03rd Jan2019

‘Rivers of London: Action at a Distance #3’ Review

by Dean Fuller

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


So far this has been reading as a kind of old fashioned pulp story, albeit with a dash of magic thrown in. That’s a compliment, as it seeks to evoke the 1950’s atmosphere of its setting and does that really well. On one level, a hunt to catch a serial killer before he strikes again. On another, Nightingale, a practitioner of white magic hunting down Professor Fischer, a follower of old dark magic. Let’s not forget Nightingale’s old buddy, Angus Strallen, either. He is Hastings to Nightingale’s Poirot, Watson to Nightingale’s Sherlock. This being Rivers of London, things are not quite as straightforward as you would expect. Fischer seems to have very high level protection, and Nightingale and Strallen realise they will have to circumvent normal police channels for this one.

We start back in 2016, with a reminder that along with us, Peter is reading the file notes on this case from back in 1957. We are discovering these things along with him. Molly seems to have as much a crush on 1950’s Angus as she did back in the day, stealing a photograph of him. Like us, Peter has got to the part where bloodhound Hesperus is helping Nightingale track Fischer down. That along with the clue that Fischer is hunting down women from all different ethnic backgrounds, and his final target is to be a Caribbean woman. Back in Fifties London, that meant Notting Hill. They better be quick, as Fischer has found his target.

Luckily for Astrid, they get there just in time. Fischer escapes, but not before Nightingale throws him through a window and then stops a house falling on Strallen. Not quite sure if Fischer is just scared off in general, or by the fact that a fellow wizard is on the case, but he decides to leave London before completing his kill list. He returns back to Cumbria from London, and we discover just why he has such high level protection. His ‘day’ job is working at Windscale, the still very hush hush atomic reactor plant at the centre of Britain’s fledgling nuclear weapon arsenal.

After reading this, I really felt as though I had been short changed on page count as I whizzed through so fast. Having gone back and counted I was totally wrong. 24 pages of story, and 3 pages of text giving context to the story, is more than respectable. It says a lot for how to easy to read Cartmel’s writing is, and how well Williamson’s art is laid out, that the time just flew by. Plot wise the story advanced nicely, giving a real feeling that things are building to a resolution next issue, though not giving away just how it’ll end. I like that Cartmel has thrown in that little moral aspect to the story. Just as at the end of the War, the allies came in and hoovered up all the German scientists to come and work for them, pardoning them for any and all war crimes in return for their skills. Do the British authorities here know Fischer is a serial killer? Hmmmm.

Nothing groundbreaking this issue, but good solid entertainment. I’ll admit to missing Peter’s involvement, mainly for his droll and witty dialogue and the chuckles it provides, but I do like the expansion of the Rivers mythology and the spotlight on Nightingale and his past. Won’t bring in new readers, but will more than please the long term readers of the books and comics. Cartmel’s writing is as effortless as always, and Williamson’s art is perfect for the Fifties setting. His use of larger panels for only certain important scenes also helps emphasize those important parts of the story.

Good writing and good art never go out of style. Great read.

**** 4/5

Rivers of London: Action at a Distance #3 is out now from Titan Comics.


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