Walking a fine line between cutting satire and fond parody, Malty Heave is a one-shot, tongue-in-cheek, sci-fi special collaboration between Robert Wells (Back, Sack & Crack (& Brain)) and Phil Elliott; the latter once described here at Broken Frontier as “one of the godfathers of British small press comics” by our own Tom Murphy. This black and white A4 offering presents two stories that showcase the comedic skills of both creators at an incredibly affordable price. One that will hopefully ensure that readers check out both gents’ wider bodies of work.
Taking the legendary anthology Heavy Metal as its inspiration (or its basis for loving mockery depending on your viewpoint) Malty Heave #1 opens with Elliott’s ‘Me, It’, a cautionary tale of robot rebellion told in expansive one-page panels that invite the reader to dwell on Elliott’s inventive and expressive cartooning. It’s a brilliantly cyclical parable that has an elegant simplicity but still makes its deeper point with a careful eloquence. Essentially it’s the best 2000 AD Future Shock-style story that I’ve read since 1980-something…
Wells has an approach that is far more ostentatiously outrageous in delivery in a twisting time-travel tale that lampoons some of the visual excesses of Heavy Metal with an unsubtle and biting wit. In 1984 a schoolboy encounters two refugees from the 21st century at a South London bus stop. Can he help them change the future and ensure that the fascists of our own era never come to power?
Wells merges brutal humour (aimed squarely at pro-Brexit supporters) with some rather wonderful visual gags, bringing together familiar pop cultural concepts from the comics page and contemporary social commentary to great effect. Those who despair of how far a certain frontman from a seminal 1980s Manchester band has fallen over the decades will no doubt find the slapstick humour at his expense particularly funny. Wells remains one of the UK scene’s most under-appreciated cartoonists and this bleakly amusing short only serves to underline his talents.
Whether it be from just this comics double act or a wider field of artists there’s plenty of scope here for more short sci-fi with a humorous edge. And at just £3.00 this is an incredibly affordable comic that will hopefully lead to far more servings of Malty Heave in the not-too-distant future.
You can buy Malty Heave online here.
Review by Andy Oliver