Probably the latest review of BICS material on the wonderweb (or the earliest for next year), but I needed the time to gather my thoughts after the huge hordes of material that I looted.
Here are four of the best graphic novels that I found at this year's convention:
Disrepute (Thomas Ferrier): This 16 page chapbook may be one of the best finds I made. Disrepute is half-satire, half-diary - the musings and anecdotes of Thom Ferrier, who is also a practicing doctor.
It is surprisingly intimate and extraordinarily powerful. With striking illustrations and the stand-out binding, this is a hard comic to pass by. [Only available for purchase directly from Ferrier, but it costs a mere £5. Buy this book.]
The Tale of One Bad Rat (Bryan Talbot): The Tale of One Bad Rat is consistently judged to be one of the finest British graphic novels ever produced - a year ago at BICS it even made a run to be one of the fan favorites as 'best ever'. It is the story of a teen runaway - trying to survive on her own in the city and the country, coming to grips with the kindness and cruelty in the world around her. The protagonist is obsessed with Beatrix Potter, and Talbot brilliantly channels both Potter's literary and artistic style in this story.
My one possible condemnation of this book is that it made me tear up whilst reading it in the cafe, which is, frankly, a little awkward. Talbot uses the medium of the graphic novel to sensitively and evocatively address incredibly tough issues - runaway children and sexual violence amongst them. Those that mistrust or belittle the ability of comic books to tell the real, hard stories should be ashamed of themselves - The Tale of One Bad Rat definitely proves them wrong.
The Rainbow Orchid (Ewing): Another throwback to the Tintin/Asterix era, but this one is brand new (and British). Garen Ewing's new series, The Adventures of Julius Chancer, is an auspicious start. The brave young Chancer is suddenly entangled in the search for a legendary orchid -a genial (if pompous) British lord has inadvertently gambled his family legacy against a sinister flower collector, and Chancer needs to bail him out.
Julius scampers about the English landscape with an equally fearless actress in tow. The art is extremely reminiscent of the Tintin volumes, as it captures that same charming air of innocence. If anything, this volume is too short. It may be a tiny bit juvenile at times, but that doesn't make it any less fun.
The Strange Encounter (Van Hamme): This is the fifth in Cinebook's English-language release of the classic Mortimer & Blake comic series, although like Tintin or Asterix, the books all stand alone. Mortimer and Blake are a terrific team of British (through a continental perspective) heroes. Mortimer is a grumpy Scottish physicist, Blake is an RAF soldier-spy type.
The two have appropriately dashing adventures - atomic science, time travel and the occult are all mixed up with the everyday business of running the Empire. Mortimer and Blake aren't conventional heroes either - making the series more like the continued adventures of Dr. Henry Jones, Senior. All the books can stand alone, but this is one of my favorites - Mortimer and Blake battle an invasion through time!