Sunday, 18 December 2011

The Chimpanzee Complex - Paradox

The Apollo 11 was a spaceflight that first allowed man to walk on the moon, a fact that has been disputed amongst conspiracy theorists virtually every day since. Chimpanzee Complex doesn’t question whether man made it there or not but instead poses to the reader that perhaps not everything that happened on the moon’s surface matches the history books.

Set in the not-too-distant future of 2035, an unknown object crashes into the Indian Ocean. The American military rushes to secure the item only to discover it is a fragment of Apollo 11 and contains two living beings claiming to be none other than Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Having just had her mission to Mars cancelled, Helen Freeman is summoned to try and discover the truth to this new situation. Who are these individuals, and who was it that came to Earth in the original landing? With nary a chance to check in on her wanting daughter (as the father’s since done a runner), Helen is off on a lunar mission to find out exactly what happened in 1969.

Chimpanzee Complex is a sci-fi that provides an intriguing mystery with very few clues as to its true nature. We don’t know if we’re headed for a scenario involving aliens, time-travel, parallel worlds or something else entirely. There’s a lot to think about as the plot thickens nicely throughout the volume with a rapid succession of twists that really set you up nicely for the next book. The added layer of Helen’s fractured relationship with her daughter is not immediately relevant to the proceedings, but I assume future volumes will see their relationship develop further.

The artwork is well-developed with a grim colour selection that depicts quite a bleak world despite using settings such as sunny Florida. Perspectives and ‘camera’ angles prove to be a real selling point with the backgrounds and spacecraft being particularly impressive. The characters themselves are highly realistic and softly toned, although personally I felt a few of the expressions looked a little stilted at key moments. It’s very much got an accomplished filmic that I hope it will grow even stronger as the series progresses.

For those curious to the book’s title, the only explanation we are given is about a psychological condition observed from chimpanzees being forcibly put through scientific testing. As with many of the features displayed in this volume, it could either be a clue or a complete misdirection. For now though the concept is interesting and event are leading into interesting areas. This promises to be a rewarding read.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Darwin's Diaries - The Eye of the Celts

For a while now Cinebook has been forging its own path as a publisher of translated French and Belgian comics in English-speaking territories, and has rapidly gained a solid reputation for its wide range of quality titles. While much of it output has consisted of classic titles for an audience who never had a chance to read them before (much in a similar way to how English-speaking audiences are only now really discovering Osamu Tezuka’s manga), it’s good to see them also putting out more recent titles such as Darwin’s Diaries.

It’s the mid-Victorian era and an unknown something in the night is out tearing people to shreds. With a rising number of incidents and only a handful of witnesses, the rumours start to fly. Having published his work On the Origin of Species the previous year, Darwin’s is called in by the prime minister to determine what unidentified creature is committing these violent atrocities. As if his theory of evolution wasn’t already controversial enough, dabbling in potential areas of folklore and myth threaten to jeopardise his scientific legitimacy and social standing.

It’s an interesting concept to take a popular scientific theory and make a horror story out of it. Depicting a dark and truly grim England with a dingy palette and grisly violence, Darwin’s Diaries is less a world of scientific discovery than it is a broken one. Darwin himself gets into drunken fights and sets about screwing whores once he’s out of sight of his wife and kids. Whether it’s a commentary on a man defying the teachings of his world, or just an attempt to ensnare its readers into its flawed protagonist, there are a lot of ingredients thrown into this comic for the reader to take as the mystery continues to deepen and intrigue. To be honest I could’ve done without the misjudged attempts feminism, presented in form of Darwin’s smirkingly patronising sidekick, but otherwise this is a solid mystery story that is high on gore and low on answers. Basically everything I need to be interested in reading the next volume!

Monday, 14 November 2011


I’ve become somewhat jaded by anime over the last few years as my cynicism has got the best of me and am avoiding an increasingly larger number of shows. Whenever I look up a new series it’s either some school-based slice-of-life comedy or a moe-driven action series. Such series are more often that not buried under layer upon layer of effects filters with a distinct lack of experimentation, genuine creativity or indeed actual animation going on to help grab my interest. Redline however reminds me of why I got started with anime in the first place.

