First of all: Tumult looks amazing. This is one hell of a good looking graphic novel. The bio details seem to indicate that words here are John Harris Dunning and art is Michael Kennedy, but collaborations are never as neat as that so: full credit to both gentlemen for making a graphic novel that is a visual feast for the eyes. There are ways in which the art here harks back to the 50s and 60s, but the audacious way in which the story is put together and the brisk clip things move at ensure things feel resolutely up to the minute. There are also different visual styles incorporated, some of which conjure hardboiled noir, others that bring to mind such whimsy as Little Nemo. It’s a cool looking book is what we’re saying. Dunning and Kennedy should be proud. Half the battle etc.
From a narrative perspective not quite everything in the garden is as rosy (and in some senses, the art shines a bright light on everything – it’s like watching Martin Scorcese’s Gangs of New York, Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance is so big that it can’t help but make everything around it pale into insignificance – the same rules are in effect here). We meet a young man called Adam on holiday with his girlfriend. Pretty much from the get-go, he comes across as one of life’s great narcissists. “There was something horrible about the perfection of it all,” he tells us. It’s not a million miles away from James Lasdun’s terrific The Fall Guy (and it’s easy to see why the cover is adorned with comparisons to Patricia Highsmith). There is an accident, a brief affair with a dangerously young woman. It’s all chilly and sexy and holds within it the potential to fly off in a million different directions.
Then we are introduced to a young woman who is killed in a park and Adam is back in London and his relationship is over and we lose sight of the beginning of the book as if it was a set-up all involved agreed was great but didn’t have legs. Adam is an ad director with aspirations to work in film – only when a script lands on his desk, he can’t really be bothered. He meets the writers who feel he is their first choice, but he can’t be bothered. He goes to a party and meets a mysterious girl (who is the spitting image of actor Krysten Ritter). He sees her again the next day and she doesn’t recognise him. We meet Adam’s friend who likes films and shares with us his thoughts on Predator and Terminator and First Blood. We learn Adam and his mate were once into Dungeons and Dragons. There’s a flirtation with Tarot. We discover that the two women he has met are in fact the same woman, a woman who may have dissociative identity disorder as a result of a malign Government assassination training programme.
All of which is a bit restless. A bit all over the place. And – at times, if we’re being brutally honest – a bit too pleased with itself. Like what Tumult needed more than anything was a firmer editorial stance. Someone saying, yeah, yeah, yeah – the D&D stuff is great, of course, but – kill your darlings, my love, kill your darlings… Someone saying, yeah, yeah, yeah – the opening of the book is genuinely terrific but it has quite literally nothing to do with the rest of the book – kill your darlings, my love, kill your darlings. The subplots regarding people involved with the aforementioned Government assassination programme are too brief to work properly – but then if you set them against, say, the almost sketch-like assassinations we see in Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s exhilarating Killing Eve, you know that narrative sidesteps can work well – but they don’t here (and any comparisons between Tumult and Killing Eve – or even Tumult and Orphan Black, which Tumult also resembles in some ways – don’t help Tumult very much at all).
Any Cop?: All told, it’s one for the valiant effort shelf. Definitely shows promise. Lots of good things here – but also a few slip-ups, wrong turns and bad decisions. We’re interested in what Dunning and Kennedy do next, either apart or together, and we think Tumult shows promise.