom gets a good long run in the prog and that we will see many more trade collections in the future. Ghosts of London is an absolute must buy for any fan of 2000AD.
on 14 October 2013
It's 1578 and there's a demon chained up in the Tower of London. It's just the kind of surprising development that could lead to rioting on the effluent-sodden Tudor streets and cause all manner of upset to the life and reign of Elizabeth I. Clearly the whole thing has to be hushed up but silencing hell-spawn is no easy matter. The best means of retaining the status quo, at least outwardly and in the eyes of the masses, is the negotiating of a treaty between the throne of England and the power players of Hell, a treaty known as The Accord. Peace of a kind is achieved, with inter-marriage between demons and certain powerful aristocratic families sealing the deal.
Fast-forward to London of the present day and Detective Inspector Harry Absalom is "cleanin' up the manor one bleedin' demon at a time!" If any demonic entities step out of line and breach the terms of The Accord, Absalom and his special squad of demon busting coppers track the offenders down and re-educate them, permanently. It's a thankless job but Harry Absalom isn't the kind of guy who's out for glory.
Absalom: Ghosts of London collects the first three stories (`Noblesse Oblige', `Sick Leave' and `Ghosts of London') in Gordon Rennie and Tiernen Trevallion's spin-off from the Caballistics Inc 2000AD series. It's a twisted police procedural where organised crime and conspiracy meets folklore and mythology and so, yes, is reminiscent of BPRD, Hellblazer, the Felix Castor books and probably some other stuff too. Having said that, it's one of the best new strips to come out of 2000AD in quite a while. While the central concept of hardboiled coppers protecting an unsuspecting public from the nightmarish nasties that roam the streets of London is not that new, Gordon Rennie has built some excellent characters and stories out of the idea.
Harry Absalom is a great if unlikely and misanthropic hero. He's the best in the business at hunting down demons, probably because he's been at it the longest. Absalom was actually there in 1578 when first contact with Hell was made - his cutting off the demon's tongue three times unfortunately failing to prevent the dialogue that led to The Accord - and he has been serving the public ever since. Not that he's a happy public servant though, Absalom's terminal cancer is nowhere near terminal enough for him. He makes the best of his job rather than enjoying it and, despite having a seemingly loyal team backing him up, is completely ruthless when it comes to maintaining the balance between the human and the demonic worlds.
Tiernen Trevallion's art in Absalom is crisp and striking. The illustrations are all in black and white which both echoes the melancholy tone of Absalom's investigations and also allows Trevallion to pack detail into the panels. Absalom is really a horror series so there's plenty of gore and destruction to be seen but Trevallion also manages to work in quite a bit of humour to the scenes going on around Harry Absalom and Co.
Absalom: Ghosts of London is a gleefully dark paranormal detection series. There's lots of good old-fashioned ass-kicking and sharp wise-cracking involved in Absalom's investigations with the villains he faces being powerful demons and demon/human hybrids instead of regular criminals. He's a whisky soaked, laudanum infused mess of a detective but Harry Absalom is just the kind of guy who can plausibly fight back the forces of hell and then pop out for a curry. Absalom: Ghosts of London is the first collection of Absalom strips but hopefully Rennie and Trevallion have plenty more story ideas in development.
on 17 April 2016
This book was not only brilliant but it's going to end costing me a fortune. You see, for a long time, I've been a DC and Marvel guy. I'd long ago turned my back on my Brit comic roots. Until I watched the 2000 AD documentary Future Shock that is. It brought back so many memories of the wild, twisted comics I used to love it. US, mainstream comics had been feeling a little dull while the latest crop of 2000 AD comics looked like the particular cup of tea I was craving. But where to start? Instead of heading back the classics I followed some advice and went for this interesting offering.
Absalom shares its heritage with the likes of Constantine, Hellboy, Mike Carey's Felix Castor and Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series. Grim and ghosts. The stories are fast moving. The humour is dark and the characters are strong. There's a lot to enjoy here and clearly a lot more to come.
It's just a shame that it's shown me I've got a lot of catching up to do. Thanks for nothing, Tharg! I was meant to be saving.
on 30 December 2012
I first encountered Harry Absalom and his exploits in the 2000AD Programme 2013 special; after reading it i liked it so much i decided to order the collected trade from Amazon, and i couldn't have made a better choice.
Detective Inspector Harry Absalom is a veteran copper in London, who heads a special squad that enforces The Accord - a diplomatic treaty made in the sixteenth century between the throne of England and hell. If any demonic entities step out of line Harry and his team track the offenders down.
