‘Rivers of London #3.4: Black Mould’ reviewed

Ben Aaronovitch’s hit novel series, Rivers of London, soon to be a TV show, is every bit as worthy of hoovering up as a comic series.

Peter Grant: policeman, trainee wizard and now pest controller. Joined by fellow officer and Muslim ninja, Sahra Guleed, the two are trying to contain an outbreak of vindictive black mould that seems to be going after the rich and heartless.

But after a successful mission, the mould has penetrated the headquarters of London’s crime-fighting magical practitioners – The Folly – and the shitake is about to get real…

Ben Aaronovitch has earned acclaim the long way round, having cut his teeth on two Doctor Whos in the late Eighties, (and however arguably well the latter story was assembled) he delivered two excellent scripts. His authorial voice has always been strong, and ‘Rivers Of London’s huge success is a welcome recognition at last of his talents.

The links to Doctor Who don’t end there – Andrew Cartmel, Aaronovitch’s script editor and mentor has authored comics for Doctor Who Magazine alongside novels and audio drama, amongst a huge number of accomplishments, and for my money no one draws better Daleks than Lee Sullivan. I love his artwork here – it’s clean and stylish, and it’s beautifully coloured too.

But is it like Doctor Who? Well, there’s identifiable, likeable leads getting smashed into unusual situations with terrifying monsters, and that’s very Doctor Who. But it’s also very Buffy and has a touch of  the influence of The Avengers (as in Steed and Peel version) glimmering in the background, yet it still feels fresh.

Like London itself, the series is smart, warm, thumpingly diverse, witty and, a little bit terrifying too. Issue Four begins with a lengthy ‘silent’ sequence, a creepy night time attack and ambush, and then opens out into various contacts our leads investigate. Simple, clean panels are cinematic, like a movie storyboard. It’s a class warfare story, a big SF Fantasy metaphor as all the best ones are. As the procedural plays out, new characters are introduced, including an obnoxious UKIP type to meet Sahra. The Aaronovitch/Cartmel team mission of delivering a bit of social comment with their adventures holds firm. There’s a little bit of family, too, deftly and economically sketched in. In these miserable times of real life players continually chasing the lowest common denominator, it’s heartening. Story comes first, of course – a fast, engaging tale and well worth your time.

The issue wraps up with a few text pages of Peter’s guide to London; having spent time in all of the places; Elephant, Richmond, the South Bank and especially Wapping, it really does evoke the City well, and hopefully gives a good flavour to those who’ve never been, or only scratched the surface. An unexpected touch, but a good one. A nice little icing on the cake; one the other hand, a one page little supplemental strip is rather disposable, neither here nor there for me.

I’m looking forward to seeing how these stories develop, and highly recommend them. Jump on board now, and catch up as you can. Magical.

‘Rivers of London: Black Mould #3.4’ (Aaronovitch/Cartmel/Sullivan/Guerro) was published by Titan Comics on 1 February 2017, RRP £2.65

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