Reviewed by Will Cooling
Story Title: Hell is a Corner Away and Freakshow
Written by Andrew Winter
Drawn by Natalie Sanders et al
Lettered by N/A
Published by Moonface Press
Before we start moodspins walks the earth and is currently proving an excellent source of brilliant reads, discussion and best of all MATHAN!!! My debut column will be up tomorrow so make sure you all read it…
“The Devilchild walks the earth…”
Cue literally thousands of dodgy horror/occult stories about The Beast, The Apocalypse, quite simply the son of Lucifer Morningstar himself. However, there are few interesting and good takes on this central and yet deeply mysterious element of Christian Mythology with Mark Millar’s amazing Chosen mini-series being the most recent in comic form. Do Moonface Press’s first two Devilchild volumes fit into that category? Well let’s find out, shall we?
Devilchild is an annual Oversized Graphic Novel anthology written by Andrew Winter with the lead story of Devilchild supported by a number of back up stories; all of which are in the horror genre. Starting with at the top, Devilchild charts a journey of discovery for Troy as he realizes that he is actually not a pissed, waiter from London but the son of the Devil. You see Heaven’s Secret Service had him kidnapped when he was born and from thereon use a combination of celestial magic and angels (Lucia and Beatrice) to hide him from the Devil. Now twenty-one, with increasing degenerate protectors and an infirm God, a desperate Devil has finally found his boy…
…And that’s where the fun starts.
Andrew Winter excels at using the central plot to introduce many skewed and twisted takes on Christian Mythology such as a God gone gaga due to the strain of Omniscience, a Devil sub-ordinate to a Senate with the progressives led by “Mike” breathing down his neck and finally the unintended consequences of Kregg industries and their project “Messiah”. Through these little details shines the thought he has put into creating this universe with many different plot strands being developed in a logical and far-sighted. In addition, there are flashes of great satire and comedy, such as Troy being haunted by our obsession with the Devil and the Devil’s “parodying” of the macho posturing of Blair and Bush to turn the tide against the progressives. There’s also a brave and fun cameo from Princess Diana in volume three, certainly near the knuckle stuff.
Of course, having great concepts without a captivating plot or characters is no use to anyone and thankfully Devilchild has them in spades. Whilst the plot is very simple it’s done extremely well with volume one’s story standing out with its energetic telling of Troy’s first trip to hell and the attempt of Lucia and Beatrice to rescue him. Whilst volume two’s story is a lot shorter it has perhaps the most mouth-watering aspect of either of the two stories with the lead in to the spin off Messiah series (debuting in Devilchild Volume III-coming this May), which again is another example of his excellent (left-wing) satire. The main plot is a bit sparse with Troy coming to terms with being the Anti-Christ but it does speed up towards the end only to cruelly come to an abrupt “to be continued” end.
The characters are great if thanks to very, very British dialogue which to be quite honest is the “dog’s bollocks” or “bloody brilliant”. It is great when you’re talking about three characters growing up in Camden but is slightly disorientating when the Devil speaks it as well. Still the major characters are great, Troy comes across as a normal 21year Londoner who is utterly confused and distressed by the strange turn of events. He can come across as a bit of a wanker but after all that’s true of most Londoners*. The two Angels, Lucia and Beatrice are great characters even if they do fit the YY Alpha Females that writers seem to always turn to when needing a STRONG woman. The whole point behind them is the age old problem of deep cover agents “going native” having once been the most respected warriors in heaven they are now drunken degenerates who live for drink and sex. They can however kick ass, swear and they do love football** so we’ll forgive them. The supporting characters such as The Devil and God are all great; with inventive and fresh takes on what are well-established characters. If there’s one influence that does come to the fore its probably Garth Ennis’ Preacher, with (for example) God’s helpers sharing much of the prissiness of the clerical Angels in that opus.
*That’s a joke I swear!!!
**Yeah, but can they explain the offside rule?
On art duties is Natalie Sandells and to be honest she veers from very good to poor. Like much of the small press she is very much in the minimalist style of say Queen and Country and on the whole it’s very good with her smooth lines providing for effective characterisation and some energetic characterisation. The only slight problem is that there’s at times a lack of background detail especially in volume two but it’s really a small complaint. Of course, the usual note applies that I’m a big fan of this style of art and it’s a very much a love/hate thing (like Marmite) and Sandells isn’t going to be the artist to change your mind about it if you hate it. Still to me this is a good looking character.
So overall the main story is excellent especially in volume one where it gets nearly sixty pages (compared to volume two’s 29). Its great to see a well thought out and developed story that mores at an impressive pace. However, that still leaves a lot of these collections unreviewed; namely the back up stories. On the whole the ones in volume two are stronger than the ones in volume one, which may in part be to the fact that they have to carry over half the collection where as in volume one they don’t even get a third. All (save one) of them are excellent short urban horror/occult stories with Winter really capitalizing on the opportunity to spread his wings beyond the horizons of Devilchild. My two favorites are the last two in volume two; the wonderfully gentle humour of Steve Scully’s Skeleton Army and the inspired suburban horror story Heartbreaker-staring the man with the real minas touch. However, all of them are excellent with some excellent artists contributing with a variety of styles covered. They add an awful lot to each collection and volume two in particular wouldn’t be half as good a read without them.
Overall, these are two excellent small press titles with some excellent (if at times raw) art and some truly great writing. I can’t wait for volume three.
Thank you to Moonface Press for giving me materials for this review. You can order Devilchild Volumes I & II and learn more about the forthcoming Volume III here