Best Of British Review: ‘Malty Heave’ #2 Offers Up Two Very Good Horror Tales All In One Issue

by Richard Bruton

Phil Elliott and Rob Wells‘ second issue of Malty Heave dives into horror, tongues planted firmly in cheeks, playing with the old ideas of EC Comics through their horror host, Admiral Malty. But more than that, here we have two creators on top of their game delivering two very different, but two very good horror tales with a twist…

You can take the title one of two ways, first, it’s possibly a reference to throwing up a little beer in your mouth, but it’s more likely that it’s creators Phil Elliott and Rob Wells are warmly sending up a certain fantasy magazine with all the same letters in the title, just in a different order.

Rob Wells has been doing this sort of thing for many years now, with Department of the Peculiar (with Rol Hirst) as well as his brilliantly honest, brilliantly funny graphic novel Back, Sack & Crack (& Brain). But that’s nothing compared to Phil Elliott’s track record.

Elliott’s one of the originals, one of the group at the Westminster Comic Marts, alongside Paul Gravett, Alan Moore, Eddie Campbell, Ed Pinsent, Brian Bolland, Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean et al. He’s written, drawn, coloured, edited, and published comics his entire career, including editing the iconic Fast Fiction comic, done a fabulous newspaper strip (The Suttons), worked with Eddie Campbell in Sounds music paper, drawn Bluebeard and Illegal Alien with James Robinson, drawn Greenhouse Warriors with Glenn Dakin, written the semi-autobiographical Absent Friends with Paul Grist. All this and more. And more recently, Elliot’s been active on Kickstarter, getting collections of Tales From Gimbley and Wonders of Science out with Eddie Campbell. Yes, Phil Elliott‘s been there and done that in Brit comics

And now we have the second issue of Elliot and Wells’ Malty Heave, the horror issue. Well, horror with a huge slice of the ridiculous and plenty of giggles along the way.

It all begins, as all the best over the top horrors do, with our host, Admiral Malty with the introduction to Wells’ strip, That Bloody Llama.

Yep, a horror tale featuring a llama. That’s the level of brilliantly silly we’re at in Malty Heave.

So, there’s a sociopath, definitely killed his last three wives and now moves onto the fourth. Married, moved in, she spends her time with her beloved animals, he spends his time attempting to reanimate the dead…

And then the bloody llama turns up.

It is not a match made in heaven.

Tormented, pursued, Bernard just can’t get away from that bloody llama. And Wells delights in showing us all of the wonderful ways the llama is busy making Bernard’s life a misery. Funny panel after funny panel, funny page after funny page, Wells’ strip would work as a simple comedy so well, yet he’s no way satisfied with that, which is why there’s a deliciously dark switch two-thirds of the way through, twisting a comedy into a really dark little horror with comedy laced through it.

And all along, Wells’ sharp lines do all the heavy lifting of both comedy and horror, his storytelling is superb throughout, clearly setting you up for one tale before then brilliantly shifting things around to just as clearly transforming it to the dark tale it ends up as.

Frankly, this would be up there as one great comic just with That Bloody Llama, but Malty Heave is in no way finished, we’re still just halfway through and up next, it’s Phil Elliott‘s turn with The Game

A complete shift artistically, this is Elliott doing his usual fascinating thing with line and blacks, where his imagery is all part of the dual storyline here, of a schoolboy, Daniel, and his adventures in the Creepie World online game. We’re somewhere near future, sci-fi without it being overtly futuristic, yet Daniel’s mom bought him an implanted microchip for his 16th birthday. Mom’s got one too and activates it to find out just what’s bothering her boy so much. Perhaps not such a good idea.

The brilliance of Elliott’s work is in what he doesn’t do, what he leaves off the page. The linework is so deceptive, because for so much of the time it’s just not there. Instead, it’s Elliott simply filling the page with blacks, making incredible use of negative space, but never in the showy way of some. No, this is simple, effective, and deceptive as hell. And then he shifts it to a different style altogether in the online world, just as effective.

All in all, Malty Heave #2 gives you two excellent little tales, two slices of perfect tongue in cheek horror, two excellent creators bringing their best.

And to round it all off, there’s a pin-up section with work from Russell Mark Olson, Mark Stafford, Paul Harrison-Davies and Stephen Bissette.

Malty Heave #2 – by Phil Elliott and Rob Wells, available from Rob Wells’ shop online.

%d bloggers like this: