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Pop Gun War vol 1: Gift

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Farel Dalrymple


Page 45 Review by Stephen

"No bird soars too high if he soars on his own wings."

- William Blake, from The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell


An inspired and inspirational black and white classic from 2003 - with some pages coloured for the Italian edition by Fazi Editore - which proudly proclaims freedom, individuality and self-expression.

It comes with a double-barrelled defiance towards those who would dilute, control or own others including the young outright.

Here is the sinister, manipulative and disingenuous Mr Grimshaw from "a magnificent corporation" who has already ruined the dreams of those with long-term, creative goals by appealing to their immediate gratification. One of them is now living on the street. Another, I infer, is so bitter that he seeks to spite others while wearing a ball and chain.

"Gentleman, really listen to what your heart is saying. Give her your time."

In front of the children - whom he has weaned away from someone with something to say - he produces the head of Medusa:

"Try to be rock and roll
"Throw trash on the ground.
"You will look cool.
"Walk slow. Act tough.
"Don't think too much."

For that would be inconvenient.

"Maybe even smoke a cigarette."

The ultimate in poisonous, corporate indoctrination.

Please don't think this is heavy. It is as light as an air-born feather and full of space, although its images do allude to that very space between buildings and the light which is lost under their sun-blocking edifices. Down below, the grottiness is seen from ground-level. Ground-level...? Dumpster-level from which the trashed are lucky to escape.

There are so many moments, however, when the protagonists rise above it in ways which will make you wonder, and the collected edition is introduced by the sort of detailed three-dimensional, illustrative map of the city island, full of architectural detail and surrounding geographical features, which makes the imagination soar. How many more stories are left to be told?

Here's what our Mark wrote back in 2003:

"No pop, no guns and no war, but a dreamy meandering through an urban landscape. An angel falls to earth and asks for his wings to be chain-sawed off, leaving stumps behind to remind him of his former life. Little Sinclair, smart and out of place in the city with his sharp shirt and bow-tie, adopts the wings and ties them to his back. It's not every day that you manage to scavenge such fine quarry. Fleeing from a gang of kids he finds himself on a precipice and finds that the wings still work, even when borrowed.

"That's just one of the magical touches of this book. You get a roaming mad monk, a huge flying fish (with glasses) and Emily, Sinclair's little sister, who is becoming a local star with her band, The Emilies.

"The art captures the grit and grime of a big, impersonal city, managing to strike a balance of realism and magic that stops the characters being lifeless illustrations. For a first major work it's impressive if rambling but marks Dalrymple as one to watch out for."

As prescient as ever, our Mark. Since then I give you:

THE WRENCHIES, IT WILL ALL HURT (which I thought we'd reviewed), DELUSIONAL and so much more.

Throughout I was put in mind of Eddie Campbell, specifically in this case BACCHUS.

It's not just names like Sunshine Montana, but the sight of pint-sized, debonair Sunshine Montana in his old-fashioned top hat and tails wandering around a contemporary city in search of his errant friend, Percy the floating, bespectacled goldfish. When Sunshine Montana opens the basement door oh so dubiously he is a spitting image of Campbell's Eyeball Kid - albeit with but the regular requisite complement of eyes. And they have a reputation which seems to precede them.

"Hello, Sunny," says The Rich Kid.
"May I?" asks Sunny, opening The Kid's car door.
"Not if you're going to make fun of me."
"I would rather make fun of someone who has a sense of humour."

If you think that Montana is hitching a lift, I'd remind you of the more famous SUNNY in comics, the stranded Sunny Datsun which fuels the kids imagination. Here too the car is suspended on breeze blocks, going nowhere. It's the perfect final panel to any page, neatly undercutting everything you'd supposed that far.

I'm delighted to report that it's that sort of graphic novel.