Singles issues (Parts 1-2)
Black and White (mostly)
Publisher: School of Bitches
Written and lettered by David Dhalia
Written and illustrated by Alan Stealth

I must admit I have a soft spot for the School of Bitches (the collective name under which the creators operate). Such a soft spot is however born entirely out of the respect I have for these fine fellas. As those who know me can attest, respect is not something I dish out lightly unless we’re talking of female actors doing stuff found on x-rated websites. But these Bitches more than deserve it.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting them on several occasions now and I can’t recall a single time when I didn’t enjoy it. But besides the fact that I find their company most agreeable, what I dig most from our encounters is the fact that I always feel particularly inspired afterwards. These guys ooze with creativity, are most humble (except for their PR Guy) and so open minded you can practically walk inside their brains and pour yourself a pint. But if I had to find one word to describe them bold would be it!

Bold because in a time when if one’s fart makes an awkward noise one risks being prosecuted for political incorrectness, these guys call themselves the School of Bitches. A wicked name indeed! In fact I flog myself daily just because I haven’t come up with the name myself. Bold because they are creating something of such a magnitude that most folk aren’t able to conceptualise it, let alone create it. Bold because these guys are like the Enterprise, doing what few if any have done before.

So what we have here are the first two issues of Chapter XVI (Virtue Chronicles). In total the Genesis project will have 50 chapters which will be released according to a carefully planned schedule in similar fashion to serialized TV shows. Thus the full extent of the story will only be revealed once all issues are out. I must admit that when David told me about this, before any of the books were published I had my doubts whether they would be able to complete such a daunting task, but here I am reviewing the first two issues and with another four books set to be released this year I’m now not only convinced that they can do it, but have a reason to look forward to old age. (Note to self: cut down on the junk food and alcohol consumption, work less, and start exercising and hopefully live to see all issues released).

The first two issues of Chapter XVI don’t reveal much but are focused on James who wakes up dazed and confused in a strange yet eerily familiar place, where something big (let’s just call it the event) happened. James has been having some equally weird dreams which include two characters who we meet albeit briefly towards the end of issue 2. The story follows James and some of his friends as they try to make sense out of the position they find themselves in while surviving the dangers that haunt them.

What the first two issues do; is hook you in to this premise. Gloucester revisited? Could very well be! Despite the fact that not enough information about the characters is revealed at this stage, what is appealing about these books is that the reader feels engaged, like he’s actually a protagonist in the story. I would be lying if I said that slow paced material doesn’t get on my tits, especially when it’s unwarranted. But in this case it actually works well and instills a sense of foreboding and trepidation in the reader. In fact I was reminded of The Walking Dead (THE COMIC NOT THE TV SERIES) even though at least so far there are no zombies in sight.

The narrative is minimalist and is limited to the bare essentials, which most of the time works well, since this is balanced by Stealth’s detailed and deep designs. Alan Stealth has a unique way of illustrating, one which might take some time to get used to. I remember the first time Dhalia showed me some sample work my instinctive reaction was WTF? But the more exposed to it I was the more it grew on me, so much so that by the end of issued 2 I was gobsmacked in the best sense of the word. Reason is that the artwork fits perfectly with the mood of the story and plays an irreplaceable role in creating an enchanting atmosphere. It’s crammed, rough and contains a symmetrical disfiguration of everything that makes the illustration look overwhelmingly haunting. It’s the perfect style to capture the derelict feel of the post event atmosphere. And the treatment Stealth gives to the post event landmarks is truly a joy to behold. This is further complimented by Stealth’s refusal to use panels. Yes that’s right this is sequential art outside the confines of panels. Groundbreaking stuff which works well and help ties everything together. Despite the absence of panels one can easily follow the sequence, but everything here is designed in a way that encourages the reader to really soak in the atmosphere and explores as he deems fit.

At the end of issue 1 there is also a nice write up by their PR Guy which continues to his blog. ( The PR Guy is a no holds barred kind of man, but his stingy, witty yet humorous writing is simply fascinating. I also enjoyed the clever way in which the events of issue 1 were summed up at the beginning of issue 2. My only issue with these books and it’s a minor one indeed is that at times the writers felt the need to justify the lack of dialogue with unnecessary narrative but otherwise this is a really intriguing introduction to a project that left me craving for more.

This project may not be everybody’s cup of tea and it does require a certain amount of investment from the reader, but those who decide to give it a shot will certainly be rewarded. Because the School of Bitches are not just making comics, they are revolutionizing the way comics are made!

Comic fans rejoice because The School of Bitches are here!!! They are f*cking here!

Reviewed for Wicked Comics by
Chris Le Galle

Anyone wishing to buy a copy of these books should keep an eye for The School of Bitches convention appearances. They are a permanent fixture in the awesome Malta Comic Con so make sure to visit them in 2014.

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