Writer: John Allison
Artist: Max Sarin
Publisher: Dark Horse
WHAT IS IT?
A humorous cozy murder mystery set in a reality tv baking show.
Think Chef’s Kiss meets Clue.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
It’s time for another season of the hit British baking competition show (no, not that one) UK Bakery Tent! Twelve contestants enter the tent, but only one will walk away with the title of Best Baker. Among the competitors is Shauna, an optimistic, albeit a bit naïve, student who is in love with the show. Befriending fellow contestants Jill, a retired midwife, and Sunil, a yoga instructor is just icing on the cake. Shauna knows this competition is going to be the best experience ever.
Reality briskly whisks the gleam in her eyes when she finds everyone else arguing with each other in the test kitchen. The handsome meteorologist Neal has commandeered all of the bowls and pans quickly making enemies of multiple contestants. After agreeing to come back to the kitchen later, Shauna’s posse decides to make nice with Neal, but finds him face down in a bowl of batter. Paramedics say he was poisoned and the producers consider canceling the show, but Shauna won’t allow that. She volunteers to crack open this mystery like an egg if they keep filming. Can Shauna solve the mystery while also avoiding elimination?
Allison’s dialogue is hysterical, full of puns and subtle satire that pokes fun at baking shows and reality tv.
Sarin’s lineart is the perfect choice for a story this wacky. Their facial expressions make everything deliciously exaggerated and ensure the jokes land excellently.
Much like a delectable cake, Borras’ color choice enhances the flavor and tone of each panel. His bold color choices make each of the twelve contestants instantly recognizable and quickly disseminate their personalities.
Campbell’s placement and efficient use of space make everything a smooth read, perfect for the slice-of-life/cozy mystery atmosphere of this book.
The story provides motives for potential killers without the use of interrogation or excessive internal monologue. They are subtly inserted through Shauna witnessing conversations and behavior between the judges and contestants which feels organic and rewards the attentive reader.
Being set on a baking show, sound effects aren’t as prominent, but when they do appear, Campbell nails them. Some of them depict cake batter or blood are truly disgusting in the best way.
The backgrounds with few details have creative color choices to depict the mood of each panel. Borras manages to make colors like pink and purple intense when paired with the line art.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK
Content Warning: This book contains some mild violence and a suggestion of animal cruelty.
The ending could have included a bigger breadcrumb about the potential killer. As it is now, the ending is interesting, but not a big enough cliffhanger to effectively snag the reader.
There’s no in-panel explanation of how Shauna convinced the producers to keep the show running or her experiences solving mysteries. These lingering questions could possibly be addressed in further issues, but a little nugget of information in this one would have been helpful.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Cozy Mystery is a genre I’ve been wanting someone to tackle in comic form. Though less visually bombastic and action-packed than noir or traditional murder mysteries, a good story of this genre is a delightful treat, so why not pair it with sequential art? Readers couldn’t have asked for a better team to tackle this genre. The Great British Bump-Off provides that safe, mild depiction of murder while infusing it with Allison and Sarin’s trademark humor. The team manages to make twelve distinct characters that are each interesting and potential suspects in their own ways. The reader will never be bored as they learn more about Will’s internet browser preferences or Titus’ odd busking behaviors.
The highlight of this issue was its biting commentary on reality tv shows and more specifically, the posh ones like Great British Bakeoff. These shows insist on being polite and wholesome even if the contestants have tragic backstories; must not upset the audience! The book's main character, Shauna, is the epitome of this positive atmosphere which makes the darker jokes and unexpected deviations (she’s a grindcore vocalist as well) even funnier. Topping this tension off is the candy and bubblegum-coated color palette with a sprinkle of smooth lettering. It’s truly a juicy, fun-filled contradiction.
Perfect for fans of cozy mysteries or anyone wanting to jump into a genre less explored in comics, The Great British Bump-Off delivers.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Giant Days by John Allison & Max Sarin
Steeple by John Allison
Clue by Paul Allor & Nelson Daniel
If you like the art:
Harley Quinn: The Animated Series by Tee Franklin & Max Sarin
Wicked Things by John Allison & Max Sarin
Nancy Drew: The Palace of Wisdom by Kelly Thompson & Jenn St. Onge
ABOUT THE CREATORS
John Allison (@BadMachinery) – Writer
Allison has been creating comics for over two decades but is most known for his multi-Eisner-winning series Giant Days with artist Max Sarin.
He got his start in comics writing and drawing the webcomics Bobbins and Scary Go Round.
Allison hails from the United Kingdom.
Max Sarin (@Max_Sarin) - Artist
Sarin is mostly known as the co-creator of the multi-Eisner-winning Giant Days with John Allison, but has also drawn books for IDW, Dark Horse, Vault, and DC’s Harley Quinn: The Animated Series.
They quote Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and Craig Thompson’s Blankets as being game changers in their early desires to begin a career in comics.
Sarin hails from Finland.
Sammy Borras (@SammyBorras) – Colorist
Borras previously colored John Allison’s Steeple (Dark Horse Comics) and regularly colors works published in the UK-based young reader comics magazine The Phoenix.
She also does freelance illustration, with her drawn works being featured on College Humor’s Dropout and London’s National History Museum website.
Borras studied illustration at the University of Gloucestershire.
Jim Campbell (@CampbellLetters) – Letterer
A prolific letter, Jim’s work can be found at nearly every major publisher.
He has been nominated for multiple awards including the Ringos, Tripwire, and twice for the Eisners.
Jim maintains a blog, Man of Letters, where he publishes updates and insider info on the comics industry.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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