Friday, 18 June 2021

Slaughter Bowl - Rebellion [Part One]

Featuring an insane amount of disconcertingly graphic gratuitous violence, ranging from the merciless mutilation of hapless Pandas in a protected species preservation area through to an enraged Tyrannosaurus Rex devouring a fleeing felon whole, John Smith’s narrative for the opening half of this digital-only collection must have somewhat surprised many of its readers with the enormous amount of sympathy it somehow also generates for the lack-lustre central character Stanley Modest. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine life getting much worse for the greeting card company employee than that depicted within the first four instalments to “Slaughter Bowl”, as his twenty three year career is suddenly terminated, the doctor looking after his “dangerously ill wife” threatens to pull the plug on her, and the police shockingly arrest him for apparently being a mass murderer.

Fortunately, being dealt such a bad hand in the card game of life does mean that the swiftly convicted killer can now join the likes of Multiple Bob, Cannibal Deacon Makuth and Kasimir Rodchenko as a contestant in the “deadly battle royale where criminals riding dinosaurs attempt to annihilate each other for cash and prizes!” Such a surprising change of direction for the spectacled protagonist on Death Row gives the Lancashire-born writer an excellent opportunity to slowly fill in the details behind the gruesome sport to this graphic novel’s audience, whilst simultaneously providing the tale’s supporting cast, such as World Champion Mister Throat, with plenty of personality too.

In fact, this book’s build-up toward the start of the world-wide media event is arguably palpable, courtesy of Smith literally taking each bibliophile by the hand and walking them through the competitors’ lengthy preparations as they negotiate sponsorship deals, undergo an RNA-Infosquirt straight into the Hippocampus area of the brain, select their particular Prehistoric mount, and then finally equip the creature with all manner of lasers, automatic weaponry and missiles; “We need something light and manoeuvrable, but something that packs a punch too…”

Furthermore, the decision to present much of this information by way of a supposed broadcast by the Word Television News service allows the hype surrounding the Slaughter Bowl to become incredibly infectious, and ensures artist Paul Peart is given plenty of opportunity to pencil some excellent-looking camera shots of the various dinosaurs to be ridden in the race. These theatrical, often fast-paced news items also act as a great contrast to some of the more muted, rather introspective personal thoughts of Modest, and help highlight the quiet, inner turmoil taking place within Stanley’s mind amidst the utter hubbub of the frenzied, lucrative show surrounding him.

Writer: John Smith, Artist: Paul Peart, and Letterer: Ellie De Ville

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