Published by: Iron-Shod Ape Comics
Written by: Gareth Sleightholme @Hesir
“Somehow it would seem, over time and re-telling, the accounts and our folk-memories of these creatures have been reshaped to give them a benign beauty.
We imagine them as we would tearful ghosts of tragic suicides, ill-used and pining for some misplaced love, while perched on their little rocks the world over. You can find them in the Rhine; on the Irish coast; Crete; Malta, even Napier in New Zealand; but most famously here on her little outcrop of stone. Beguiling the hundreds of visitors the flock to see her every year.
Each in their turn sighing and saying “how tiny she looks”. Not noticing that she doesn’t look toward the land. Or that she instead turns her face from the firm ground and the humans that babble at her back, staring longingly, past the Trekroner Fortress to channel and towards the cruel open sea, her home. Watching and waiting for her witch-sisters to come and take her back, or to join her in another star-lit hunt through the darkened streets.
Just biding her time, until in the dark they slide out of the waves and give-up that voice, the sound of which could turn even a fight hardened man’s bowels to water.
There is no beauty here, just hateful, lust-filled children of the Kraken. Yellow lanthorn-eyed, snaggle-toothed demons with poisoned breath and glass-paper salt-skin.
For that is what a mermaid truly is.”
Have you ever been to a party where you don’t know anyone, but still seem to be having a great time? That’s how I feel about Severed Head Cult.
It’s the third in The Cthulhiad series that follows the investigations of Detective Inspector John Malham into a series of strange deaths.
There’s a lot of plot going on in this book. A LOT. Some of which I’m not going to lie to you… I had zero clue about. As part of a continued story, that’s my fault for barging in late in the middle of the third act apologizing because I’ve missed my bus.
Despite being lost for large chunks of the book I WANT to know more about these characters. The central story in this issue which involves “Mermaids” in Copenhagen is just sublime. Sleightholme has created truly original and terrifying monsters. These “little” mermaids aren’t going to be popping up in Disneyland anytime soon. Dialogue is great, the story moves at break neck pace. It’s also exquisitely researched. I’ve never been to Denmark in my life but this made me want to go. Terrifying monsters be damned!
Gareth Sleightholme’s art isn’t new to me, I’ve seen his work before in Madius Comics “Horrere”. Now, like then, it impresses the hell out of me. Some of the angles he chose in panels are so unusual but work fantastically, especially in the lead up to and during the fight sequence. Panel progression is slick and propels your eyes from image to image. Glorious thick, dark inking and great use of shadow. Add to that great character work and design and it all adds up to make this book a pleasure to look at.
One thing I didn’t like, if I’m honest is an over use of Special FX lettering. It’s expertly crafted FX but there is just too much. In places Sleightholme is tramping all over his own gorgeous artwork. We don’t need this volume of FX to show us whats happening, the art is already doing that for us.
As I mentioned this is is the first book I’ve read in The Cthulhiad series. Severed Head Cult has left me chomping at the bit for more. I want to know everything there is to know about this comic universe. I can’t wait to read more books from Gareth Sleightholme & Iron-Shod Ape Comics.
Severed Head Cult is available from Iron-Shod Ape Comics directly at Thoughtbubble Comic Festival 5-6th of November in Leeds. They are located in the New Dock Hall.