HCZF MONTH! Aled Lies is one of the trio of creators (alongside Dylan Wyn Owen and Shehzad Ahmad) who worked together on the recent experimental comics anthology Idiot Corpse (reviewed here at Broken Frontier earlier this year). I was rather pleased then to see his new Hackney Comic + Zine Fair-debuting comic Marchog Draenog incorporating the banner ‘Idiot Corpse Presents’, implying as it does that Idiot Corpse may be evolving from a collaboration into a small micropublishing operation for the trio. After all, while their styles are all very different the threesome certainly have allied voices when it comes to darker and often bleakly comedic subject matter.
Marchog Draenog begins mid-story and, indeed, makes few concessions to its readership in terms of narrative exposition. A clergyman is fleeing through remote country roads with a mysterious and possibly mystical flask in his possession. But his attempts to escape his pursuers are swiftly halted when, in a lapse of concentration, his desire to avoid hitting a hedgehog in the road lead to him crashing his car headfirst into a van carrying exotic pets. In the aftermath the dead reverend, the flask, an unseen preternatural presence and the hedgehog combine to create something new and unworldly from the carnage. An environmental force embodied in a bizarre new form with an apparent mission of its own. And that’s just the start of the reality-warping weirdness that is to come…
What makes Marchog Draenog so fascinating is that in many ways it subverts that whole “reading between the panels” element of comics in a boldly expansive new way by asking the readers to also fill in the blanks before and after the comic as well. By providing us with the middle, and ejecting the beginning and the end, Lies gives the story an air of the eerie and the oblique that reminds us that our attraction to, and obsession with, all great mysteries is in never really in the possibility of definitive answers but in the allure of endless speculation. It’s also one of those comics that are difficult to talk about too much in terms of story largely because the interpretive elements of the comic need to be experienced by the reader on their own terms without prior description or dissection.
Lies’ art is indicative of a creative mind that understands that black and white comics are not simply sequential art without colour but a medium of delivery in their own right. Something that may seem obvious when stated so bluntly but in practice is not always the case. Every line has purpose here, the deep black effects are used to emphasise a sense of oppression and fatalism, and the contrast of light and dark builds up mood and tension. Check out also his use of lettering effects as sound is used to complement the unsettling feel of the tale and the sense of otherness to events.
As you may imagine I have been reading a large number of HCZF comics over the last few months in preparation for our month of coverage for the fair. Marchog Draenog has certainly been one of the highlights so far. A comic that is as indefinable as it is unknowable and a recommended purchase for those looking for something a little different from their genre fiction reading matter. You can find Aled Lies in the online Hall One at HCZF.
Aled Lies • Self-published, £3.00 (print)/£1.00+ (digital)
Review by Andy Oliver