In which I write about a single series that is in fact like a whole imprint in itself. Now, I'm not usually one for comics about, you know, the Frangipanis struggle against the Ipanemians on the planet Sega, but I have a weakness for good storytelling, which all of these had. Um, spoilers! 8HOUSE: ARCLIGHT by Churchland, Graham & Maher
Anyway, this... 8HOUSE #1 -2: ARCLIGHT Art and Colours by Marian Churchland Art by Brandon Graham om p.27 in #1 Art by Brandon Graham on p.28-29 in #2 Story by Brandon Graham Letters by Ariana Maher Image comics, $2.99 each (2015) © 2015 Brandon Graham & Marion Churchland
Man, this thing just drips aristocratic hauteur does it not? It can barely bring itself to allow a prole like you to sully it with your low-born gaze. First there’s that weird title to get past; the one that sounds like a Bullingdon Clubber saying outhouse e.g. “Haw, haw, by 2020 we’ll have turned this country into an 8House. Hard times for the little people, what?” I mean, as title’s go it’s not exactly informative is it? 8House? Hate House? Yeah, I’m not fond of it myself, more of a Northern Soul man. Luckily, I have been gifted with powers beyond those of mortal ken so I know it refers to the 8 Houses (or Families) which rule the planet of Greg Araki where Ghoonga Djinn will save everyone by using the magic white spice to make his pupils contract to pinpricks and talk crap very fast. Or is that our Chancellor, Norman Osborne? Hard to tell in days as strange as these. No, all digressionary bullshit aside I’ve read two issues of this comic now and it’s basically magical space fops in love. Oh, and more importantly it's pretty great to boot.
I know it’s pretty great because even though its pacing is stately and the storytelling somewhat opaque (two things which when done badly I hate), this stately opacity is tethered to meticulously honed storytelling. Each image from line weight, framing, size through to colour is carefully measured to maximise its impact and import. Brandon Graham's captions are sparse, being used mainly for an atmospheric mix of the evocative and the expositionary and so the book is mostly imagery drive. And the imagery Marian Churchland brings to it is really quite striking. Everything looks hand drawn with a lovely human wobble to the line, and the colouring is the soothingly smooth combination of hard and soft only coloured pencils seem able to achieve (although it was probably all done on those computers I hear about). Gesture and expression are pivotal in conveying information here and the book's lucky to have someone so gifted in conveying such tricksy stuff on board. Having said that, I'm still a bit unsure if I gleaned all the meaning from these two issues. As far as I can tell there’s a bundle of twigs in a cloak hosting the soul of a genderblended noble and s/he/it is and her pal are tracking whatever has nicked her/his/its body. The whole being made of kindling thing is putting a serious crimp in stick face’s attendance at soirees where all the gentleladymen wear gossamer nighties and trade bitchery of the barbed variety. So when news reaches Twiggy that his/her/its body is doing the rounds off they set, and after some blood fueled sigil based scuffling a confrontation, the outcomes and import of which are still a tad unclear to this most unreliable of readers, seems unavoidable. Now, I could have some stuff wrong there, after all I read it a bit back and this book isn't exactly eager to give up its secrets, but puzzling them out is part of the fun. And it's gorgeously illustrated and meticulously executed fun, which makes 8HOUSE: ARCLIGHT VERY GOOD!
8HOUSE #3: KIEM Story & Art by Xurxo G. Penalta Story by Brandon Graham Image Comics, $2.99 (2015) © 2015 Brandon Graham & Xurxo G. Penalta
In which that unavoidable confrontation promised by #2 is...avoided. I guess whoever’s in charge of this 8HOUSE gaff (Brandon Graham) thinks you’re getting a little too comfy, a little too complacent what with you being all involved in the story of Sir Arclight, aristo-discos, blood-magick combat, hidden agendas and the cloaky twig-thing - HOOPLA! – 8HOUSE is now, without any whiff of warning, about a completely different bit of the 8HOUSE world and a whole new set-up! I guess this is to stop your brain getting all swaddled in fat and lethargic, so we’re now dealing with a young woman who appears to be part of a military unit, one which is sequestered from the outside world. This bunch of bantering naïfs only leave their bunker to mind-leap into the far-distant deceased bodies of their mono-zygotic twins, whereupon they battle alien creatures on an upsettingly huge construction I failed to retain the exact nature of. Which is nice but don’t put your feet up, Cochise, because now Kiem (yes, it’s named after the lead character; a rare sop for the traditionalists there) has to enter the real world on a Special Mission and finds all is not as she thought (or as we have been led to believe in the preceding blah-de-blah pages (if they aren't going to number them then I'm not going to count them, people)).
