Well, we’ve arrived at the end of an era. Ok, as era’s go, it’s not a very long one, but it is the end. At least for now. A year ago, the Awesome Comics Podcast boys put out Issue 1 of their three story, four issue anthology and, today, they dropped issue 4. Quite some achievement.

Looking at all four covers lined up at the OK True Believers comic con this morning, I have to say, they looked brilliant. As for what’s inside? Read on for a spoiler-free review, my friends.

Murder road

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

Art / Letters: Vincent Hunt

For this final episode, the Chunt* has really narrowed things down, focusing entirely on the three main characters and the last minutes of this terrifying encounter. The atmosphere is great in this last scene – with occasional glimpses of sentinel like trees standing watch over the unfolding nightmare; the clearing in the forest feels oppressive and there’s a strong sense of claustrophobia as the darkness presses in.

I really like the way the guys have paced this; imaginative panel layouts which move the story on rapidly using images straight out of those stomach-churning horror movies you shouldn’t have watched when you were a kid – there’s no time wasted on dialogue here and no need for it either. You don’t need words to tell you whatever’s going on ain’t natural and you ought to be papping your under-crackers right about now!

The mother continues her Ripley impersonation and comes out of her corner fighting for the sake of her family with a great splash page and some inset panels that really feel like a cracking piece of cinematography.

As we move on, there’s more great work on the layouts which really speaks of Vince’s expertise on the graphic design front with some neat panel border breakout’s that add to a sense of dynamic action charging through the story.

There are some telling little choices that Vince has made in the artwork itself too – like a panel where he hasn’t delineated the visor of the Driver in profile making it seem like the darkness is flowing straight into or from the helmet of this hellish vision. Very nice.

The reveal of the story perhaps isn’t entirely a surprise but is certainly satisfying and doesn’t detract from how enjoyable this is; playing with some classic horror tropes, some deadly action, and a strong pay-off.

I’ve never read a horror comic before, and, putting all four issues together, this is a great entrée into that world. Familiar because it feels so cinematic, easy to read because of the pace, and satisfying because the story is very neatly packaged. All wrapped up with a blood-soaked ribbon.

Fantastic work boys, you should be rightly proud of yourselves.

*”Chunt” = Chant and Hunt, the deadly duo.

 Cockney Kung Fu – The Big Old Kent Road Kick-off, Parts 7 (I hear you knocking) and 8 (Queen Bee)

Story: Tony Esmond (@ezohyez)

Art / Letters: Nick Prolix (@nickprolix)

There’s an old adage among writers. I don’t know exactly how it goes but I think it goes something like “if you want your readers to feel empathy for your protagonist, put ‘em through the wringer”. Let’s just say, Tony’s wringer must be well and truly battered by the end of this forth issue.

Before we get in to any detail, let’s just have a chat about the feel of this story. Right from Issue 1, there was an underling sense that any one of the characters would screw another over at the first opportunity of turning any sort of profit – I mentioned it in some of my earlier reviews. There’s plenty to recommend this story, but I think, more than anything, it’s this feeling of being off balance that’s drawn me to it and which I’ve really enjoyed.

Once again, we’re treated to superb cartooning by the legendary Mr Prolix – the art’s been great throughout the story and his hand lettering and particularly the sound effects are things of beauty. The tension to his comical, almost caricature-like portrayal of the characters comes from the dark undertone of Tony’s story – it’s a low-down, violent tale of some really nasty bastards where the moral is fuck them or they’ll fuck you. It makes the read edgy in a fantastically compelling way.

Part 7 opens with a really nicely portrayed dream sequence while Red is still out cold from the end of the last issue – it shows us something of her past and how she came to be who she is and hints at a discipline that we haven’t seen in her before. Another layer to this character who I know Tony has plans for beyond this comic and which I’ve no doubt readers would love to see.

All my reviews are spoiler-free so I won’t tell you exactly what happens but, as in life, the story isn’t all neatly wrapped up with a bow and put aside ready for the next chapter to start. In Part 8, we’re introduced to some new but equally horrible characters and Red finds that there’s nowhere to go from the frying pan but into the fire.

It’s hard to know how to sum this story up – it’s funny, comical, jaunty, violent, vicious, dark, and nasty. All in a gritty soup than smells like a packed commuter tube in the height of summer. Whatever it is Esmond’s got planned for Red, you can bet it isn’t going to be plain-sailing. Bring it on, baby-cakes!

Vyper

Everything: Dan Butcher (@vanguardcomic)

Once again, Dan’s displaying some absolute chops with the panel layouts in this final issue of Vyper – we’re straight into the action here and the sharply tilted panels make for a really fast paced layout.

Dan’s portrayal of the action is brilliant – I’ve said before how much I like his use of blurring to create dynamic motion and depth of field, and it’s used again here with great aplomb. The environments too; like the city, the dock, and the establishing shot of the police HQ, work beautifully and once again teach us that any number pier you care to mention, in any coastal American city, is not the place to be after bedtime.

There’s some real jeopardy for the good guys in this scene and the classic action show feel just oozes from every panel and speech bubble – it’s so full of nostalgia, I’m surprised there’s any room for story!

But room there is. And not only for story, but for character development too. The main character really does go on a journey here; putting at least some of his dark past to rest and realising that he doesn’t have to be a complete dick all the time.

We’ve boiled things down to just a few key characters for most of this issue and the focus works really well – Lopez is also developing and we see the respect that she’s worked hard to gain from Vyper paying off as the relationship becomes more trusting and we realise there’s something in this for both of them.

There’s a nice scene towards the end of the story where Sloan thinks he’s got away with his duplicitous Vyper / Viperini shenanigans, but…well, you’ll have to read it to find out what happens there, but, let’s say no more than it’s a really sweet little twist.

It definitely feels like we need to see more of these characters as Dan drops in another potential follow-up story hook towards the end of the book and indeed the closing text gives me the strongest possible suspicion that that particular itch is going to get scratched…

Extras

There’s a nice little ‘interview’ at the back of the book exploring the experience the guys have had putting the book together over the past year, some nice little back-matter sketches and an invite to let them know what you think of the whole sorry affair. So, don’t disappoint and give  apiece of your mind by emailing awesomecomicspod@gmail.com or tweeting the hell out of them @theawesomepod