Friday, 14 July 2017

Happy Bacch-omnibox day, part 2....

Another day, yet another Happy Bacchus-day. Here's the second of Agent Rob's Bacchus reviews (from Amazon)....

This is the second of Top Shelf Productions/IDW's long awaited Bacchus Omnibi, a whopping 550 pages featuring the final 5 (of the original 10) books, comprising '1001 Nights Of Bacchus' (6), 'The Eyeball Kid Double Bill' (7&8), 'King Bacchus' (9) and 'Banged Up' (10).

Book 6 begins in familiar Bacchus territory, Campbell and his assorted collaborators (Dylan Horrocks, Steve Stamatiadis & Pete Mullins on art, Wes Kublick, Marcus Moore, Daren White & Mark Campbell writing) employing the short story to great (comic) effect, riffing on a theme akin to 'Arabian Nights' – needless to say the pub'll stay open as long as Bacchus, the listener, can stay awake and many tall and varied tales ensue. This book concludes in anticipation of the events set to take place in Book 9's 'King Bacchus'.

Books 7 & 8 concern the return of The Eyeball Kid and Joe Theseus and their continued attempts to secure 'The Eye of Fate'. The first of these, book 7, 'Hermes Versus The Eyeball Kid' is, as Campbell states in his introduction, “an all-out slugfest as an homage to the great Hulk-Thing matches that Lee and Kirby would do” and he is ably assisted here artistically by Pete Mullins – his polished, classic linework adds a lush, clean quality that balances out Campbell's enjoyably rougher edges – and April Post, with Wes Kublick again contributing to the writing. Book 8, 'The Picture of Doreen Grey' sees Campbell and Mullins – and we mustn't forget eight-year-old Hayley Campbell contributing crayon drawings of God – pit Joe Theseus and his wife Big Ginny, Queen of the Amazons up against the sinister The Body Corporation (last glimpsed in Book 5).

In Book 9 Bacchus returns to the fold to be crowned King of the Castle and Frog pub, which has taken it upon itself to secede from Britain and become an independent state. Of course, this planned revolution doesn't quite go to plan – thanks in part to a few of Eddie's comic book contemporaries who cameo - and Book 10 finds Bacchus 'Banged Up', back in jail (just as he began Book 1) in a series of stories in part inspired by the BBC comedy series 'Porridge'. Will poor Bacchus while away his final days behind bars...?

Whilst never hitting the woozy, boozy heights of the first volume - this second volume feels somehow oddly inconsistent as it strives for storytelling consistency, perhaps in part due to it's erratic and jumbled release, many of the stories being created and published in tandem across a spread of titles and linking portions and gentle revisions added later to smooth out the transitions – this is still very much a recommended purchase. There is a strange shift in momentum to Books 9 & 10 as if the overarching story's suddenly anxious to get going while it's all secretly running out of steam behind the scenes. It's certainly another beautifully presented book, designed to compliment Volume 1 on the shelf, the two wide spines reading together as one.

Of course, sitting with the book at hand, trying to grasp the complexities of the stories within and convey them here is near impossible – and not just because the hefty tome weighs a tonne! - it simply begs to be read, the joys discovered for yourself.

Amazon Softcover -- Top Shelf (signed) Hardcover -- Top Shelf Omnibox

Friday, 7 July 2017

Happy Bacch-omnibox-day, part 1....

Another year, another Happy Bacchus-day. Seeing as it's the 3rd year of celebrating the (other) one-eyed-god we've got a triple treat in the form of 3 blogs, featuring Agent Rob's 2 Bacchus reviews (from Amazon) together with a new review of Alec: The Years Have Pants....

It's finally here! After a few years of teasing - and complete interim digital editions - Top Shelf Productions have finally released Vol 1. of the long awaited Bacchus Omnibi, 560 pages featuring the first 5 (of the original 10) volumes, comprising 'Immortality Isn't Forever', 'The Gods of Business', 'Doing the Islands with Bacchus', 'The Eyeball Kid: One Man Show', and 'Earth, Water, Air & Fire'.

Where to begin? Many of you may be (more) familiar with Eddie Campbell from his work on 'From Hell' with Alan Moore, but there's no denying he's just as vital an independent creator in his own right, his similarly robust 'Alec: The Years have Pants (A Life-Size Omnibus)' arriving in 2010.

Campbell recently stated that Bacchus was created as something of a reaction to his then notion that, "In my head American comic books were big, ugly things,” and so he settled upon, “a big, ugly idea. ...a character with a horrible face, a reason for being mean and some justification for there being a lot of action.” That's as good a premise for this tremendous series as I can think of.

There's no denying that Bacchus is 100% deserving of the oft bandied about term “graphic novel" - it's epic, humane, funny, romantic, dense, enlightening, dramatic, bizarre, boozy and very very rewarding (making for a hefty work of singular vision akin to Jeff Smith's 'Bone' or Dave Sim's 'Cerebus')! Campbell brings the gods and myths of ancient Greece to modern life in real style herein - Bacchus himself is the 4,000 year old Roman god of wine and revelry and is often accompanied by his appointed "follower", the literature-quoting Arthur Frederick Simpson. With a story so vast and all-encompassing - our eponymous "hero" tackles (Joe) Theseus, The Eyeball Kid, The Telchines (Chryson, Chalcon and Argyron), The Stygian Leech, Hermes, The Eye of Fate, the islands of Greece, plane crashes and car smashes amongst other things - it's perhaps somewhat easier to focus on the excellent art.

Campbell excels at what initially appears to be quite straightforward and at times hastily rendered artwork, with a fine economy of line, in part a little reminiscent of Frank Miller's looser b/w pages. Perhaps it's not to everyone's tastes – fans of more mainstream superhero-ish art might struggle with what's on offer here - but look closer however, and the underlying high level of skill at work is clearly apparent. Campbell has a deliciously expressive, scratchy approach to both inks and tones with which he seamlessly unifies the drawings from page to page, producing many memorable and ambitious panels and sequences. Stories are often introduced and framed by Bacchus himself, allowing the artist free reign to gleefully depict him in all his gruesome yet equally endearing glory - Campbell's art on volume 5, freed up to do his thing by handing over art duties and sharing the writing elsewhere, is particularly striking. Once you became more accustomed to this decidedly left-of-center style your admiration can only grow, especially with the knowledge that even the simplest looking comic page is generally the product of hours of toil - and here credit is also due to Campbell's similarly talented collaborators, Ed 'Ilya' Hillyer provides a cleaner finish more suited to the action of volumes 2 & 4, Pete Mullins contributes artistically to a short in volume 3, while Wes Kublick co-writes several shorts and issues across volumes 3, 4 & 5.

To sum up.... When you think of the many by-the-numbers-making-up-the-numbers comics that are endlessly production-lined into existence then the sheer importance of (supporting) a work like Bacchus cannot be denied. Don't beg, borrow or steal a copy of this huge bargain.... Buy it (because the sooner you do, the sooner we'll get Volume 2)! And if that isn't reason enough then take Neil Gaiman's word for it - "The man's a genius, and that's an end to it."

Amazon Softcover -- Top Shelf (signed) Hardcover -- Top Shelf Omnibox