Havoc 21 #4

Posted: Tuesday, November 15, 2005
By: Steve Saville

Cover of Havoc 21 #4 Creator(s): Eugene J. Byrne (Editor)
Publishers: Wolfman Productions Irelan
From: Ireland
Price: 4 Pounds

This is the second edition of Havoc 21 that I have reviewed. I was fairly dismissive of volume 3 in my first review. Overall I thought it overdid the carnage at the expense of storyline. How wonderful it is realise that my initial impressions have been well and truly destroyed in this latest edition. Havoc 21 presents us with two horror gene stories, one is very good, one is outstanding.

The first story The Invisible Nation is a stunner. The plot is a fresh look at a common idea, the realisation of a "normal" person that they are indeed not that "normal" after all. In this case they are busy transforming into a werewolf and sprouting hair all over the place.

There are so many reasons why this story is impressive that I don’t quite know where to start. Overall it has a 2000AD cum Heavy Metal look and feel about it. The writing [by Eugene J Byrne] is tight and minimalist. This allows the art- work and visual aspects of the story to dominate. As this is primarily a visual story this minimalist approach to the language works well. In fact the dialogue is used primarily to build tension, something it does in a measured and deliberate way.

But it is the art-work that steals the show, debuting and showcasing the considerable talents of Gary Shore. From the opening full page establishing shot of a rainy Dublin to the final close up where we finally learn the name of the principal character we are presented with a visual banquet. The use of shadow and sunlight alone makes this story worth looking at.

The frequent use of extreme angles skilfully captures the terrifying ordeal being experienced by the main character. Each page is carefully structured and planned with an emphasis on the cinemagraphic. "Hitchcockian" birds eyes frames are followed by extreme close ups. It all combines to create an unsettling and uncomfortable effect. Shore uses close ups of hands to express much of the anguish present in this story, in fact it is his portrayal of hands that remains one of the most effective visual elements of The Invisible Nation.

The way the words and pictures combine to build tension means that when violence does explode it is effective and powerful and believe me it is quite an explosion. The sparse use of language and dramatic art capture the full horror of the nightmare that is The Invisible Nation.

The second story, Shinimegami Kate agus na Marbh Suile, is an unusual blend of Manga styled artwork, Irish sensibilities and Shaun of the Dead. The artwork is a fine example of Manga but all too often the overt presence of the speech bubbles dominate the frame and push the visual elements on to the background. It is not surprising that the most satisfying page in this story is the one with the fewest words.

The writing itself [by Sinead Lynch] is great, and this is a fine story it is just that the balance between visual and verbal is sometimes a little awry. As with The Invisible Nation this tale explores the space between realities. In this case between slacker chick and sword wielding zombie killer. Nowhere is this more successfully encapsulated than the final frame where, after slashing her way through numerous zombies, Kate worries about the size of her boobs.

Havoc 21 #3 did not quite sustain what the excellent cover promised, #4 has another great cover but in this case the contents deliver, and how.

In a Word: Infectious.

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