Roachwell is the disarmingly normal title of the new comic from the creative team of writer Craig Collins and artist Iain Laurie.
Alan Moore once said that the ‘comic medium had possibilities that people had not even begin to touch yet.’ When he said that, it was work like that this that he saw the potential for. Boundary pushing and unique there is nothing out there that is quite like Roachwell, a throwback, in spirit at least, to the days when underground comics meant something truly alternative.
Why is it called Roachwell? I have no idea and to be honest if that’s the only question you have in your head after reading it then you’re either Craig or Iain. The rest of us will have far too many issues to be dealing with to be bothering with something as trivial as titles.
The warning signs are there early, the disturbing cover sets the tone, a scuba diver either surfacing through a pool of blood on a chequered kitchen floor, or the remains of a bloody crime planted on said floor as some sick trophy. You decide.
This stubborn refusal to give easy answers is one of the strengths of Collins and Laurie’s work. This is a body of work that will challenge you, that asks you to actively participate and, God forbid, think for yourself. If you’re looking for something straightforward to wash over you then go look in the mainstream, you’ll find no shortage of comics for you there.
Roachwell is that rarity, something that really does defy comparison. Sure, if you’re a fan of something like David Lynch’s Eraserhead then you’ll find this a little easier to approach. Other than searching the obscure hinterlands of experimental media though, there is nothing really to make a comparison with. For a reviewer and someone who welcomes the genuinely different that is such a refreshing thing to write. I don’t get to do so often.
No it’s not for everyone, but the really good stuff rarely is. If it is for you, then it simply does not get any better than this.
Challenging, bemusing, funny, weird and just plain strange in parts. That’s a description of each of Craig Collin’s stories in here, not the anthology as a whole. Anyone who can give a short story the title AXJLQFNUU and have all the dialogue equally as obtuse and still make it seem totally natural has a talent all of his own. *
Then you’ve got the truly demented artwork of Iain Laurie too illustrate them and bring them to life, of a sort. It’s impossible to imagine anyone else doing these tales justice. Which brings us to the question of how it all began?
Did Collin’s weird and wonderful writing set off the warped visuals of Laurie, or did his unique stylings catch Craig’s eye and twist his stories in a way from that thewould never recover?
Not that it really matters as the two of them now are two ‘recalcitrant individuals’ on a creative infinite staircase. When M C Escher first drew that infinite, ascending and descending staircase he said that the two men walking on it would ‘sooner or later be brought to see the error of their non conformity.’
That’s not going to happen to Craig Collins and Iain Laurie I’m sure, and because of that the comic world is a slightly scarier, weirder, stranger, bit above all, better, place.
(AXJLQFNUU -It’s in code isn’t it Craig? – I’ll break it, just you wait. I will.)