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Lad Issues 1-3, Reviewed

LAD issues 1 - 3

How about a crime family drama meets folklore fantasy with dabs of occult horror, pagan and Viking mythology and even Putti in shadow heavy pencil and ink art? If you can’t see the woods for the trees, don’t, it will make your eyes bleed in Lad The Homecoming.

Coming to Thought Bubble festival (Nov 13th-14th) among a myriad of the beautiful people we’ve already had the pleasure of reviewing at CBNUK will be the new to me Umar Ditta, the extremely likeable comic book writer and marketer who will be prying himself away from Football Manager to exhibit his many wonderful creations including the utterly engrossing Lad.

Issue three being his sixth creation no less. Umar has been honing his talents with short stories and the co-created Untethered Then there's the Kaiju-fighting action comic Let Them Fight! and high fantasy all-ages webcomic The Early Knights Cavalry as well as working as a writer on the acclaimed game Closed Hands. He’s also the Mr Motivator of comics AKA Positive Mental Atti-dude (good ol Twitter bio’s). Which means if you haven't heard of him already you should be following @UmarDitta. Now on with the review.

LAD issue one preview

So, let’s start with the art. Carlos Pedro is a Portuguese artist that we should all be pleased turned his back on architecture. The level of quality monochrome art is fantastic. The heavy shadow work creates a sinister tone that fuels the seedy elements of the characters in this series. The technical brilliance of the light work on display here is a sublime hook playing with the characteristics superbly. This light and shadow contrast play that Carlos presents over all three issues really stands out in this series as a beautiful enhancement to the mythological elements the story presents. The effect is very powerful imagery that resonates through to the bone. There's at least one jaw drop inducing page in each issue.

The arresting first image of the head of the family Dad in hospital in issue one, the apparition of Dad that Lad sees in the woods in issue two or indeed that issues final page, or the little girl Lad wakes to find in the woods of issue three being prime examples. Let’s also highlight the Putti or Cherubs that frequent this series as having supreme character designs with their deteriorating states across the issues capturing something special to adorn the narrative.

As the story dictates a lot of violence Carlos captures it with raw energy and impactful presentation working a greater contrast between competing elements of drama, horror and action. The quality of character design is extremely high with all portrayed having excellent styling elements like the adult’s "Lock Stock" gangster dress code or the younger members council house and violent vibe.

Finally, for art there's Kerrie Smith's lettering which is wonderfully stylised throughout but in particular for Dad's "god" voice and also for adding visceral energy to violent happenings. The whole package is presented idealistically with design coordination from Dearbhla Kelly.

LAD issue 2 preview

Into Umar Ditta's story then which has informed and indeed drives all that art. Well here's another banger from the indie scene. Umar presents a very special world holding elements of different genres brought together in a beautiful buffet of delightful decadent dissonance. At its base sits a crime family drama. A family that uses interesting identifiers. All members go by kinship terminology with titles like Dad, Elder Son, Uncle (Elder, Middle & Younger), Nephew, First Cousin and of course lead character, Lad. Umar utilizes a text introduction for issue one to lay everything out.

The crime family aptly named The Family run criminal activities from Bacon Lodge and they run the town it’s situated in. The town is surrounded by The Forest and it’s the one place The Family know not to venture into. That is until patriarchal leader Dad is discovered badly beaten on its outskirts. After a violent introduction to some uncles and nephews, we meet Lad at the hospital to visit Dad. Within a few pages, Umar sets a recognisable tone of a British criminal family in control through fear and reputation with plenty of colourful language.

While establishing Lads low rung on the power ladder Umar sucker-punches readers with a bonkers reveal that instantly adds a fantastical element that’s impossible to expect. The mystery that begins to develop from this cataclysmic reveal is just wild. The meat of this story is special enough with its strong crime family revenge story but the mythological bones are carved of something wondrous that radiates outwards. This mythological horror element ramps up across the three issues growing into a hideous beast of intrigue that's hypnotic in delivery. There's no sufficient way of describing the plot elements presented as the way they are presented, stylistically as a Frankenstein of mythology and narratively as a whispered hallucinatory fever dream means it’s nigh on impossible to guess where this one is going. I assure you, you will be able to follow it, and issue threes climax will give some stunning revelations but I doubt any could guess where we are heading. This is sorcerous storytelling.

For fans of crime family vengeance stories, horror, action, violence, strong language, really, really, really unexpected visuals and narrative, smothered in mythological iconography, kinship terminology, Puttis or Cherubs and whatever the heck is going on when they appear in monochrome art with a decadent light play, then I’d recommend Lad. It's something different. This is a five-part series with issues one and two available on https://umarditta.bigcartel.com/. Issue three has only just been printed after its recent fully-funded Kickstarter campaign (well deserved) with backers receiving theirs by post imminently while Thought Bubble attendees who happen to be backers are able to collect their copies in person. Everyone else will have to keep glued to that online store and seek out the team's social media for the latest news.

Review: 4.5/5

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