A Dark Tale Of The Big Smoke
Tripwire continues its 100 Graphic Novels You Should Read While Stuck Inside with its eightieth choice, London’s Dark, by James Robinson and Paul Johnson and reviewed by Tripwire’s editor-in-chief Joel Meadows
Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Paul Johnson
Letterer: Woodrow ‘Trevs’ Phoenix
Today’s graphic novel choice is London’s Dark by James Robinson and Paul Johnson. In the 1980s, Escape Magazine was a comic strip magazine edited by Paul Gravett and Peter Stanbury and it published two original graphic novels. One was Violent Cases by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean and the other was this one.
London’s Dark, published back in 1989, was the debut of writer James Robinson and Paul Johnson was an artist who went on to work for publishers like Vertigo and Fleetway. Its story is a simple one: it tells the tale of Jack Brookes, an air raid warden in London in 1940 who has been asked to investigate a young fortune-teller who appears to have upset one of his neighbours by informing her that her son, who she thought had died in the bombings had in fact been murdered. Jack falls for the fortune-teller but finds himself in mortal danger from a gang of brutal murderers.
It’s only 48 pages long but Robinson with the assistance of artist Johnson weave a tale of revenge and intrigue that holds the reader’s attention tight. Johnson left comics a long time ago which is a shame because he is an experimental storyteller who brings London during the war to life with real style and he works well with Robinson. He is able to jump between photographic and a more traditional comic line as an artist with ease too. Also the fact that this is in black and white gives it extra impact for the reader. The cover, which is in colour, sets out the book’s intentions very succinctly as well. Letterer Trevs (Woodrow) Phoenix rounds out the team well too.
Robinson went on to write DC’s Starman series and you can see an embryonic version of some of his unique touches as a writer here. He has a very good ear for dialogue and the interplay between Brookes and fortune-teller Sophie Heath are very well-handled. There is a two page text section which explains Heath’s unique abilities 18 pages into the story which is a little bit jarring but it doesn’t disrupt the tale, giving Robinson the opportunity to show off his prose skills. It also offers an extra insight into her as a character. London’s Dark effectively tips its hat too to the films of Ealing and the 1940s and 1950s British cinema, to the work of filmmakers like David Lean, the Boulting Brothers and Powell and Pressburger.
Its short page count means that it tells its story and then leaves. At no point does it feel like Robinson has resorted to any padding.
London’s Dark is a very British noirish period graphic novel which effortlessly captures the feel of its time period.
Here’s links to the other graphic novels reviewed so far