Who’s Pulling The Strings?
♦ Tripwire Editor-in-chief JOEL MEADOWS cleans his stove pipe hat, buffs up his penny farthing and reviews TMU’s Victorian steampunk sci fi graphic novel, The Marionette Unit…
The Marionette Unit
Writer: Azhur Saleem;
Artist: Warwick Johnson-Cadwell
Created by Azhur Saleem and James Boyle
TMU Workshop Limited
The Marionette Unit started life, as so many things do these days, as a Kickstarter campaign. We have seen a number of Victorian steampunk comic stories over the years but artist Warwick Johnson-Cadwell is one of the most distinctive and idiosyncratic creators produced by the British independent scene in years and so having him on board makes it a more intriguing proposition.
The Marionette Unit was created by British independent filmmakers Azhur Saleem and James Boyle and is an original graphic novel that runs to around 100 pages. The story is simple enough: in Victorian London, Beatrice Shaw is looking for her missing sister, Melanie, who was last witnessed in a workhouse run by questionable industrialist Henri Dubré, inventor of The Marionette Units of the title. But just how far would you go to rescue a close relative?
So Beatrice gets sucked into this sinister world in her quest to find and rescue her sibling. Cadwell’s art lends a subtle but sinister undercurrent to the story here and his contribution is sizeable. The writing is fairly accomplished considering that this is the pair’s first comic work and The Marionette Unit is an impressive purchase. There are a few minor quibbles: some of the dialogue is a little clunky and it feels like the beginning of a story rather than a self-contained tale in its own right. But it is thought-provoking, intelligent and uniquely British. It also has a very cinematic feel to it with Cadwell’s unusual camera angles throughout giving the whole thing a sense of discombobulation. There is a bizarre sense of elegance to Cadwell’s art too which manages to be beautiful and ugly at the same time. I should stop before I start descending into Pseuds Corner territory. This is Victorian London but not the one we’ve seen before or the one documented in history books.
Here’s hoping that we see more tales of The Marionette Unit as it did leave me wanting more, which is a rarity these days.