Published by Avery Hill, whose anthology Reads! I reviewed here on ‘Small Pressganged’ last year, Tim Bird’s Grey Area #1 is a sequential art tour of London’s streets, thoroughfares and hidden corners at night. Three tangentially intersecting tales explore the U.K capital city in the wee, dark hours beginning with ‘Nightshift’, a short pictorial essay on the overnight work required on London’s tube train system in order to maintain its daily running.
This opening entry establishes Bird’s approach to the comics on show here. An exploration of unseen or barely considered elements of London’s existence where a kind of stream-of-consciousness flow replaces plotting, and characterisation is restricted to the one true star of the comic: the city itself. ‘Nightshift’ is also a rather haunting piece, replete with the phantoms of the past that linger within the recesses of the underground network; closed forgotten stations, long-gone commuters, journeys taken and lives led.
The other two stories to make up this opening issue’s trilogy are ‘Nightwalker’ and ‘Nightlife’ maintaining the overarching nocturnal theme of the comic. ‘Nightwalker’ follows an insomniac as he walks the city streets creating a sense of detachment as he wanders, isolated, from the rest of London’s teeming humanity. Careful visual detail ensures that this story is a true marriage of verbal narration and evocative imagery. ‘Nightlife’ focuses on London’s leisure scene; on the hours of escape from the daily grind, and the solace and refuge from the realities of life that it provides.
Presented on a larger A4 canvas that gives Tim’s art more space to breathe, Grey Area reminds me very much of Simon Moreton’s Smoo Comics (reviewed here in a previous ‘Small Pressganged’) in the way it uses architecture and environment to reflect mood and emotion. Atmospheric and enticing, this twisting tour of the city at night is a very promising start to what looks to be a very distinctive series.