I quite liked Grant Springford’s weird superhero series Pest Control and was saddened when it disappeared, so it’s good to see Springford return with something which is not a million miles away from that title.
Back in the day I would often compare Springford’s talent for generating odd off-kilter ideas with that other comics Grant; this was easy and lazy, but also true, and there’s more of that in The Abnormals, which has a definite Doom Patrol feel to its approach. There are some great, unconventional ideas in here, from the villains that are made up of the detritus found in the corners of the Underground, to the enormous moth queen living under London. Not all of Springford’s ideas are as overt; Abnormals member “Nasty” is an imp from “Hell’s fourth moon”, a casual, almost throwaway detail that nonetheless implies further depth to the setting than a bog-standard infernal origin.
Lots of good, weird ideas then, so it’s a bit of a shame that the plotting lacks the same sense of invention. This first issue is a simple fight scene, good for introducing the characters, but after being treated to all these fun character and setting concepts, one wants to see the same cleverness at work in the story itself. To be fair, there are plenty of little details and twists here and there that hint at more going on than is at first apparent, and it is refreshing to see a superhero comic in which the heroes cock everything up a bit, but it still seems somewhat conventional. Perhaps I expect too much.
If there is a weak link, it is in Springford’s art. There is some dubious perspective here and there — although to be fair, perspective is a tricky thing to get right — and the characters’ body language is often stiff and uninteresting; that said, David Finch has exactly the same problem and he’s a superstar artist, so what do I know? I’m also not fond of some of the colouring, in particular the techniques used in the outdoor scenes, which come across as a bit clumsy. On the other hand, Springford’s character designs are strong, the storytelling is good throughout, and he has a definite talent for depicting facial expressions; one character — the Link, imported from the aforementioned Pest Control — has very few facial features and yet despite that restriction he is given a full range of expressions.
It is good to see Grant Springford return to comics after a long absence. His sense of the weird is most welcome in a genre which often just isn’t interesting enough, and The Abnormals is most definitely that, an evocative setting packed with intriguing characters and lots of odd ideas.
Find out more about The Abnormals at www.theabnormals.co.uk.
Kelvin Green erupted fully formed from the grey shapeless mass of Ubbo Sathla in the dark days before humans walked the earth. He grew up on Judge Dredd, Transformers, Indiana Jones #12, the Avengers and Spider-Man, and thinks comics don’t get much better than FLCL, Nextwave and Rocket Raccoon. Kelvin lives among garbage and seagulls and doesn’t hate Marvel nearly as much as you all think he does.