Titan Comics: RIVERS OF LONDON #3 Review

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I like driving in my car, says Tony Fyler.


Issue #2 of Rivers of London, written by Ben Aaronovitch and Andrew Cartmel, based on Aaronovitch’s books of the same name, took the events of issue #1 back in time and replayed them from another point of view, pulling them forward at the end to advance the storyline slightly, while delivering more in the way of characterization of the people in the world of Peter Grant, London policeman and technically wizard. Last time, we learned more about his boss, the enigmatic Thomas Nightingale, who appears to have been around since before World War II and is looking particularly good on it.


This time, we immediately spool back a few hours and see the whole thing again, this time from the viewpoint of PC Sahra Guleed, Blake’s point of contact with traditional policing.

Investigating the case of a deeply creepy demon-car with homicidal tendencies, Peter and Nightingale have been chased around a junk yard by Christine and uncovered a link between a couple of cases of dodgy mechanical malarkey that seem to stem back to a particular BMW that was given away to be broken up and destroyed.

It emerges that the original ghost-infected car wasn’t broken up as it should have been, but scrapped for parts, with the parts ending up in several vehicles. Oh yeah – the ghost car is breeding by virtue of being broken up, leading to the two cases of attempted auto-homicide of which Grant and Nightingale are already aware.

Nightingale charges Sahra with the task of doing the solid policework needed to trace all the parts and the cars in which they’ve been fitted. Peter and Nightingale meanwhile go off on a curious adventure of their own in the so-called ‘most haunted car in England,’ suddenly seeing the city of 1929 through their windscreen – which vanishes immediately they get out of the car, giving them the idea that the glass in the car shows the past, rather than the present.

Peter’s investigations into the original BMW of death and Sahra’s investigations into the parts and where they ended up collide in this issue, bringing the story forward when it turns out the BMW’s original owner has been knocked down by a driver of one of the cars that was fitted with one of its parts – in this case, its windscreen. The window to the past has convinced the driver that he saw a horrifying war criminal who was responsible for killing his family – the ghost-windshield seeming to manipulate the vision of the past in order to exact what looks like revenge of some sort against the owner. The owner appears to be a harmless woman, but her sister has a ‘friend’ who runs away very fast when questioned.

As stories go, Body Work, this first instalment of the Rivers of London comic-book, has a certain piecemeal authenticity – we learn things only as they become apparent to our heroes, though there’s still a slight logic gap that needs filling – why Nightingale felt that taking a ride in the most haunted car in England would be an appropriate line of enquiry in the case: there’s probably some logic in that the most haunted car became the most haunted car after its owners tangled with a wartime Big Bad, and it could be the same Big Bad that’s haunting the BMW of death, but there are gaps in the logic as yet which have a Cartmel-flavoured ‘work it out’ vibe that could potentially lose the series readers as it goes along.

That said, issue #3 does the same trick as the first two issues did, giving us an insight into one of the leading characters in Peter Grant’s world – this time Sahra, who has a neat line in banter and clearly has the full-on, unmodified policework skills to back up all the mystic hoo-ha of Grant and Nightingale’s magical powers. She’s the early Willow in this particular Scooby Gang, the one who can be relied on to hit the research and get it meticulously right.

By the end of issue #3 it’s perhaps indicative that the characters are more actively interesting in Rivers of London than the plot, though the running man adds a new impetus to what is otherwise beginning to feel like a slightly closed loop – what, we wonder, has he to do with the ghost car. Why and how has it become an avatar of death, and what are its links, if any, to Nightingale’s original most haunted car in England?

Lee Sullivan continues to render a highly believable world, essential to the tone of Rivers of London, which after all is more The Sweeney with sorcerors than it is Harry Potter with policemen – meaning the world is our world, just given half a twist, rather than an inherently magical fantasy realm. That demands that we recognize our world, and the people who inhabit it, and Sullivan’s style is crucial to delivering this verisimilitude. He particularly excels in faces and emotions, adding to the hook-factor of Rivers of London’s characters in this comic-book iteration. Sterling work as ever from Luis Guerrero on colourist duties help give this issue a beautiful look, and renders the windscreen-of-the-past sequences particularly with a skill that isn’t necessary to sell the concept, but is an extra treat when you open the issue.

Overall, issue #3 adds materially to our understanding of the team that make up Grant’s life, and eventually gets us somewhere with the case of the demon-BMW, but leaves us hoping for significant plot development in issue #4 if the comic-book series is to live up to the promise and the popularity of the books.

Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk

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