Friday, 25 February 2011

Slaughtermen, Cardiff & Nuge - Oh, my!

Barry Nugent, author of Fallen Heroes and shadowy, secretive power-player behind the notorious Geek Syndicate criminal organisation, has put finger to keyboard in the service of good for once with the following Slaughterman's Creed review over on the GS website:

Comic Review – The Slaughterman’s Creed

Posted by geeksyndicate on February 24, 2011

Thine is the task of blood.
Discharge thy task with mercy.
Let thy victim feel no pain.
Let sudden blow bring death;
Such death as thou thyself would ask for
The Slaughterman’s Creed

Sidney is a professional killer working for Big Lenny Addison, a London ganglord specialising in human trafficking. He is almost completely uneducated except in his family’s trade – at which he is an unparalleled expert.

When he is called upon to breach his code and bring a pregnant woman to slaughter, Sidney’s world is changed forever. Betrayed by those he has served his whole life, the Slaughterman embarks on a bloody vendetta – determined to bring Addison’s entire monstrous empire to the blade.

There is one thing you can say about writer, Cy Dethan: he does love variety. At the moment he seems to be cutting a bloody swathe through as many classic genres as he can, and putting his own unique stamp on them.

I first became aware of Cy’s work on Starship Troopers and ever since reading the line ‘I will piss bullets down your throat’ I’ve been a fan (I don’t know what that says about me). In his career to date he has tackled sci-fi, fantasy/horror and now he is turning his hand to the gritty and dangerous world of gangland crime. One of the reasons it’s dangerous is that it’s a area where it’s easy for a lot of stories to fall into the cliche world of ‘shut it you slag’ one-liners and everyone looking like they’ve just stepped back in time to an episode of the Sweeney. Here, Cy uses this to his advantage with having mob boss Big Lenny (who really should be played by Bob Hoskins is this ever goes to film) and Sidney his professional killer or ‘The Slaughterman’ representing the past. In the future corner stands Lenny’s second in command, Lewis, and his nut-job Slaughterman part 2 representing the future, which promises to be even darker than Lenny’s time.

Two things about Slaughterman’s Creed that I should make clear from the start. First one is the clue is in the title as in what to expect from this comic. This is not the My Little Pony version of gangland tales - this comic is violent, disturbing and some of the images and phrases will stay with you long after the book is closed.

The story is a violent one and art matches it but I never found the violence to be over the top. It felt real, visceral and horrible, as true depictions of violence should be. The second thing is this book is for adults in both the aforementioned violence but also in the plot, the themes and the characterisation.

Throughout the book, Cy is willing to make the tough choices for his characters that a lot of writers either wouldn’t do, or rather would bend the story to ensure they never have to make those choices. At times steering away from the tough choices can lead to flat characters and a story that is unengaging, but not so here. Cy is standing over his characters with a sledgehammer, ready to exact bloody revenge if they dare to veer into the realm of cliche.

My plan was to take my time and read Slaughterman’s Creed over a few days, but pretty much by page five I was in for the long haul and ended up reading the whole thing in a single sitting. Cy has a way of leading the reader by the hand and letting them think they know exactly where the plot is going, and then the next thing you know he’s kicked you down the stairs, leaving you battered, bruised and with no idea where the tale will lead you next.

One of the things I loved about this story is that in many ways there are no real heroes and nothing is as black and white as it seems, which is true of all the best gangland tales. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about how dark Cy’s writing is and there is no denying that a lot of his work takes the human mind to places it would rather not be (still seeing giant eyeballs chasing me after Cancertown, thanks to Cy and Stephen). However, where Cy’s greatest gift lies, in my opinion, is in his characterisation and plotting. The way he is able paint his worlds with so many layers of grey that none of his characters stand out as ‘the heroic one’ or ‘the evil one’ and that a reader’s sympathies become a fluid entity over the course of his stories is a gift not to be taken lightly. Yes, in many ways there are characters to root for in this comic but you can’t help feeling desperately sorry for some of them at the same time - whilst at the same time utterly despising them.

Again, I don’t know what this says about my nature but to see the decline of mob boss Big Lenny over the years after the force of grim nature he is at the beginning of the story kind of made me root for this monster towards the end of the book, when we are treated to a glimpse of his former self. I then flipped back to the earlier pages to remind myself just how much of a monster this man is. Lewis, Lenny’s right hand man, starts out as your typical weasel wanting the top job but his character has echoes of Iago from Othello in that he spends most of the book quietly whispering into the ear of Big Lenny, who can’t see that he is being fattened up for the kill by his most trusted advisor. In many ways, it’s the Slaughterman of the title, Sidney, that you have most sympathy for as, even though he is capable of some truly horrific acts, by the time you reach the end of the book you learn that he had very little choice in his profession.

I’ve already heard a few people reference The Long Good Friday when talking about this comic and that’s a bandwagon I would heartily jump on. I would also add films such as ’Danny the Dog’ and a dash of Leon to the mix. Although Slaughterman’s Creed puts those films in your mind when reading, it always feels like it’s charting its own, body-part-filled course.

The art by Stephen Downey brings another layer of gritty realism to this tale and his growing improvement since Cancertown is there on the page for all to enjoy. I must give a special high-five to the work he, Vicky Stonebridge (Colours) and Andy Brown (Inks) have done on the flash back scenes towards the end of the comic. Even though the colors and art are distinctly different from the rest of the comic, they never take you out of the story. If I had one criticism with the art, it's that some of the more action-heavy scenes felt a little static and did not convey the sense of movement they could have. However, the climax of the story helps to redress the balance with some fine work on the mayhem that ensues when hell comes to Big Lenny’s world. Mention must be made of Nic Wilkinson's deft use of lettering, which is always the subtle backbone of all Cy’s stories, keeping his words on track and informing the art to ensure the reader is never lost.

Slaughterman’s Creed is a bloody gourmet serving the reader a mixed platter of gangland politics, murder, betrayal and revenge with a large side order of body parts. It’s a tale that is dripping with great writing and art. Digest it today.

Great writing is the task of blood.
Discharge thy task with no mercy but a truth to the character and the tale.
Let thy reader feel no pain, save when it is necessary to the tale.
Let every twist bring shock, awe and surprise or the tale has failed;
Write such a story as thou thyself would ask for
The Cy Dethan Creed

Check out a preview of the comic here !

GS Reviewer: Nuge

There will be a pre-order sign-up sheet for Slaughterman's Creed at this weekend's Cardiff Comics Expo, where Barry Nugent is a guest. Barry will be launching his Fallen Heroes comic adaptation, and will also be talking about the book and its adaptations in the Fallen Heroes: Rising to the Challenge panel at 1.45pm.

On the subject of Fallen Heroes adaptations, I've been approached by Barry to write a one-shot comic spin-off from the novel, featuring my favourite of its characters - the Reverend. More on this as the project develops.

1 comment:

  1. Want want want want want. I suppose that would therefore count as a good review :)


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