Tuesday, 22 September 2015


Si Spencer, Dean Ormston, Phil Winslade & others Bodies (2015)
The usual disclaimers about potential lack of impartiality should probably be registered, given that I first encountered Si Spencer as one of three people involved with the publication of Sideshow Comics, and Sideshow Comics, if I remember correctly, was the first place in which I was published. In fact, I suspect it was also the first place in which both myself and Charlie Adlard - he of Walking Dead megastardom - were published, if that's of interest to anyone.

Si seems to have done pretty well for himself since then, and I nearly fell out of my chair when I noticed his name beginning to turn up during the credits of Eastenders. I haven't seen much of his writing for comics, but recall being impressed quite early on by a story from Sideshow, drawn by John McCrea, in which a terrifying nightclub bouncer with fists the size of hams is revealed to be a big old softie by a quietly ingenious twist I won't reveal just in case it's ever reprinted. I can't remember enough of Spencer's stint on Eastenders to comment, but Bodies at least reveals a similar light touch by which supposed outsiders and oddballs are found to occupy quite different, even inverse roles by the close of the tale; and just to be clear, I don't mean anything quite so cock obvious as the bad guy saving the day or any of the other generic twists we've all grown to anticipate with decreasing enthusiasm over the years.

Bodies makes a fairly simple observation, but one that is particularly worth making in the current political climate, namely that the us and them dialogue employed by the more reactionary elements of English society - usually for political gain - makes no sense, and has never made sense, and never will make sense; because English society is not so much inclusive of the outsider as exclusively composed of the same. This could have gone horribly wrong as funny looking weirdos have feelings too, but the fine narrative balance holds back from sloganeering, allowing the story and its cast to speak for themselves. This they do to great effect, despite the potential for confusion arising from the structure of four related tales occurring in four separate eras, revolving around not so much dead bodies as the same dead body. Happily it's all carried along by the momentum of its own surrealism - possibly allegories I failed to spot - rather than attempting any Alan Moore style jigsaw. It bewilders in places, but in an endearing way and never quite at the expense of the story, and it doesn't need to be a problem providing you keep in mind that this is a story which tells you stuff, and probably shouldn't be mistaken for either From Hell - with which it shares peripheral territory - or anything otherwise too literal. Bodies is a comic which really does work like a novel - and by novel I don't mean a sequence of words describing Spiderman catching some bad guys - and the art is great, seeing as I didn't already mention that detail.

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