November 10th, 2011
Written by Jonathan Ross, illustrated by Tommy Lee Edwards
review by Yin Wu
Think of Image comics and vampires and you may think of Whilce Portacio’s Wetworks, think of aliens, then WildCATS or Supreme may spring to mind. Now there is a new title in town, Turf that incorporates both of these and more besides.
Turf is the writing debut of Jonathan Ross in collaboration with artist Tommy Lee Edwards. The Jonathan Ross, I hear you say? Yep, none other. It is well documented that ‘Wozza’ is a self professed comic nut, but it was not until I read the preface to Turf that I realised just how much of a fanatic he is. He is said to own a copy of every historically significant comic ever printed, think Action Comics #1, Detective Comics #27, Amazing Fantasy #15, he owns the lot. He also has a great knowledge and appreciation of the genre spanning from the Golden Age of Comics through to the present day. It is against this background that Turf was born.
Turf presents us with an eclectic mix of gangsters, vampires and aliens all set in a 1920s prohibition backdrop. Like all great stories, the plot is simple in premise: vampires are planning to enslave the human race to satisfy their needs beginning with New York and various individuals stand in their way. The vampires in question are organised very much in the Bram Stoker mould of ancient aristocrats who live amongst normal humans. Pitted against them are film noire gangsters and cops who are as good and bad as each other. Ross even manages to include an alien with Han Solo tendencies into the mix, and for this Ross must be applauded for including influences from so many different genres within one series.
The opening chapter sets the scene up very well with all the key characters being introduced mixed with a taste of the violence and destruction to come. Although the story delivers many of the elements of a comic tale, there are so many disparate strands that there is a rushed feel about the whole way in which events are narrated. The deus ex machina ending seems to be a bit contrived even for this medium.
The result left me with the impression that Ross tries to accomplish too much within the boundaries he sets himself. As a comic writing debut, the passion and excitement of the writer are obvious for all to see and the bar that Ross sets himself is very high. However the story feels constricted by the sheer number of different elements involved, and the comic even looks cramped visually due to the density of the text on the page.
Tommy Lee Edwards forms the artistic side of this partnership and he has successfully rendered the world imagined by Ross. Edward’s body of work spans many seminal titles such as Batman and Daredevil, his artwork captures the darkness of the plot very atmospherically and the action scenes flow very well. The visuals complement what Ross is trying to achieve and they are not hindered by the presence of the high density of text compared to other comics.
As a comic debut, Turf can be considered to be a success that is much more than just a novelty on account of its writer. Although all the outstanding plotlines are dealt with in the rather abrupt ending, as with any good writer Ross manages to leave the door open to a possible sequel.
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