Review by Raphael Borg
Published by Madis Press
Papercuts and Inkstains from Madius Press is a 21-page anthology book, which makes most of the capabilities of a monochromatic colour scheme. Being an artist whose primary feature in his aesthetic is monochrome, I fully appreciate the possibilities, as well as, the power adopting such a style, would bring. But I am already getting ahead of myself…let us backtrack a bit and start with my first impressions of the book.
The immediate problem with the book’s cover is that, while representing all three stories illustrated, it shows no evidence whatsoever in that it is an anthology. While nowadays this is also true of other mainstream comics such as DC Comics Presents or Marvel Fanfare but the implication in each of these respective titles was more or less on the title itself but representation of what happens in each of the tales has recently died down and has, in each case, sought more to spotlight one story or another over the collective. Despite the fact that I had an issue with this initially, on giving it further thought the way the characters are represented on the cover – at the time complete unknowns – has tied together thanks to a uniform general mood pervading both the cover as well as the interiors, which further fools the buyer that the contained narrative is singular and continuous.
As said in the introduction, the first thing that immediately captures the attention of the reader is the choice of a monochromatic colour scheme (i.e. the choice of relying on two single colours – in this case black and white – for the entire work). While this works for some stories, such as Dave Sim’s Cerebrus and Will Eisner’s A Contract with God as well as the two later stories in this book, this is not the case with the first of the three tales in the book. The story requires some better definition of context, which is furthermore drained by Nick Gonzo’s quasi-scribbling monochrome art which moves more definition from what is going on. It requires multiple readings and staring at whatever is depicted at length to fully understand that the “killer roo” is actually depicted on panel when it is mentioned, or that multiple gunmen from the American Revolution have suddenly walked onto the scene. In light of this, after two or so readings I gathered that the tale depicts a snippet from the life of a woman working at some corporation which rips creatures or historical figures from a specific time period and sic them on one another until the heads upstairs deem fit after which the attendant has to clean up. There is a lot of emphasis on the word NO but apart from the big brother concept there is little else to connect it to.
The rest of the book is just my cup of tea, rich in dark humor and atmosphere thanks to the aforementioned monochrome. The next story is a typical zombie story called “By ‘Eck on Earth,” by Robin Jones and Kevin Pospisil, relating the events of how a hillbilly family are turned into zombies thanks to their inability to realise that their entire neighbourhood have been zombified, thinking that, much in the fashion of the first few moments to Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead, this was only the typical everyday behaviour of the people around them. Without giving away the ending, it is strongly implied throughout that the family in question are unhinged, particularly during the final moments where a character finally reacts, as they should have to begin with but for all the wrong reasons. The violence in is not as grisly as, say, Marvel Zombies, The Walking Dead or Ash vs Army of Darkness, which makes it all the more enjoyable to someone who is not usually much into dismemberment and the undead ripping apart soft man-flesh, and contains just the right amount of puns and wordplay to make hillbilly slang all the more enjoyable to read.
The third and final tale, The Profits of Doom once more written by Robin Jones and illustrated by Mike Smith gives a tongue in cheek look at occult rituals. It plays on the fact that most occult rituals as depicted in pop culture are certainly carried out by different individuals with different backgrounds. Each cultist involved is given a unique personality quirk which easily lends itself to being an ingredient for a recipe for disaster. What use is a master of rituals who suffers from social anxiety issues, or a cynical cultist who deconstructs anything supernatural to its purest scientific makeup, during a satanic ritual planned for world domination? I will not ruin the punch line here, but It is very much safe to say that the tale itself would have been very much at home as part of Steve Gerber’s original Howard the Duck or part of Dave Sim’s Cerebrus.
All in all, if it was not for the first strip, I must say that reading this comic was a welcome departure from my usual adherence to the mainstream comic. It serves its comedic purposes very well and makes appropriate use of monochrome art, despite the problems evident in the first tale. Had this been a book devoted to more of the quality and style of the latter two tales, I would recommend it more vehemently but, as it is, I must say that it is worth recommending at least for those two tales alone. I give Papercuts and Inkstains from Madius Press Three out of Five Stars.