In line with its contrasting tech-heavy ambience KIEM takes a different approach to storytelling to ARCLIGHT with the captions being both more plentiful and more larded with straight exposition. But then they are the inner monologue of the main character (a soldier) who is less high faluting than those in ARCLIGHT (dandyish aristos). Which is fair enough as soldiers tend to be more direct in communication than ruffle necked aristocrats. That's not to say the storytelling burden borne by the art is any lighter. You can't fault Penata's art, it is a pretty staggering achievement; it’s as though someone saw Jean Giraud and decided it was good....but not detailed enough, or wanted to explore how deep a focus a paneled image could pull off. The art on these pages is so visually dense it made me worry about the sanity of the mind behind it. I mean, I didn't worry that much because I had tons of fun looking at it and I'm not actually all that caring a person. You drive yourself nuts, Xurxo G. Penalta, just keep those comics coming! Also, there's a cool bit where Penalta upends the images so proving he knows when simplicity is the best tool in the box too. Pretty much a totally different approach and experience from ARCLIGHT it turns out that KIEM is also VERY GOOD!
8HOUSE #4: YORRIS Art by Fil Barlow Written by Fil Barlow & Helen Maier Image Comics, $2.99 (2015) © 2015 Brandon Graham, Fil Barlow & Helen Maier
Obviously, predictability being toxic to this series, with the next issue we needs must leave Kiem staring slack jawed at a truck sized crystal with her war wounded space-panda beggar friend because issue 4 of 8HOUSE (The House That Likes To Move About) is about Yarris or YARRIS (although that reads like CAPSRAGE, and I prefer to save that for when someone writing Spider-Man has done something I don't like; you know, the important things in life). Again, in what can only be deemed a calculated slap to the face of the unrepresented male, Yarris is a young woman but, aha, she is a different young woman to Kiem (clue: different names); she seems a bit more of a hot house flower who spends most of the issue sat very still indeed while indulging in an internal monologue of such expositionary density you could put icing on it and pass it off as a christmas cake. If exposition were edible. To be fair though, while show not tell is an important rule it's hard to carry off when what you are showing is a big alien dog phantom spitting ectoplasm formed of screaming faces. Since this is the primary form of oppression used by one sect (The Bound) to undermine another (The Un-Tied) some explanation is forgivable. Also, I think a little of it is lack of confidence on the part of Barlow & Maier. They’ve done some comics but they aren't a seasoned old lag like Brandon Graham, whose influence here only seems to extend to an invitation to the talented pair to play in his sandbox. Ultimately though it's probably just another form of storytelling. It's not wrong, it's just different, as I used to tell my teachers to admittedly very little effect. Alas, poor YARRIS is the weakest entry so far but it's still pretty strong. It's all relative. This is 8HOUSE after all. There's a flamboyance to the designs in YARRIS which is somehow both restrained and demented, and the storytelling finally settles down to promise thrills aplenty. And how could one not warm to a comic which ends with a character worrying that The Suprymes have been dispatched after them. On past evidence however we'll probably be denied the sight of Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson, Diana Ross, and Betty McGlown as sassy steampunk bounty-hunters because this is 8HOUSE so it'll be about something else entirely, but a young woman will probably be involved. Just like many a fight on Saturday night. Unlike physical violence fueled by alcohol, stupidity and hormones 8HOUSE: YARRIS was GOOD!
Pro Tip: When visiting the 8House I always take some – COMICS!!!