First impressions aren’t always fair. When I first opened up Ladies & Gentlemen #1, I was put off by what I thought to be very rough small press comic art, and feared that the comic was going to be a chore to get through. How wrong I was. A few pages in, and I started to see some dynamically-arranged fight layouts on the page, and some superbly-designed characters (The Gentleman in particular looks brilliant – I want an action figure!) reveal that, far from someone still trying to get to grips with the challenges of drawing sequentials, Jordan Collver proves himself to be a very talented artist.
So, an artist with evident skill, so why the ragged presentation? And I realised that this was not down to a lack of production values, but in fact a meticulous pastiche of an old Victorian-era comic strip, right down to the shade of the paper being given an aged, stained-with-time look. Note the additional flourishes such as the old photographs of the creative team in period dress, and the dramatic personae page at the front. There is the odd issue with visual clarity, but I can’t fault the occasional stumble when trying to pull off something so ambitious. Once I acclimatised to what Collver was trying to do with the visuals, I started thinking the comic looked great, and I began to enjoy myself.
Of course, I can’t heap all the praise on Collver’s art. Richard Worth does a commendable job on the writing too, deftly weaving a tale of a prototypical superhero team in Victorian London investigating a series of murders that give us a clever reversal on the Jack the Ripper killings (“vulnerable” women killing rich gentlemen) which also inserts a supernatural element. The ensemble is well-balanced, beginning with a likeable core team before working in new editions. The balance between plot advancement and character beats is well handled, so that I felt like I was getting to know these people and their personalities, but at the same time the action always felt like it was moving along too. Strong, concise storytelling.
The first chapter is available to read online for free now, but Ladies and Gentlemen is definitely good enough to go pick up a print copy. It’s available in various English comic stores, including the fantastic OK! Comics over in Leeds, and as someone who read this in digital form, I imagine you’d get a richer, more authentic experience of the period recreation by reading it as a paper comic. Either way, though, I highly enjoyed this, which is proof that first impressions aren’t always the right ones!
Ladies & Gentlemen #1 is available to read online here.