Writer: Fraser Campbell
Artist: Norrie Millar
Publisher: Cabal Comics
WHAT IS IT?
An action-packed supernatural sci-fi story set in an alternative future where the dangers of fossil fuels have been solved.
Think Monster Hunter mixed with a bit of Soylent Green vibes.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
A zero-emission fuel has finally been discovered, saving the Earth from complete climate destruction. The only problem is that it comes from the energy fields of monsters. Ectoco, the corporation behind the discovery, is about to expand in an exciting new direction that could be spearheaded by company executive Arlo Mcteague, but he may be more than he seems.
Meanwhile, in Greenland, one of Ectoco’s monster hunting teams, which call themselves the Crypt Kicker Five, is about to begin the extraction of a hive of vampires. Everything seems to go wrong and the team can only get half of the load they anticipated. Little do they know; this day will only get worse.
Fraser Campbell is a godsdamned comics pro, and he makes the world-building feel natural and organic. Little tidbits about the world are mixed into the dialogue and stem from realistic conversations from the characters.
Millar's (Norrie's, not Mark's) pencil work greatly contrasts between the humans and the monsters. The members of Crypt Kicker Five are neat and crisply drawn, while the vampires are crafted in a looser, disproportionate style.
Millar also shows immense versatility in their coloring, adeptly enhancing the mood of each scene. The beginning, which is meant to mimic an advertisement, really pops, while the snowclad scenes are more subdued and subtly shaded.
The lettering is extremely creative, as one would expect from Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou. Hassan opts for less traditional balloons, but they never distract from the scene and his sound effects help convey a sense of eeriness through their wiggly letters while still flowing nicely with the art.
Some interesting ethical questions are presented by the story’s premise. While the energy harvested from the monsters has solved the fossil fuel problem, it does kill them, and the story suggests that not all of them may be cruel, unfeeling creatures.
Several dialogue-light pages still convey a great sense of story thanks to the art. These primarily happen at times of action and they are dynamic while being a good demonstration of “less is more.”
One page in a particular scene in a dark apartment demonstrates excellent use of lighting and static backgrounds to convey a somber, reflective mood and nicely slows down the pace of the story.
The Crypt Kicker Five have their personalities instantly established through their interactions with each other. Tanner’s snappy, blunt dialogue immediately signals that he’s the brash one in the group, while Commander Bullard’s words command respect.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK
Overall, the book stuck with square and rectangular panels and some variety could have enhanced sections of the story. The action scenes, in particular, could have utilized different shapes to speed up the pace and make them more intense.
There were some stretches of repeated colorful panels which, over time, made them less effective.
Some of the effects lettering were colored with contrasting colors and didn’t mesh with the art as well as they could.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
This book screams "intensely interesting." Just on a conceptual level, Nightmare Fuel is unique and rich with possibilities for creating a fun and troublesome world. Thrown in the quasi-utilitarian question of the fairness in using living creatures as fuel if it fixes the biggest contributor to climate destruction, and this book instantly grabs the reader. The ending suggests that this very question is going to come to a head very soon and the potential drama in future issues is exciting. Relating it to a modern concern also makes it incredibly relatable and relevant.
Being a kind of speculative future story, one would expect the art to reflect a vibrant utopia (or dystopia), and this book’s art and lettering deliver. The colors, in most spots, superbly match the mood of each scene whether it be the Crypt Kicker Five teasing each other before their big job or the more retrospective, dark ones in Arlo’s apartment. The creatures are also colorful and grotesque, in both linework and lettering, making them feel appropriately out of place in this thriving world.
Nightmare Fuel crosses genres so adeptly that it truly can be enjoyed by almost any reader. However, any fans of speculative dystopian fiction or new takes on horror concepts will be right at home with it.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Alex Automatic by Fraser Campbell & James Corcoran
Sleeping Dogs by Fraser Campbell & Lautaro Capristo
Helsing: The Darkness and The Light by Pat Sheridan & Tony Brescini
If you like the art:
Vehi-kill by Matt Hardy & Norrie Millar
Explosion High by Charlie Etheridge-Nunn & Norrie Millar
Zombo by Al Ewing & Henry Flint
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Fraser Campbell (@fraserc69) – Writer
A prominent member of the UK independent comics scene, Fraser has also written Sleeping Dogs, Alex Automatic, The Edge Off, Heart Of Steal, and House Of Sweets.
He also has written comedy sketches for BBC Radio Scotland as well as two stage plays.
Fraser maintains a newsletter where he discusses his thoughts and ideas.
Norrie Millar (@prehistoricfrog) – Artist
A prolific freelancer, Norrie has worked on many projects including Vehi-Kill and Explosion High.
He is also a part of an artist collective called Treehouse that publishes its own anthology.
Norrie is a native of Scotland.
Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (@hassanoe) – Letterer
With an established reputation for quality lettering, Hassan has letter books for multiple publishers including Image, Dynamite, Aftershock, and Vault Comics.
Being multitalented, he is also the Eisner-winning magazine PanelxPanel.
Hassan is from Algeria.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
Coming soon to Kickstarter!
The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.
All Nightmare Fuel characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright of Cabal Comics or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.