Look at the pretty things, says Tony.
Across the five issues of Body Work, the first Rivers of London comic-book story, there have been issues that felt somewhat unnecessary, going back and watching the same events from different perspectives mostly as a way of introducing us to new characters in the world of PC Peter Grant, the copper with wizardly powers and an uncanny connection to London’s river-spirits. The challenge for any final issue would be to show us why all those perspectives were worth the space they took on the page and in our lives.
Does issue #5, which closes the story, succeed in doing that?
Yes, there’s a degree to which issues #2 and #3 still feel like introductions to characters – Grant’s boss Nightingale and his oppo on the regular force, Guleed respectively. To some extent, those issues were world-builders, rather than wild-riding, scruff-of-the-neck plot-pushers, but the point about that is that they worked – they gave us a broader, deeper concept of the premise of the series, and they filled the created world with interesting characters from whom we wanted to see more.
Issue #5 does tie the threads of the various storylines together – the ‘haunted’ car that’s killing people in the here and now, and where its powers came from is well explained, while an additional level of threat to a major character in this story is revealed and brought to a head. The haunted car from Nightingale’s remote past is not nearly as well wrapped up, and there’s a gap too in terms of understanding how precisely it gained its Christine vibe. But the particularity of the death of Nightingale’s erstwhile friend from yesteryear does give us a solid lurch of understanding about what’s about to happen, so when it does, we, like Grant, can only look on, unable to tear ourselves away from it. That Grant himself has only a tangential impact in tying the stories together and practically no impact at all in the resolution of the impending tragedy feels like something of a wasted opportunity. And in the final pages, there’s a sense of untidy workmanship about Aaronovitch and Cartmel’s cap-ends to each of the storyline, a touch of ‘And this is how that ended up, and this is how this ended up’ that feels in sync with geek classics like the Lord of the Rings movies, where each character seemed to have their own ending. This is fine in and of itself, but it feels a little clunky and a little on the nose from a writer of Aaronovitch’s calibre. (I know, yes – probably only I could use a comparison to Tolkien and Peter Jackson and expect it to be taken by any geek worth their anorak as a criticism).
As has been the case in several issues of this first Rivers of London story though, I can get away with it because a) it’s a minor niggle, really, and b) the writing is surprisingly not what pulls you through. It’s perfectly fine and all, but when you match it with art from Lee Sullivan and the insanely gifted colourwork of Luis Guerrero, you could pretty much have Yellow Pages – The Comic-Book and still have readers riveted, so slips in the writing don’t really matter.
If you haven’t caught any of Sullivan’s art in the Titan range before, and you haven’t come across Guerrero’s colourwork, you have to ask yourself one very important question – what exactly did you do with 2014-15 that was so very important, eh? Go back immediately and seek their work out. Here, right from the cover the artwork drags you in, and Guerrero’s colourwork informs every panel with its own mood, its own energy and its own place in the temporal framework. They have a solid set of challenges in this issue, including several ghostly pallors, some underwater work that between them they knock not only out of the park, but out of the county and the next county too, some multi-layered see-through work on a kind of magic globe in Nightingale’s office, plus several panels set in the distant past, which each have their own tints and tones and emotional nuances.
Most particularly in a story that revolves around particular cars, check out Sullivan’s faithfulness to the idea of automotive design, and his depth of construction in the worlds he builds – again, Nightingale’s office is an environment you could just skim through if you’re not looking deeply enough, but give it some time and spare it some effort and you really begin to appreciate the skill that went into creating it. Meanwhile if you’re looking for Guerrero’s greatest hits in this issue, it’s all about light sources and light levels. He’ll give you a twilight that creeps and a brilliant point of indoor light that makes you want to come in from the cold and the dangerous world outside. Even something as simple as a desk lamp feels as though it actually exudes light off the page and into our world.
That’s a damn good colourist.
Body Work, issue #5 then, is a gorgeous feast for the eyeballs, while the story concludes in a way that mostly makes sense and ties most of its threads together. If you’ve been waiting for a spectacularly written conclusion to the story, it doesn’t exactly deliver. But when the art and the colourwork is this good, you pretty much forgive the writing for getting only nearly there.
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
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