Saturday, 23 May 2015

The October Faction, Volume 1 Review (Steve Niles, Damien Worm)

So, that was the best Constantine comic I’ve read in years! 

Well, obviously it’s not exactly the same character because he’s older and this is an IDW comic but I think that’s the best way to look at October Faction: the main character, Frederick Allan, was “Constantine” but gave up being an occult detective/monster hunter, got married, had kids, and settled into a nice teaching job at the local university, lecturing about things that go bump in the night. Now in his late ‘40s, his enemies have caught up with him and are targeting his wife and teenage son and daughter to hurt him. Just when he thought he’d gotten out… he’s being dragged back in again! 

I know, I made it sound a little bit corny at the end but it kind of is and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of corn mixed into a well-written and drawn comic. I really like that though Steve Niles writes Fred’s character as this skilled and dangerous ex-monster hunter who’ll do whatever it takes to protect his family and send who/whatever’s threatening them back wherever they came from with a silver bullet, crossbow or a stake, he’s happy to make the occasional joke too - why not have a little fun dark humour with your horror? And that’s why my brain kept taking me back to Constantine, particularly Garth Ennis’ run, a character who has a Puckish wink for the ghouls he faces. 

I can see why people are making the obvious connection to The Addams Family though (that cover!) and maybe there’s a bit of that here too. Fred’s kids, Geoff and Vivian, want to follow in their mum and dad’s footsteps and want to become hunters themselves. But, being good parents, mum and dad aren’t going to let their little ones step into a dangerous profession - they’re gonna join them! And so The October Faction is born. 

Niles’ humour keeps this from being a stale run-through of horror tropes - the werewolf, the mad Frankenstein-esque scientist, the ultra-gothic mansion with the spooky housekeeper - and it’s the characters’ relationships and the snappy Warren Ellis-type dialogue that holds the interest. 

I’m not entirely convinced Damien Worm was the best choice for artist (though, going by his name alone, he’s close!). Worm can do horror superbly well, and most of the book looks just right with lots of pitch black and artfully-placed angles of light to bring definition to what’s in the panels (if you know your comics, think Ben Templesmith on Fell with even less light). But it’s too horror-centric - Niles’ levity isn’t conveyed as well as a different artist who isn’t so in love with the colour black could possibly do it. 

I didn’t realise Steve Niles has never done an ongoing series before October Faction but it’s good that he is because it means a second volume and hopefully more still. 

Steve Niles and Damien Worm score with this darkly comic horror story of a family of monster hunters that unexpectedly has a lot of heart and some brilliant dialogue. October Faction is a really good comic that I highly recommend. And DC? Put this guy on Constantine immediately!

The October Faction, Volume 1

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