ANDREW GARVEY reviews Jack the Ripper-themed graphic novel Terminus at Fenton’s Green
Written by Adam Cheal, with strikingly colourful and distinctive artwork by Russ Leach, 2013 graphic novel ‘Terminus…’ opens in London in November 1888 (a most significant year, that) with a man named Theodore Paulsen heading to King’s Cross railway station.
A dashingly top-hatted, bespectacled doctor, Paulsen strides about the Whitechapel area (another heavy hint, there) going about his business before heading off to catch a very special train to the village of Fenton’s Green.
Yes, *** SPOILER ALERT*** Paulsen is Jack the Ripper.
And yes, I did groan a little when I realised – many pages later than I really had any right to – because Jack’s crimes are a well-trodden path in comic books that no one has ever travelled it as well as Alan Moore did in his legendary ‘From Hell.’
But, while Moore’s book is a dense, arcane, conspiracist classic, Cheal’s is a much shorter gleefully gore-soaked tale of Jack meeting something worse than himself…. monsters. Actual monsters. From Hell.
I’ll be honest, I’ve probably read more outlandish things in ‘non-fiction’ books about Jack the Ripper. Haven’t I, Russell Edwards?
So Cheal’s fantastical take on the Ripper and his fate is presented purely as escapist fiction and, as such, it doesn’t really matter if the top-hatted medic who’s ‘down on filthy whores’ isn’t exactly original.
Cheal and artist Leach do a fine job of making things atmospherically late nineteenth-century. Their protagonist Paulsen is a villainous psychopath who’s permanently no more than a sentence, or a picture or two away from a murderous rage and they (mostly) pull off the difficult task of making such a vile character the ‘hero’ of their tale.
As for the monsters inhabiting the picturesque little village – a riotous mob of beasts inspired seemingly by the Cthulhu mythos, He-Man cartoons, Cenobites and just about everything else – if you’re going to conjure up an army of monsters you may as well make them as imaginatively bonkers as possible.
Cheal and Leach have done exactly that.
The book also includes a selection of sketches and a bonus short comic by Cheal and Leach ‘Lycan Island’, first published in the 2013 British Showcase Anthology. Based on the main story and this werewolf story, Cheal has a style – his horror is as fun as it is bloody.
Short at 70 or so pages (the bonus material takes it over 90), it can easily be read in a sitting and overall, ‘Terminus at Fenton’s Green’ is a fine example of imaginative, entertaining, independent British horror comics.