Last year, in my review of Volume 2 Fatal Diseases, I humbly suggested that the Elephantmen series was overdue for some kind of cinematic treatment (it’s fair to say that I probably wasn’t the only person to make this devastatingly obvious comment). Well, you’ll be glad to hear that somebody up there (or rather, over there, in Hollywood) was listening as the mammoth comic book creations from font lord, Richard Starkings, will be visiting a mulitplex near you in the future. Strike one for justice!
But before we feast our eyes on Elephantmen: The Movie, we can gorge on their sumptuous printed outings in the form of this new collection, Dangerous Liaisons. Although it picks up from where the last collection left off, previous knowledge is not a necessity and jumping on the Elephantmen bandwagon has never been easier with their all-welcoming tales combined with a handy guide in each issue to the main players and their respective histories.
The tales are slightly more bleak this time round (certainly not a bad thing) with gut-wrenching (literally) detailed visuals in the opening Dark Heart, grannies getting shot in The Monster Is Loose, children being ‘chipped’ like pets, and deeply disturbing imagery and genuinely upsetting notions in the back-story for one of the series’ most beloved characters in The Story Of Sahara. And then there’s the approaching menace that rears its head in the latter half, but more of that later.
Of course, as always with Elephantmen, there is a great deal of humour, not to mention love and warmth, for those whose bleak-o-meter’s default setting is ‘low’. Delivering some LOLs (as I believe the young texters say these days), are hippos with moobs (well, one hippo) and a smirksome nod to classic UK television series, Porridge. In the same story we also meet a character called ‘Simm’ who bears an uncanny resemblance to Philip Glenister. Sorry, I mean John Simm. And he’s dressed like Deckard from Blade Runner! (Again, not a bad thing!)
Inter-species sex/love is explored rather cutely in Star Bright, a tale which, both in tone and style, was reminiscent of Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman. And for those who like new onomatopoeic words to accompany their strips, there’s BTAM!, used for a gunshot. I’ll be adding that one to my repertoire!
But the high point of the collection is by far the pulsating finale. These stories mingle and draw on previous stories to deliver a cliffhanger of Doctor Who proportions. Twists, shocks and surprises await in equal measure for our heroes and don’t stop ’til the very last minute. Or page, even. An incredible finale to a blistering collection.
As an added extra, Starkings & Co. treat us to some lurvely sketches from various conventions, early art work and sublime covers. My favourite being a fun mock-up of Hip Flask as Miyzaki’s Totoro by Andre Szymanowicz, superbly realised and most gigglesome (and bloody cute!).
Not that these little gifts are necessary. Dangerous Liaisons delivers enough beauty, art and story to keep one satisfied for some time. These simple, worldwide themes (where a hippo wishes for a strawberry and gets it) are carefully told, building upon its own history and crafted characters whilst creating new and immensely engaging overarching plots. No mean feat.
Elephantmen Volume 3: Dangerous Liaisons is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.