Angel Fire by Chris Blythe and Steven Parkhouse
|Angel Fire by Chris Blythe and Steven Parkhouse|
|Genre: Graphic Novels|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A great little graphic novel, combining the traditions of a haunted house mystery with more modern horror. I doubt if there is a more successfully chilling book on the Bookbag database.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 192||Date: August 2007|
|Publisher: Carlton Books Ltd|
John Dury and his partner Zee are businessmen you would find it hard to like. Hard-hitting, go-getting types, they spend their leisure hours taking drugs, and their company time making smash-and-grab raids on family firms, carving them up and selling the relics off piecemeal. Their boss, Mr Belial, rewards their more amoral business successes with escorts in their scanties, and yet more narcotics – the trendiest street drug of which is Angel Fire, a new chemical that can easily take you to heaven.
Or, of course, to hell. Coming down from a particularly bad trip, John Dury finds even worse news awaiting him. With cause to escape it all and disappear to the wilds of Scotland, he finds himself falling into an old-fashioned haunted house horror, but with enough modern elements, as he finds he has not successfully left everything behind after all…
What we have here is another brilliant graphic novel, for those who never read graphic novels. If you think they are comics for kiddies, then I assure you this is certainly not for the young 'uns. If you consider them all super-heroes and aliens, then let me assure you the horrors here are all man-made.
I won't go ahead and say it's the most stylish graphic novel, although there is nothing very wrong with the illustrations. The pages are not full size but still the predominance of pages with only three pictures on is unusual. The drawing is done very nicely, and the colouring is superb, yet the inking is a little on the thick side. There are however little elements that even those new to the format will notice. A police investigation has someone say an important line while half their face is cropped by the bottom of the page. Some double page spreads designed to be read fully left to right don't display that fact enough. My favourite one-page splash, of the golden hour light in the Scottish sky, is too soon followed by a double-page spread, and the rhythm is quite hiccupped by that.
The words also, raise tiny questions – I have an odd doubt if Dury is actually married. Heathrow becomes Gatwick, and someone in this MP3 age is ignoring the fact (or plain forgetting) that shop-bought cassettes need a little bit of sticky tape over the wipe-over tab to be recorded on.
None of that marks the work down at all.
There is no separate credit for who wrote, or drew this work, and it is in fact the pair combined that go all out to create a horror of such effect. The rhythms of the plotting, the subdued use of sound FX, and the most creepy something – just a humanoid shape, red for eyes, and the beginnings of a spectral comb-over… perfection.
I was completely surprised that a graphic novel could so successfully work as a horror story – the jump-cuts and shocks should not work as well, but they do. The flashbacks, the vividly startling scenes of menace, and the digitally distorted horrors all gel completely together, and the whole is just a wonder. So many factors of the story are recognisable from other works, but the book is a sterling genre piece, melding everything old and new, seen-before and never expected, into one fiction.
I am glad Angel Fire gets the subtitle 'the graphic novel' as well, as there could so easily be 'the television version' somewhen. This would work a treat as one of those one-off, perhaps 50 minute long, chillers that TV used to be able to provide us with. It would be brilliant to be able to watch the moving picture version and say you were there at the beginning.
As it is, these moving pictures are highly recommended by the Bookbag. It is only miserly me that prevents it getting a full five stars – the read-time to RRP ratio breaks down to it costing £20/hour. But having said that I was straight back to the beginning for a repeat adventure, and I am sure this will stay with me for a long time. A very unexpected British success.
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