The comic was serialised in 2000AD and is an offshot of Caballistic Inc. But on this evidence Absalom more than holds its own. The story is written by Gordon Rennie and illustrated by the ever brilliant Tiernen Trvallion. When i first encountered his artwork in 2000AD/ Judge Dredd Megazine i fell head over er, heels in love with it! His artwork is a little reminscent of Mike Mignola's style, but more detailed and dare i say more accessible. sometimes there's a lot of things happening in just one panel as we shall see.
The trade consists of three stories. First of these is 'Noblesse Oblige'.
The story revolves around an escaped immate from a private santorium in Cumbria. It turns out that the escapee is a half breed demon. We learn that Cumbria is a place where the demon hierarchy (the Rathborne lineage) keep their offsprings which are born defective or too unhuman-like. The demonic lineage has infiltrated those in high society namely the royal family, rich bankers 'a couple of celebrity chefs and a few of the smug looking gits on the TV comedy quiz shows'. Soon Harry Absalom and his squad is tasked with finding the dangerous escapee. Along for the hunt is a new recruit, DS Jemima Hopkins. Harry's squad consists of himself, DS Terrance Sangster who is his understudy, Barney who can tell everything about a crime scene by the unorthodox method of tasting evidence. And by evidence we mean anything...even the victims blood! We also have two big blokes who act as bodyguards. But theres a slight oddity about them because it turns out they're both 'homunculi' (very Mignola-esque!), grown in Exeter! And of course DS Jemima Hopkins is thrown into the deep end of this very odd group indeed! But if she had any qualms or reservations about her safety she need not worry because Harry Absalom can more than hold his own and is one miserable bastard to have on your side, especially in times of trouble as they do in this particular case.
Another memorable character we also get to meet Mr. Critch, a 'butler' who's been serving the Rathborne family for centuries - kept alive by clockwork and patchwork (again very Mignola-esque or even Guillermo-esque!). The story comes to a very satisfying end, but not before it is revealed that there is a mole within Absalom's team...
'Sick Leave' was the second story. Here we see Harry Absalom making a visit to a hospital for checkup. He is suffering from pancreatic cancer ( this is not a spoiler as we learn about this from the start of the book) and he has been with this affliction for some time. In the first story it is hinted at thay Harry Absalom may be much older than he looks...not a few years here or there but much, much older as in centuries. Maybe kept alive a la Mr. Critch to do his masters bidding? Afterall he is the best at what he does. Anyhow, at the hospital he comes across a very familiar sight, familiar as in a doppelganger familiar! Albeit his double is in a far worse state. We gather from the encounter that this person or entity is the grim reaper. Its a really macabre moment and what makes it that more brilliant is the fact that at the same time, his team are in a run down estate in east London getting chased by a gang of demon hoodies! Although its a short read, its still a brilliant read which also helps us to learn more about the characters.
The third and last story in the trade is 'Ghosts of London'. Its my favourite story out of the three but only by a small margin because the others are so strong, but the thing that made it for me was one character - Spring Heeled Jack! He along with other strange phenomena is sweeping London. In the Thames the public are greeted with a river full of decapitated heads which appear to be from the Roman era. We have fire sweeping Pudding Lane where of course the Great Fire of London took place. And Cable Street in east London is witness to a mob battle between fascists and demonstrators reminiscent of Mosley's Battle of Cable Street. And of course that springy fella jumping from rooftop to rooftop. Just what the hell is going on? How are these historic incidents happening in present day London? Thats where Detective Inspector Harry Absalom and his team come in.
This story was such an enjoyable and entertaining read. Tiernan Trevalion's superb artwork is just mouthwatering to behold. As i stated earlier his panels have so much happening. One of my favourite is when we see Absalom in conversation with DS Hopkins whilst behind them a policeman is chasing after a dog who's running off with a severed head! Its a really hilarious sight. Another is of Harry hanging from a window ledge, "b****ks" he cries as the shape of Spring Heeled Jack is seen jumping away on the rooftops behind. Its such a brilliant shot, with many things happening in one panel. Of course all this is just part of the enjoyment; Gordon Rennie's witty writing with some memorable one liners for our miserable likeable inspector another part of the reason why Absalom: Ghosts of London is such an awesome read.
on 4 February 2014
A fantastic spin off from cabailistics creepshow, as a team dealing with the compacts with demons, mixtures of bloodlines etc, just don't want to spoil it for you.
A must for those of us who loved Cabalistics inc Graphic Novels, can't wait for the next volume, praying day after day they don't self this series as they did with Cabalistics after volume 2.
Other than that a fantastic read that will keep you hanging on for more, buy it!