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‘The Vale #1-3:’ Comic Book Review

It’s hard to tell what’s going on at any given time in The Vale. First of all, the main characters tend to speak in varying degrees of an accent that I can only describe as “British Thug.” An accent which is spelled out phonetically on the page, so that a statement like, “My parents are in there,” would be written as “Ma rents iz in dere!” While it’s usually at least somewhat evident from context what they’re saying, this style of writing can still be challenging to puzzle through, particularly when they start talking in obscure slang. It’s a stylistic choice, though. I get that, and it helps to establish the characters and the world they’re living in.

Second of all, some of the scenes tend to be really busy in terms of artwork—lots of characters, lots of details, lots of things going on. And, these things are all going on in black and white, which makes the busier scenes look kind of jumbled and unclear. The black and white is, of course, also a stylistic choice, but it’s kind of a baffling one. In all three issues, the covers and the previews of the next installment are done in full, beautiful color. It’s vibrant, it’s much clearer to look at . . . but then the comics themselves are in this jumbled black and white.

And thirdly, it seems like some important events and explanations of things get skipped, or at least glossed over. Every so often a new scene just gives off a, “Wait, what’s happening now?” vibe, and it takes some time to catch up. In addition, the characters live in a very different world from ours, and references to things that are commonplace for them, but not for us, flow freely. These references actually work, though, for the most part, and are generally evident from context (e.g. “Roobl” is their Google-like search engine). They add an extra dimension to the world we’re experiencing, and can also be very funny.

There are definitely some pretty funny parts in this series. Even just the premise is crazy and hilarious. 10 years ago, the Illuminati allowed magic, creatures from other worlds, and general supernatural evil to come into our world and take over. But, since then, things have settled down, and people are trying to get on with their new, dark magic-filled lives. The powerful demon-creatures have taken all the best jobs, so whatever humans are left are mainly slackers who hang around the pubs.

One such slacker is Jan, who with his demon hellspawn best friend Shugg (picture a young, rebellious, thug-wannabe Cthulhu in a hoodie), goes around drinking and doing freelance dark magic. Only Jan might not be such a slacker after all, when he starts using his magic skills and connections to put together a plan to get humans out from under the thumb of their demon overlords.

The comic definitely has a distinctly British flavor to it, in its style, language, and humour. It’s reminiscent of Robert Rankin’s Brentford Trilogy—a series of hilarious and extremely far-fetched books whose protagonists are also two slackers who hang out in a pub while surrounded by crazy supernatural events.

That is to say, in spite of its flaws and in spite of the confusion, this is an enjoyable read. Individual scenes may be hard to puzzle out, but the overall story still comes through clearly, and it’s a crazy and fun story. If you’re looking for something funny, offbeat, weird, and generally British, The Vale is at least worth a look.

Last modified on Friday, 28 December 2018 17:54

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