Once again, Tony Esmond has slipped a little unexpected something into my bulging inbox and, to be honest, I was only too happy to receive. Following our meet up for a couple of jars after work, Tony dropped me a link to Issue 3 and I figured the least I could do in return was to give it a damn good reading and write down what I thought about it all. So here it is.

Let’s start with the cover. Despite being a guy who appears to have a small Thomas the Tank Engine toy held captive between his toes as his Twitter profile pic, it hasn’t stopped Ed Traquino (@feliqscomics) really pulling one off on the cover art – it looks fantastic and shows Red really digging the funk in one of her more unguarded moments, which I suspect don’t happen often. Very nice work man!

Murder road

Story: Vincent Hunt (@jesterdiablo) and Daniel Marc Chant (@danielmarcchant)

Art / Letters: Vincent Hunt

Part 3 opens on a flashback scene of the mum character and, what I guess is her high school sweetheart / soon to be husband (slightly freakily, his name is the same as my dad’s, which is a worry to be honest). The music playing in the background immediately confirms that we’re back in the day when the two young lovers declare their devotion to each other with the choice of song beings a nice touch with the first line we ‘hear’ sitting perfectly with the tone of the book.

The transition back to present is handled really well – it could have been a harsh cut but as it is you can almost feel the final words the guys says echoing down the years to stroke your spine with grave-cold fingers.

As we come back to the present, the pace really picks up and the boys (who, from here on, I’ll be referring to collectively as “the Chunt”) have timed this issue beautifully; if I was reading a print copy, I’d be in danger of giving myself a very nasty papercut whipping the pages over to see what the hell happens next. The story canters along at rare old pace – I tore through this and had to go back a second time to properly take it all in.

Again, Vince reinforces that whatever this is, it’s been going on for years with the mum being the link between then and now. She takes on a real Ripley-esque feel in the second half of this issue and, frankly, I would not like to be the one to short-change her at the diner ‘cause she’d be likely to tear a new one. Possibly two.

The terror is really mounting as we switch back to the action where the Chunt provide only a petit morceau of gore d’jour but it’s plenty to let you know that The Driver is a twisted bastard alright, just in case you weren’t sure already.

I won’t tell you how this episode ends, but it’s a real treat and cues up the final part beautifully. Can’t wait to see what dark, twisted finale is planned for this very much depleted cast!

Cockney Kung Fu – The Big Old Kent Road Kick-off, Parts 4 (She wears it well)

Story: Tony Esmond (@ezohyez)

Art / Letters: Nick Prolix (@nickprolix)

We’re straight into the thick of it here with no titles and no fucking around. Red and the boys are dead set on parting the punters of the joint with their hard-earned and they’re aren’t about to take an IOU.

It was clear that the job wasn’t going to go the way Red thought in the last episodes – where would be the jeopardy for our lovely lady in that? And so it proves.

There’s something really conflicting about this whole story for me and I mean that in the best possible way: on the one hand you have this jaunty, old fashioned language that we’ve all seen in old movies if not in real life which sort of gives you a slightly off-kilter sense of fun. And then you realise that these people are absolute bastards. It gives you a wonderfully uneasy feeling as you read it – great work by the Segal doppelganger that is Tony Esmond.

There’s a beautifully paced scene where one of the boys takes off his balaclava which can only mean one thing (assuming you’ve watched just about any heist movie, like, ever) – it happens at the bottom of a page and the next panel is fantastic; Nick has totally nailed it; brilliant!

Once again, Custard doesn’t say much, but what he does say is deeply moving and profound – now doubt after this one last job, he’ll move to India and become a yogi…

Part 5 is a classic caper where it all goes sideways like Bobby Charlton’s comb-over in a brisk wind – it’s pacey and fun and might even be slapstick if there wasn’t this undercurrent of dark skulduggery and lingering doubt in the back of your mind. Nick’s art only adds to the Ealing studios feel of the whole thing which is just such a perfect fit.

By the time we get to Part 6 we’re left in no doubt that who the bad boy of this piece is – just a bit too nasty to really be your mate, but you laugh at all his twisted jokes because he might just beat the crap out of you if you don’t. No idea what’s going to happen to this guy, but I’m hoping it isn’t pretty.

As I said in my review of the first issue, you see here the fragility of Red’s existence in a world where the sands can shift under your feet in the blink of an eye and your friends become your enemies in a constantly turbulent environment where you don’t have the luxury of trust. Whether you take any notice of it or not, the shadow of a malign and precarious truth sits just on the edge of your vision when you read this story and for all it’s jaunty, Ladykillers banter, it’s disturbing. And I love it.

Roll on issue 4.

Vyper

Everything: Dan Butcher (@vanguardcomic)

I have to start by saying that I absolutely love Dan’s done layouts in this issue; he’s really done some great work with panels including switching to an off kilter diagonal as the action heats up bringing a whole new level to the experience of reading the story. There are plenty of panel border breakouts too which really make the artwork pop. That and Dan’s as ever brilliant backgrounds make this a great looking story.

As for the story itself, the dialogue once again captures that ‘80s exposition vibe as we get ready for the action and Vyper gets a briefing he’s obviously going to give as much credence to as the lessons of his Sunday school teacher; he’s a loose cannon, but what the Hell – who else is going to look that good in those tight pants and a shiny helmet…

Later in the story there’s a detail I hadn’t picked up on before – there’s a hint that his secret identity is part of a larger organisation and while we don’t hear any more about it, I wonder if Dan has more backstory up his sleeve than he’s sharing. I like that nod to a bigger picture without any explanation – just like real life. Sort of.

Virtually all the bad guys here are nameless henchmen; just as they should be, with the focus squarely on the big bad who our hero has personal history with and who’ll probably be one half of the badass showdown that’s on the cards for the final episode.

Sloane naturally goes off-piste and the jeopardy cranks up as the mission starts to go south – as with every good ‘80s action movie, when the shooting starts, things get manic and over the top with the body count racking up at an alarming rate; none of your A-Team, how did those guys come out of the horrendous car-crash / fall / shoot-out with just a headache BS here. Dan handles the sound effects of all this action nicely too; both of the shooting, and the screeching of wheels. Talking of wheels, the Vyper itself is really well drafted. You see it from lots of different angles and it always looks convincing; no mean feat. I can’t wait until Dan really challenges himself with a story about a Mongolian reindeer herder who travels everywhere with his extended family on horseback!

We leave this episode with Sloane now having an almost impossible task – complete the mission, while defeating the big-bad, and saving the girl. Will he do it? I guess we’ll have to tune in next time to find out!

Extras

Once again, a couple of pages of childish, near-the-knuckle fans’ letters for readers to enjoy at the back of the book – obviously spot-on and entirely appropriate for the mental age of us degenerate ACP fans.

There’s a page of fan art too with some great work on display – again, no less than you’d expect from the dedicated followers of Awesome! My own piece didn’t make it into the book, so I thought I’d share it with you below dear reader – enjoy!