Theatrics Vol 1 and 2, Reviewed

Theatrics vol 1 and 2 covers

How about a 1920s set belter of a story following one man's fall from the limelight and battle to redefine himself as a different beast with art that hits harder than Mike Tyson? It's time to raise the curtain on Theatrics Volumes 1 & 2.

Introducing the heavy-hitting goliath, clocking in at 242 pages, hailing from Tpub by way of Neil Gibson and Leonardo Gonzalez - it's Theatrics volumes 1 & 2 reviewed (ahem). At CBNUK we do enjoy a Tpub comic. In fact, for the press of volume two, we described it as a masterpiece and we certainly enjoyed some of their other works like Transmissions, the number stations thriller and The Traveller, the steampunk alt-history sci-fi adventure.

Tpub of course is most well known for flagship series Twisted Dark which delivers very dark horror stories that surprise, shock and cause pause for thought while adding to an interwebbed story that currently sits at six volumes marking the end of season one. Tpub is a very interesting publisher that works hard at its admirable goal of getting more people to read and make comics and with a catalogue like theirs they are making good on that effort. Not bad for something that all started with one man having too much free time. For information on that go to www.tpub.co.uk and create an account. It’s a really good idea as you can get hold of some free comics, a free course and a shop full of gripping comics. Back to the point and the focus on one of those comics Theatrics.

Theatrics volume 1 preview
Theatrics volume one

So, let's start with the art. Leonardo Gonzalez is both co-creator and lead artist on this one and what a talent. Leonardo's style is a captivating one that conjures a whimsical admiration quality. In the opening of Theatrics, it's an ideal style that encompasses the reverence you might hold for an old-timey era. In this case, the 1920's so it sucks you in and captures the essence of a night of razzle-dazzle only a speakeasy can deliver. The thing that’s fascinating about this art is how it can hold these qualities with the whimsical overtones and then just like a head that you watch slowly rotate past its natural capacity, Leonardo's style takes on a Frankenstein's monster energy. As much as the story helps emphasise it there’s definitely something inherent in Leonardo's art that has a Hammer Horror monster reveal edge to it. Moments like the beginning of act two when Rudy sits up in bed you can practically hear that Apprehension engine or Nightmare machine instrument blast out.

Leonardo's ability to portray two contrasting elements does a great service to Neil's writing as it really bolsters the development of Rudy's character of which the first volume so strongly dedicates itself to.

As the art continues in volume two it seems the more frantic the action and indeed Leonardo's lines, especially those that take on rough sketch design, only grows in raw beauty. Leonardo makes easy work of making evil look ordinary and the ordinary look evil. There's an animalistic trait that's visceral and gorgeous.

Jan Wijngaard artfully adds colours to Leonardos lines with a subtlety of brilliant bold backgrounds. The colour choices throughout the entire story are excellent; the enhancing reds, purposeful purples and sombre elements are presented in a highlight package with faultless precision. The art is rounded off in volume one with Jim Campbells professional lettering and volume two sees the talented Jed Mcpherson hit all the right marks.

Theatrics volume 2 preview
Theatrics volume two

Neil Gibson then comes out swinging in a ten act epic of storytelling. This is a very interesting story utilizing 1920's New York and a star at the height of his fame. Against the backdrop of prohibition America, a leading man of chiselled good looks and wild adulation finds a night of celebration in inebriation will end in him losing all that he values and force him into a radical re-evaluation of his life. The star is, stage name, Rudy Burns a treader of the boards that makes the ladies swoon though his heart belongs to one. The consequences of one fateful night will bring about a dark turn that only childhood friend Sam can save him from and he might just have a plan for Rudy to take on his greatest role ever. Theatrics really is a knockout.

Its opening gives gentle feints before unleashing a doozy of a haymaker followed by a combo of darkness leaning plot points. Heavy-handed metaphors aside this is an engrossing read. The subject matter and setting make this one unique and the setup of the plot is expertly delivered. Across both volumes, it's a perfect accomplishment of imagery and narrative that's impossible to put down.

Understandably as a masterpiece, as although like everything its inspirations bubble up, it is so unlike anything else that it never falters right up to its dramatic ending. Combined with Leonardo and Jans art it is a very complete package that I can find no fault in.

For fans of prohibition New York, treading the boards, handsome men and dames, life-changing events, rock bottom, redemption, Rocky, friends that get you back on your feet, putting on a show, violence, love, laughter, money-making schemes and bloody gorgeous nightmare lurking whimsical art you want Theatrics. Volume 1 is available on Tpub’s website currently with the grand finale second volume, which was just fully funded last month on Kickstarter, not far away. This one will grip you to its incredible climax. For those looking for a really interesting starting point with the Tpub catalogue, it has just been announced that they will be releasing a starter box which could be the ideal gift for the comic book fan in your life, even if it's you. Don’t forget to get yourself an account at Tpub for the latest news or follow @TwistedNeil and for more art it's well worth having a look at https://www.lagonza.com/

Review: 5/5

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