The story’s simple: Humans, aliens, mutants and cyborgs drive to the finishing line in an anything-goes race known as the Redline. Occurring on a randomly chosen planet, the new host is a heavily militarised society and doesn’t take kindly to this unwanted invasion. Regardless, the race goes on and the army invades. Big action, bigger explosions and enough character interest tide you through a crazy 100-odd minutes. Yeah, this’ll do nicely…

If there had to be one reason to see Redline it would be simply because it’s different. Unlike many anime where all the characters would look the same if you removed their hair, Redline’s designs are varied or indeed, actually designed. The animation is slick with nary a still or slow panning shot in sight. Few corners have been cut in making this one - this is pure unapologetic animation. It doesn’t aim for perfection, but for fun. Anyone picking holes in the plot is pretty much missing the point of the entire exercise…

So yeah back to the cynicism. Redline is different, and brilliantly so, which most likely means it will fail to captivate the modern otaku who look to anime for a gentle escape as opposed to an aggressive blast of imagination. Regardless, it’s heartening to know there are still creators out there producing work that feels as though it wanted to get made as opposed to just pander to predetermined audience.

Get it, or get out.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Detriot Metal City

… or DMC depending on who you ask.

This is one for the all the metalheads who don’t take themselves too seriously. Like a cross between Alice Cooper and Tenacious D, DMC rips into itself in a knowing way and holds little back.

Moving into the city to try and achieve his dream as an indie-pop artist, Soichi is a good boy who loves his mother, gentle melodies and being a super-hip musician. He does find success with his music, but only as the lead guitarist and vocalist in DMC, the heaviest death metal band around that is taking the industry by storm. The lyrics are vile and most bodily fluids are readily shared on stage for his adoring fans. You’d think he’d be happy to be making his way in the world, but Soichi resents his role as Lord Krauser II and does whatever he can to avoid performing while hiding his dual identity from his friends and family.

DMC is a situational comedy mixed with heavy metal. To be perfectly honest, I don’t really like Soichi as himself. He is a pathetic and limp do-gooder who will swallow all of his pride to keep up appearances. He does have a breaking point though, at which he seeks revenge as Krauser. Spitting down someone’s throat or dry humping people in public (affectionately referred to as ‘rape’) is the kind of low-brow thing to expect. It’s as offensive as it is ridiculous. I love it, but would understand if the constant torrents of swearing and filth put the majority of readers off.

It starts out as somewhat of a satire, but gradually turns into a familiar pattern of Soichi tries to be nice, gets burned, and then kicks ass as Krauser. It’s very funny, especially in the first few volumes, but would advise reading in shorter bursts as opposed to reading the whole thing in one sitting. It’s difficult to laugh at the same joke more than once, so it’s impressive that DMC is able to retell its joke so many times. The final few volumes develop a longer narrative, so the series is able to round itself out properly rather than outstaying its welcome.

This is a stupid and likably earnest manga that beats death metal into the otherwise gentle and inhibited societies such as ours. Satsugai!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011


This is a book about Japanese street fashion, or for more cynical readers, a book that feeds vulnerable otaku minds the idea that everyone in Japan dresses up in crazy handmade clothes with fluorescent colours every weekend. Scratch that last point, this book is gorgeous.

Dispensing with lengthy explanations or essays on Japanese street culture, Fruits jumps straight into showing the more experimental styles of Japanese fashion as it’s encountered on the street. Each page is a full colour photo of a one or two people who list their name, notable items of clothing and areas of influence on their style, and with a the book comprising over 250 pages of that there’s a lot of content in here. (If you want to see the more everyday side to Japanese clothing then it’s probably better to look at the people in the background)

The photos are excellent and a simple glance inside soon turns into half an hour of exploration. It’s definitely worth checking out for those interested in design or simply because you want something bright and energetic on your shelf. A second book entitled ‘Fresh Fruits’ is also out for those who want more of the same and Phaidon also released a similar book that focuses specifically on Gothic and Lolita styles (which I can’t comment on as I don’t own it). A great novelty item that still retains its value after all the years I’ve had it.