Ratchwood Dilemma by Duncan Watson and Brian Bicknell

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Ratchwood Dilemma by Duncan Watson and Brian Bicknell

Watson Ratchwood.jpg
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Category: Graphic Novels
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Some sterling visuals are combined with a look at spiritual-minded time-travelling man-gods, to make a book that kind of bludgeons you with the differences it has to the norm.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 116 Date: January 2017
Publisher: AuthorHouseUK
ISBN: 9781524666514

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Well, this is a singular book and make no mistake. The first part of the trilogy led us in quite bewildered steps from a hive mind crash-landing at Roswell and infecting a scientist, through a religious espouser being shot live on TV and the death of Judas, right up to some kind of godhead having to better the existence of what, you know, the more commonly perceived God, had left us with. I think. Here we start with an A&E case where one of a pair of twins is left in near-vegetative state, but one advisor suggests that before the crash or whatever that caused the problem in the first place there might have only been one person. We see a man with the ability to snatch people out of space/time – in a world where that can happen who knows how stable anyone or anything or anywhen might be? And what might any slight imbalance in the universes mean?

To repeat, this is a singular book. I read the first, and saw online mentions of YouTube videos as explanatory background. I could see why they were needed. I am supposed to be here reviewing the middle part of the trilogy, but starting here is the epitome of boarding a moving train. I'd have ended up between the carriages for sure, some technicoloured gore splattered into eternal motion. But I'll get on to the visuals later…

This is a hard to read series, one that takes some time to get close to fully understanding, if that is either possible, required or desired by the creator. Take the first book, where one voice seemed to provide both a typical voice bubble speech and the narrative boxes, but those were in white on black and would therefore by convention be from a different character. Take here the huge jumps in time and place, from financial wizardry to turning down a Cockney Moll in the 1700s, to Satanic acceptance. The proof-reading could have been better, the bubbles could have been aligned in more straightforward order, and several other things nudged me into needing a re-read.

I won't begin to go into the weirdness here, or the violence, or the depths from which the character(s) seem to be revealing themselves. If you choose to, they're on the page, along with some very violent scenes and ideas, and a lot of probing at the boundaries of both the narrative form and the reader's patience at times. The book manages somehow to out-do both Warren Ellis and Alan Moore in successfully stretching everything to breaking point, and if you didn't ever find favour with early Ellis's scorn for the routine, or Moore's everything-goes attitude, then you will struggle here too.

The artwork is certainly something to note, for I can imagine Moore-like notes aplenty from the author trying to convey his very personal vision to his illustrator. The credits at the beginning suggest Brian Bicknell used stock photography as source of his models, but there's a quality to a lot of his imagery that works really well. Yes, the main characters are very hard to differentiate, which I'm sure is purposeful in this instance, but his colours still have a rip and zing when blown up large on my PDF files, especially the vivid purple involved, whose shade here will never seem the same again.

He's in an equal partnership with our author in giving us what is definitely an adult book, and definitely a graphic novel for the patient reader, open, willing and able to interpret so much that is crammed on to the pages. Both combine well to present a jumpy, nerve-taking drama that goes from lethal kidnapping interruptions to the birth and death of the multiverse. Such scale and maturity certainly aren't in the standard comic-shop graphic novel. And while such things are normally a good idea, I did find here the wilful awkwardness and cussedness of it all was a little too much. I don't necessarily seek only the populist – and this is certainly not populist – but I do think a book should be contained enough to give you enough without needing YouTube video tuition beforehand.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

13 Coins by Michael B Jackson, Martin Brennan and Simon Bisley is closer to the standard arc as regards battles for the soul of the universe/Earth.

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Buy Ratchwood Dilemma by Duncan Watson and Brian Bicknell at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Ratchwood Dilemma by Duncan Watson and Brian Bicknell at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Ratchwood Dilemma by Duncan Watson and Brian Bicknell at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Ratchwood Dilemma by Duncan Watson and Brian Bicknell at Amazon.com.


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