“Seriously, will you turn me tonight?” - Joseph
Jason Franks presents Volume 2 of the Kagemono series, a hefty 84 page graphic novel containing ten original stories and an editorial entitled Shadow Things. While most scripts are by Jason Franks, there's a few by other Writers, the artistic duties are being shared by a number of cartoonist giving the reader and an interesting and varied experience. While there doesn't appear to be a common theme running through the stories it would however look like Jason Franks is exploring horror and comedy in the volume, a brave decision given horror-comedy is one of the hardest of sub-genres to pull off successfully. This isn't to say that we aren't presented with Kagemono's normal subversive attitude, just that the targets have been changed slightly from Mr Franks normal hunting ground. So it's all new and fresh, lets break it down and shake it all around.
For horror fans Jason Franks throws on a smorgasbord of dark delights. We get werewolves, with a nice Native American spin, Vampires of the definitely non emo kind, a couple of unique spins on the concept of revenants, and some voodoo garnishing. But if you think that's all you are going to get then you are horribly mistaken. We get a tale featuring a toilet designed in Stepford, a patient who isn't doing things according to what his medical insurance might require, death by chocolate, a statement on how consumption is unravelling society (and it's a cool bogeyman sort of a spin), and if that's not enough to keep you baying at the moon for more the last story in the volume pretty much defies any sort of logical description. I would be very much surprised if anyone can't find something to enjoy in what's on offer.
In terms of the last story I took it to be a hard boiled noir approach, which while no doubt looking out of place in other collections fits into the Kagemono world without anyone becoming unduly upset by it's inclusion. Not sure why this story finished the volume but it was a well received change of pace neither the less.
As we have come to expect from Black Glass the artwork ranges from the naive kind, once again that's an art movement and not a criticism, to almost Japanese anime. Considering we have a number of different Artists applying their various visions to the scripts the book retains a fairly unique tone throughout with some surprise differences to keep the Reader on their toes. So in one story the artwork is very heavily drawn, almost European in construction, while in another story a much lighter Japanese style is in use. Add in Nicholas Nunter's monster vision from the front cover and you have a visual feast that is going to have all comic fans nodding their heads in approval.
In terms of story style, as opposed to story content, we also have a rich assortment of delights to choose from. I kind of didn't find a single weak link here so was as happy as a Voorhees family member in a Counsellor training camp. Jason Franks borrows a slight bit of 1950's Creepy outlook from Jason Paulos, gives it a modern day polish, and delivers a number of tales where the antagonist reaps what they sowed. About the only thing missing there was a slightly overripe chick. We also get the sort of horror theme and style one would expect. But once again Jason Franks demonstrates that the horror mansion has a lot of rooms, with very different takes on the genre in evidence throughout. There are even, arguably, some non-horror stories included, hence why I tend to use the term “dark genre” to fully cover bases and to avoid the sort of “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin” debates that are doing the rounds in zombie fan circles. Actually a zombie yarn is about the only thing missing from the collection, though I don't think Jason Franks has thus far ventured down that particular avenue. While Jason Franks still has a lot of original things to say in the horror genre, I think he is well aware that the zombie well is pretty dry at the moment.
Actually about the only area I think Jason Franks has been remiss in not tackling is native Koori mythology, though given the sensibilities of the Politically Correct that is probably a good decision. I'm left wondering how Mr Franks would approach one of the native "vampire" myths, or heck if we are getting real ambitions maybe a Maori Taniwha story. Hope Jason has plenty of time up hie sleeves as we're just brimming with ideas. Please note I am not for a moment suggesting we don't get value for money in Kagemono; Tooth And Claw. 84 pages full of excellent dark genre thoughts at $15, that's better value for money than a Liberal party election bribe.
I had an excellent time with Kagemono: Tooth And Claw as Jason Franks continues to sprinkle his surreal spice into the Downunder dark genre stew. The stories were entertaining, in some cases requiring multiple reads to get the full impact, and the artwork had me high fiving my imaginary friends. Anyone else think Jason Franks is going from strength to strength? There's a real feeling that we haven't seen the best of Franks yet, and this graphic novel lends weight to the notion that the future is looking very bright indeed.
If after more information, or indeed wanting to know about additional Black Glass products then check the official site right here. The graphic novel can be purchased via Black Box.
ScaryMinds Rates this read as ...br> br> The state of Australian dark genre graphic novels is in safe hands.