19th Oct2018

‘Rivers of London: Action at a Distance #1’ Review (Titan Comics)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Andrew Cartmel | Art by Brian Williamson | Published by Titan Comics


The previous arc, ‘Water Weed’, was different in that it was the first written solely by Andrew Cartmel. No worry was necessary though, as it turned out pretty good, with I’m assuming creator/formerly co-writer Ben Aaronovitch serving as a sort of executive producer to help it along. This issue also sees another milestone, with artistic mainstay Lee Sullivan giving way to Brian Williamson. I am sad in the sense that now two thirds of such a great creative team is missing, but happy in that Andrew Cartmel is a steady hand and Brian Williamson is certainly no compensation prize. Although very different from Sullivan in style, his style is very pleasing on the eye.

As it’s all change on the creative front, it is perhaps appropriate that it’s also a bit of a change on the story front as well. Peter has been gobbling up the main part of the storylines to date, as the star of the book should of course, but Inspector Nightingale deserves a little bit of the spotlight too, being a very important character in the Rivers of London mythology. He has been a practicising wizard we know all the way back to the days of the British Empire, and is far older than he looks. Peter, like us, knows very little of that past and, like us, is naturally curious as to what lies hidden in that past. Nightingale probably senses this, and uses the occasion of a funeral for an old friend, Angus Strallen, to tell Peter to look through The Folly archives to 1957 and look him up.

While Peter starts his delving, Nightingale arrives at the funeral, and a talk with his friends widow and a certain photograph bring back memories when he and Strallen first met back in the war in 1943. Nothing too memorable, just Nightingale psychically making a Messerschmitt plane crash. As you do. Fast forward to 1957 London, and Strallen again looked Nightingale up, this time as a policeman himself. He had been on the tail of a suspect, Professor Uwe Fischer, but had lost him and was seeking help. He suspected Fischer of being a murderer, in fact knew he was but couldn’t pin anything on him. In fact, he was a serial killer.

He had killed young girls with blonde, brunette, and black hair and Strallen and a local GP Dr Frye (later Strallen’s wife and widow) set a trap with Frye disguised as a redhead as they knew he wanted to ‘complete the set’. However, during their sting, Strallen’s car just died…exactly the same way Nightingale had made a plane do that during the war. Fischer, it seemed, practiced magic himself. Nightingale’s interest was of course piqued and Strallen arranged for an item of Fischer’s to be sent down to him, as Nightingale would need that. One night shouldn’t hurt, right? Unfortunately Fischer moves fast, and that very night a girl turns up dead. Clearly this is a race against time.

What a great first issue of the new arc. Not only did Andrew Cartmel really nail the tone of Nightingale and the era, I loved the dual exposition of Peter reading from The Folly file on the case as Nightingale himself reminisces at Strallen’s funeral in the modern day. Brilliantly done. Speaking of nailing the tone, Brian Williamson couldn’t have done a better job if his family were being held hostage. Visually very easy on the eyes, beautifully laid out, and capturing the era really well, a perfect visual complement to Cartmel’s descriptions and dialogue. Apart from being a great issue, I love the vagueness of things, with the story having several different directions it could go.

Things are rarely straight forward in Rivers of London, there are always hidden depths, and I can tell I’m going to enjoy exploring these ones. Great work by all concerned.

**** 4/5

Rivers of London: Action at a Distance #1 is out now from Titan Comics.


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