Tales of the Contrary

Posted: Tuesday, November 1, 2005
By: Steve Saville

Cover of Tales of the Contrary Creator(s): Andrew Bartlett, Dave Evans and Richmond Clements
Publishers: JOB Comics (Self Published)
From: Wales
Price: 1.50 + 50p p and p

Tales of the Contrary gives us five stories that explore the darker side of power. Five quite different perspectives too and that is what makes this comic interesting. There is a link, albeit tenuous, between the stories and that is most of them offer reflections on the clich "those that live by the sword, die by the sword."

It is quite British in its approach and the message contained within the separate stories is at times almost Orwellian at other times reminiscent of Swift's Modest Proposal and Helen Russell's outstanding novel The Sparrow. Quite serious and thought provoking stuff then.

My favourite tale is the last one, A Complete Revolution, a cleverly designed page that shows as well as tells how revolutions tend to repeat themselves in an endless cycle of violence. I was immediately reminded of Orwell's line "All revolutions are failures, just not the same failure." Another story Johnny Upright also deals with the cyclical nature of power in a tale that revolves around the idea of "what goes round..."

Hard Hunter, Soft Heart kicks off the edition and starts strongly enough as it examines the concept of the testing of the hunter. Unfortunately the twist at the end is not foreshadowed and tends to work against the carefully paced build up. Visually there is an interesting use of close up within what is primarily an orthodox approach to page design.

Hereditary Genius works better. It is longer and this means the plot can be more detailed and complex. This futuristic tale explores the connection between power and blood ties. Sure in this case the blood ties are tenuous [second time I've used that word in the same review] but the issues raised are worth raising and thought provoking. The fact that it somehow reminds me of Dune leads me to assume that the creators of this collection are wide readers. The penultimate tale is an illustrated prose science fiction story that is actually very effective in the way it cleverly shows how history tends to repeat itself.

Plenty of material to mull over here. Ultimately the narrative content is better than the visual elements present which means the comics appearance does not always do justice to some of the issues discussed within. It might have looked more impressive if presented in A5 format rather than the A4 format chosen by the creators. And guys, if you can stretch the budget go for a colour cover next time, your art work cries out for colour even if it is only on the cover.

I found that I gave this comic a quick read and almost dismissed it, it was only when I went back and gave it more time that I realised that the primary purpose of Tales of the Contrary is to explore the human condition and the attitude as humans that we have towards power. It does not always achieve what it set out to but it is well worth reading and reflecting on.

In a Word: Orwellian.

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