Six comics, two sides, half colour, half black and white, full of clever writing, full of great art – Establishing Shot is smart, slick, knowing, and a damn fine read.
Establishing Shot is a two-sided comic of shorts all written by Will O’Mullane, Side A in colour, Side B in black and white, six in all.
40 odd pages and, using the old phrase, it’s definitely a comic of two halves. Not in terms of talent and readability, that’s right up there all the way through, but in terms of theme, themes you can see straight away on the two covers above.
To broadly categorise them, the first three, Side A, the colour strips, are all cleverly meta things, loosely set in some brightly coloured superhero universe or other, things that play with the mechanics, the structures, the strictures, and the language of comics.
All three of them work wonderfully well, smart as hell and throwing a knowing wink at the reader, whether it’s narration that becomes part of the action, characters well aware of what they are and using the ‘rules’ of comics to win the day, or very dynamic sound effects filling a city, all three stories just have a clever thread of self-awareness running through them.
If Side A is meta in spades, Side B, the three black and white strips, are more straightforward crime strips, more suited to the darkness and shadows afforded by the black and white world, heists invariably going wrong, criminals shooting the place up, that sort of thing, with a unifying theme of the best laid plans and all that.
In their own right, they work perfectly well, very enjoyable, great black and white art for sure, but they lack some of the cleverness and invention of the colour Side A.
However, when you take the entire 40-pages of Establishing Shot as a whole, it’s a perfect example of the rich talent in the entire UK comics scene, something that readers should be encouraged to explore and enjoy – and Establishing Shot is a great introduction to not just a writer of obvious talent but six artists, all very different, all very talented.
Rather than going deeper into each of the six individual stories in Establishing Shot, the best way to give you an idea of what to expect is a capsule summary and first page preview of what to expect…
SIDE A – Elsewhere in Manhattan – written by Will O’Mullane, art by Alfie Gallagher, letters by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou.
A heist gone wrong, the criminals on the run, a bag full of money, and a narrator taking things into their own hands – it’s a few pages that plays with the mechanics of comics functionality, the narrator’s voiceover forcing its way into the reality of what’s going on. Playing it for laughs, O’Mullane and Alfie Gallagher use the narrator’s words as a physical thing, and it all works perfectly, wonderful meta stuff.
SIDE A – Bullwark Beatdown – written by Will O’Mullane, art and letters by Lane Lloyd,
Another one playing with the mechanics of the ideas of superhero strips, ‘Bullwark Breakdown’ is your classic superhero versus supervillain showdown, the villain finally coming out on top… except this superhero knows the rules, knows where he is and knows just how comics work. Lane Lloyd’s artwork is wonderfully playful, perfectly paced, great to read.
SIDE A – SFX in the City – written by Will O’Mullane, art by Edison Neo, letters by Jonathan Stevenson.
‘SFX in the City’ shows us just what it’s really like living in one of those superhero cities where chaos and conflict is all around – except O’Mullane and Edison Neo manage to do it without showing us a single cape.
No, instead it’s all shown in its absence, the effects seen rather than the cause, until we see the real reason for the chaos, not something I’m going to spoiler for you here, but one that’s built up and built up right until the very loud crescendo of the finale.
SIDE B – The Weak Link – written by Will O’Mullane, art by Daniel Romero, letters by Jonathan Stevenson
Two lovers/colleagues/partners in crime make their unconventional way out of the subway system, only for one to discover that you can never trust your partner in crime, no matter how good the kissing might be.
As I said, ‘Side B’ ditches the meta stuff and concentrates on telling simple, different, effective stories of crime and the fallout from crime in the city, with Romero’s art having a wonderfully light touch, clear storytelling winning the day.
SIDE B – Short Supply – written by Will O’Mullane, art by Butch Mapa, letters by Jonathan Stevenson
‘Short Supply’ is O’Mullane’s Christmas tale, of sold out toys – in this case the Galax-2000 – and the men who’ll do anything to get their hands on one. Think of it as Arnie’s Jingle All The Way except with out of shape dads who aren’t bothered by sticking to the law in their attempts to get what they want for their kid’s Christmases. And of course, it all goes wonderfully, stupidly wrong.
SIDE B – Crook’s Rest – written by Will O’Mullane, art by Clark Bint, letters by Jonathan Stevenson.
‘Crook’s Rest’ takes us into gun and gang culture, the city a hotbed of crime with alleyways full of blazing gun battles. But even here, Mullane, along with some dark art from Bint, manages to turn things on their head midway through, again showing that there’s a wonderful lightness of touch to be seen in the writing here.
If you want to see more of what I’m talking about, there’s an Establishing Shot website where some of the stories are there to sample.
Plus, it’s where O’Mullane puts up new, online examples of the Establishing Shot universe, including this latest, ‘Inheriterror’ with art by Fabian Lelay, colours by JR Harris, and letters by Jonathan Stevenson. It’s another great strip, looking at what might happen if a British Nick Fury gets some bad news and what part in all that his son might play…
You can (and should) be buying copies of Establishing Shot from O’Mullane’s Gumroad site as well as from Gosh and Mega City Comics in London. Plus head here to get all the links to all those invovled.
Establishing Shot – a collection of short comics written by Will O’Mullane, art by Alfie Gallagher, Lane Lloyd, Edison Neo, Daniel Romero, Butch Mapa, Clark Bint, letters by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, Lane Lloyd, Jonathan Stevenson,