I find it almost impossible to walk past a comic shop and so, after a nice lunch in Covent Garden I recently found myself in Orbital Comics. It was heartening to see they stocked a healthy selection of small press offerings, including both Zarjaz! and Futurequake. Always keen to support my fellows - and always keener to have something to read on the train home - I purchased this:
It's a great cover by Richard Smith and leads straight into the first strip, Regrets, Rules and Jellied Eeels, scripted by Neil Merrett. The art is crisp and clear, Smith's background in computer games is evident and that's no bad thing at all. I really enjoyed the story too, the twist is pretty funny.
The highlight of this issue for me is Ex Libris by Eoghan Ahern and David Frankum. Regular readers of this blog will know I've worked with David on a forthcoming Zarjaz! strip and that I'm working with him again on a Massacre For Boys piece at the moment. Therefore I guess I am not entirely neutral when I say that I think David is extremely talented and that his work here is little short of genius. Some of the panel compositions are really powerful and you can see that technically he pretty much has everything. It's no surprise to me that one of the "Big Two" comics publishers have expressed an interest in his work. Ahern's sharp post-modern writing gives David the platform he needs to flourish.
The other strips in this issue all have something to recommend them. I particularly liked the last couple actually - the atmospheric Robo Sapiens by Mark Smith & Steve Howard and then the short and spikey Rugged Romper by Michael Deshane and BMB. Still, I have by no means mentioned everything in the comic that's worth reading.
The quality does vary, as you would expect from an anthology title, but the overall level has definitely improved markedly from a couple of years ago. I think this is down in part to the editorial prowess of Dave Evans and Richmond Clements, but also to the vast number of submissions they now receive. There's some fine art in this issue but I perhaps naturally like to focus on the writing, which can often be pretty bad even in quite high profile professional comics let alone the small press. However, in FQ 17 there's maybe one story that's difficult to follow and overall the standard is as good as I have seen outside the very highest echelons of the medium.
On this form, Futurequake is clearly an important breeding ground for UK comic talent and long may it continue.