Comic Review: “London Gothic” (LG Comics)
Welcome to the dark, shadowy underbelly of London Gothic,* where mysteries and magic abound.
Here, hidden in the shadows, there is a secret battle being fought between an underground organization known as the Tuttori and… erm, the bad guys who worship demons. To be fair, they’re called the brotherhood of Sinistre, but you’d only know that if you read the back cover first.
Written by Nick Henry and illustrated by Michael D. Burton, London Gothic follows Duke Henry De Montford, the last member of the Tuttori and practitioner of the dark arts, either magic, alchemy, or a combination. The story opens with the Duke meeting an informant (Jellico) at a local pub. The word on the street is that there are matters of concern conspiring down at the wharfs, and the pair heads off to investigate.
Upon arriving at the wharfs, the two step in to rescue one unfortunate Detective Bailey, who was captured by a group of demons while he was investigating a series of decapitation murders near the wharf.
As the story continues, the reader is introduced to a lovely witch named Hanora, who assists with Detective Bailey’s recovery, and an oddly nameless villain serving in Parliament who has resurrected a bloodthirsty super demon named Ponchinello. To be fair, the villain is actually named Lord Finneas Cromwell (but again – the back cover). Between the Tuttori and Cromwell, there is a race to reclaim an ancient Christian relic, one that undoubtedly holds a great power.
Other than this main plot line, there are multiple story branches such as a growing public unrest surrounding missing children (who are being devoured by the demons), an ancient religious story unfolding in the background, and the multiple-round yelling match between Detective Bailey and his desk sergeant. These interpersonal fits are similar to the relationship between the book’s primary villain and his underlings. They yell at each other a lot, and it’s a bit much.
The artwork has some appropriate tones of browns and blues, depending on the time of day and the lighting, and it sets the gaslit stage of Londinium rather well. The compositions shine best when given room to breathe, as some of the action scenes and splashes are dynamic and interesting. Unfortunately, the exposition pages are not so engaging. The angles are flatter, and the dialogue pages sometimes fall into the dreaded pit of “talking heads.” Some of the “glow” lighting effects are overpowering at times, too, washing out the line art.
It is also worth noting that London Gothic is absolutely intended for a mature audience. Not only is there foul language aplenty, but the level of violence is either glorious or grotesque, depending on your sensibilities. As mentioned above, nobody is safe from a cruel dismemberment, not even kids. However, the demon minions get satisfyingly shredded and splatted, too, so it’s a fair and balanced blood bath.
Perhaps the most glaring omission in London Gothic is its lack of some kind of narration boxes. All of the story, aside from stage setting (i.e. “One month later”), is told through dialogue. Given the complexity of the backdrop and the number of characters, the book would have read more smoothly with a narrator, preferably Duke Henry, filling in some holes as the story progressed. As written, the reader goes a long time without knowing some simple but necessary information (such as Duke Henry’s name). It’s obviously too late to make such a big adjustment, but there was enough extraneous dialogue that some of it could have been replaced with some concise narration boxes. Otherwise, adding a new first page, such as a diary entry on the part of Duke Henry, might bridge this gap rather well. As mentioned above, some of this information is included on the back cover, but it should really be part of the book itself. If you’re reading a digital copy (as I was), the back cover is the last thing you see, after all.
Overall, London Gothic has an interesting premise set in a gritty, engaging world. I appreciate the religious undertones, and some of the action, particularly the fight in the sewers late in the book, is engaging. On the flip side, some of the lighting effects could were too intense, some details are belatedly or clumsily fleshed out via dialogue, and the main villain is a bit one-note.
If you’re a fan of Victorian London, supernatural fantasy, or Alistair Crowley and Jack the Ripper-style adventures, then London Gothic may strike your fancy. As an 82-page book, it’s a good value ta’ boot. Just be sure to read that back cover first.
You can pick up a copy of London Gothic Book One (digital or physical) at the LG website store here.
*Disclosure: A digital version of London Gothic was provided to The Splintering for the purpose of this review.
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