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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mirabilis the magnificent

As Paul Gravett said on his website the other day, the market for British comics has changed these days with publishers looking beyond the traditional newsagents and towards bookshops and comic book stores. One publisher who certainly fits that bill is Lancashire based Print Media Productions. Next week they launch Strip Magazine, a brand new monthly adventure comic, and I'll be blogging more about that soon, but for now let's focus on their latest graphic novel, Mirabilis: Year of Wonders.

Mirabilis originally began in The DFC but the comic folded before the story had hardly begun. In Mirabilis: Year of Wonders, Winter Volume One, over 100 pages of the strip appear in full colour, on top quality glossy stock, in a nice large format hardback. It's a truly impressive book that gives the story a format it deserves.

Dave Morris (writer) and Leo Hartas (artist) with Mike Toris and Nikos Koutsis (colourists) combine their talents to tell a bewitching tale full of adventure and strangeness. Set at the dawn of the 20th Century, a green comet appears in the skies, a strange two headed coin is found and a series of peculiar events begins to shape the life of young Lieutentant Jack Ember.

Not only is Mirabilis an involving adventure story that moves along at a good pace, it's also full of mystery and mild horror, with a strange dreamlike intrigue throughout. Mirabilis is grounded in solid storytelling and, although an all-ages book, is more mature than the shock-value dramatics of comics such as Clint. If classic titles such as Valiant and Lion were being published today and had evolved to accommodate modern storytelling techniques, Mirabilis is the sort of strip that would be ideal for them. As it is, you get better than that, because instead of a serial story you get a whole book to sink your teeth into.

I was completely captivated by the book, and the artwork of Leo Hartas is perfect for it, with graphics that are both appropriately detailed and weird. Hartas has clearly researched the period well, and convincingly draws anything from a 19th Century study to a railway station. (Yes, part of the story involves danger on a train; a perfect ingredient for any good thriller. Although it probably wouldn't be as stylish or effective if it took place a modern-day pendolino from London to Liverpool.)

It's the weird nightmarish things that seep into the story that make Mirabilis really special. I won't spoil it here by explaining what they are, but as the Year of Wonders progresses it seems it's going to get harder to distinguish between reality and fantasy.

After 109 pages of this marvelous story we're left with a cliffhanger I'm afraid, but don't let that put you off. There's enough in Winter Volume One to satisfy anyone, and hopefully it'll whet your appetite for Volume Two, the hardback of which will be out soon (although an earlier published version in paperback is still available from Amazon). British adventure comics are alive and well!

Mirabilis Year of Wonders is available from Amazon. You can also order it from bookshops. For details see:


Gareth said...

This looks very interesting indeed evoking a Solano Lopez feel to the artwork. Lovely stuff. Is it available in bookshops?

Lew Stringer said...

Yes, I've just added a link to the foot of the post where you'll find the relevant information for ordering the book.

Matt said...

You've inspired me to order a copy, Lew, so... job done!

Thanks for the review.

Matt Badham

Standby4action said...

I was so glad you reviewed this Lew as it gives me the opportunity to add my thoughts too. Of course if Dave were to mention Frank Bellamy next time, I could use any flimsy excuse to add an entry on my blog!

I bought a copy a few weeks ago after reading Dave Morris' blog and really enjoyed it. It's simple storytelling with nice art in a beautiful glossy hardback binding. I too found its magical quality enthralling. The plot drives along and keeps the reader entertained. I was so disappointed when I realised I had reached the end of the book - how often do I feel that?
A great read and well worth the money - which to me seems cheap compared to a lot of modern publishing!

Dave Morris said...

Thanks, guys - and as my comics reading started with TV21, it's no exaggeration to say Frank Bellamy is one of my comics heroes.

Lopez too, actually, as regular readers of the Mirabilis blog will have spotted my fascination with strips like Kelly's Eye - though I'm not sure that Leo is quite old enough to have been a Valiant reader, so any similarity in art style is probably coincidental.

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