Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Book Review: Adam Cheal / Russ Leach – 'Terminus At Fenton's Green'

'Terminus At Fenton's Green'

Writer Adam Cheal ('Toxic Storm', 'British Showcase Anthology') and illustrator Russ Leach ('British Showcase Anthology', 'Unstoppable Comics', 'Indifference Engine 2') unite to craft an intriguing, macabre, but humorous tale of terror in graphic novel form. Uniting anachronistic Victoriana and Lovecraftian twist, the story follows the character of Theodore Paulsen – a questionable doctor with sinister machinations, lured to the seemingly picturesque village of Fenton's Green. Within the confines of the village he is drawn into a nightmarish battle for survival against the fiendish populous.

The storyline is reminiscent of Neil Gaiman's short story 'A Study In Emerald', blending well known Victorian characteristics with a supernatural plot that gives plenty of nods to H.P. Lovecraft's tales such as 'The Shadow Over Innsmouth' and 'The Dunwich Horror'. While the bizarre and evil setting of Fenton's Green itself also recalls the haunted mining town of Babylon in the cancelled HBO TV series 'Carnivàle'.

There is a hefty dose of Hammer Horror about the graphic novel. Not only in it's Satanic Victorian setting, but also in it's visceral and fast-paced style with colours that evoke the heyday of “Kensignton Gore” (as well as some). There is also nice use of a barer sketchy style to illustrate the flashbacks, giving them a very dreamlike quality, despite the often harrowing situations they portray. However, it's the design of the more monstrous characters immediately flips the feel of the graphic novel on it's head. The menagerie of grotesque abominations with their angular features and garish colourings evoke the likes of 'Hellboy' and 'Spawn' and twist the pleasant surroundings of the page into a nightmarish juxtaposition.

The story is told in an engaging way that tries to remain light on anachronistic language and at the same time tries not to roll out too much antiquated phrases that have a tendency to sound clich
é'd. It's simple, direct and most of all memorable. The only real issue with the story is that it feels rather rushed. There is a lot of potential for expansion to create a richer and more detailed world that would flesh-out the supporting characters and explain the back story of Fenton's Green.

On the whole this is a surprisingly good read that, while progressing a little too quickly, nonetheless creates a mysterious and horrifying world that effectively blends Ripperology, Hammer Horror, and Lovecraftian embellishments. The pairing of Cheal and Leech yields a high quality of storytelling that will hopefully bear more fruit in the future.

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