Surely one of the great injustices of the comics industry today is that Iain Laurie isn’t given the recognition he deserves. A veteran of the Scottish independent comics scene, Laurie has spent many years plying his craft and developing an eerie, unique art style that seems to channel the essence of Cronenberg and Lynch onto the comic page. Those in the know are already avid fans – the testimonials on the back cover of this most recent work include gushing praise from the likes of Frank Quitely and Jeff Lemire – but Laurie’s work has yet to catch onto a wider readership. Some might speculate that it’s because the work is too dark, too twisted, too unusual, but I disagree – I’m of the belief that quality rises to the top, regardless of style, and that there is absolutely a big audience in the comics world for Laurie’s brand of art. No, I think it’s just a matter of exposure, and Laurie being given a platform big enough to expose more readers to the amazing work he’s been doing for ages. All I can say is that, since I discovered his work a year ago through Roachwell – the gloriously mental comic written by Craig Collins – Iain Laurie has become one of my favourite artists. And I don’t mean that in a condescending, “One of my favourite up-and-coming indy artists” way, either. I mean one of my favourites, full stop.
As a result, anything he works on is pretty much a guaranteed read from me from now on, and so I was very excited to get my hands on a copy of Iain Laurie’s Horror Mountain at Glasgow Comic Con. Here, the Edinburgh-based creator transitions from artist to full-blown cartoonist, taking on scripting duties as well. and the result is perhaps his most Laurian (Laurie-ish? Laurish?) project yet. A collection of gruesome short stories, filled to the brim with fascinatingly ugly people, cancerous growths and hideously deformed creatures with multiple eyes, the apparent use of stream-of-consciousness plotting creates the sense of being given an express ticket into Laurie’s warped subconscious.
As you’d expect from a book called Horror Mountain, some of these twisted tales are rather unnerving, poking at deeply-routed psychological gag reflexes and making us recoil at the seething body horror and soul-crushing bleakness. But what you might not be prepared for is how hilarious some of it is. With titles such as “Fuck Off, Space Monkey” and “A Dinner With Captain Tits” brandished on some of the shorts, it’s clear that Laurie isn’t taking himself entirely seriously, and a strong vein of savage dark humour can certainly be picked up on running through the book. The comedic highlight for me was “Jamestown”, about a small community of tortured souls that can only communicate with one another through the slogans used in junk mail and annoying banner ads. “Teen XXX need spanking,” sobs one devastated old man into his drunk. A sympathetic friend places a hand on his shoulder and says, “You have received an invite to fuck hard.”
While with Horror Mountain, Iain Laurie proves to be a talented writer who does not lose direction without the macabre vision of a Craig Collins or a Fraser Campbell guiding him, the highlight remains his beautiful art, if “beautiful” is a word that can be used to describe such horrific tableaus. I’m not the most knowledgable person in the world when it comes to critiquing art. I’m a writer, and so I can go into some detail with relative ease when discussing the writing of a comic in my reviews, but when it comes to the art I too often resort to saying what famous artist the artist in question is reminiscent of. That’s very hard to do with Iain Laurie, as he has developed a style unlike anything else on the shelves. He’s almost become a genre unto himself, and it created a bit of a chicken-and-egg conundrum for me where I wondered if his deranged art was dictated by the maniacal scripts he was illustrating, or if said scripts were shaped with Laurie’s distinct style in mind: a question further complicated by this example of what happens when Laurie is left to his own devices. Still, I find myself very curious indeed to see what Laurie would come with were his stylings applied to something more mainstream, what kind of fascinating middle ground would emerge? That’s right, I want to see Iain Laurie draw Batman.
The very limited print run of Iain Laurie’s Horror Mountain has surely sold out by now, but you can still order the book online for $3. That’s right, you can have your third eye opened for a measly 3 quid! I can’t recommend this book, or indeed all of Iain’s work, highly enough. Check it out now… if you dare!
Iain Laurie’s Horror Mountain is now on sale via Graphic Eye.