Turf is a new 5 issue comic book series by debut writer Jonathan Ross and acclaimed artist Tommy Lee Edwards.
To those in the UK, Ross' name will be very familiar. He is one of the best known, highest paid and most popular presenters on British television and radio. Ross has never hidden his deep interest and love of comics and genre cinema. Throughout his 25 year television career, he has written and presented numerous shows about these subjects and even owned a comic book store in London during the 1980's and 90's. Surprising, then, it has taken him this long to venture into writing his own comic book.
Set in 1929 prohibition era New York City, Turf is an epic, genre-mixing story of gangsters, vampires and, just for good measure, aliens.
The first thing that struck me about issue #1 of this comic book was just how dense it is. Every page is crammed full of dialogue and narrative, which, when combined with Tommy Lee Edward's richly detailed art, makes the book intimidating and seemingly impenetrable. However, once I started reading, I found that wealth of written and visual information really helped to draw me in to the story. I have to say, I found this more literary approach rather refreshing; a welcome change from the kind of comic books that feature page after page of pin-up images that you can read in 5 minutes. Ross crams a sizable chunk of story into the first issue alone and it will take you a while to read it from cover to cover - you certainly get value for money. However, the density is not entirely a good thing. While the lengthy character monologues and detailed narrations do help breathe a lot of life into the world, Ross sometimes overwrites. Edwards' panels are, at times, nearly swamped with voluminous text boxes and speech balloons. Thankfully, this is rectified in issue #2, which gets the balance of text and visuals just right.
I've always thought the idea of mixing genres was a good one. In Turf, Ross inserts vampires into the framework of a standard mob war story, then, just when you're getting comfortable, he throws in a big surprise. Ross' love of genre cinema is evident throughout. There are some nice in-jokes and references for movie fans to spot and the comic book has a really cinematic feel. This is an impressive writing debut from Ross. He has a great ear for dialogue and the story is gloriously pulpy, but intelligently written - I thought the parallel drawn between illegal alcohol drinking and illegal blood drinking was particularly clever.
Tommy Lee Edwards' art is impressive as always. His visuals work really well with Ross' writing, enhancing the pulp-noir, cinematic feel. You can tell he has a real love for the era too as the panels are full of period detail.
Well written, well drawn and well worth your money, Turf is a highly original comic book that I would heartily recommend.
Issue #1 sold out upon its release back in April, but Image Comics have issued second and third printing versions with multiple variant covers, so you should have no trouble tracking it down. Issue #2 was released at the end of June. Issue #3 will be released later this month.
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