Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Shiver Bureau, Volume 1 - Welcome to London

I met Walter Ostlie a couple of years ago at MegaCon - he was sitting in Artist Alley, and when I took a look at his art, I immediately fell in love with it.  Ostlie has a distinct style that lends itself to certain types of stories.  I immediately asked him to create a faux cover in my Nancy Drew sketchbook, and he did an unbelievably superb job of re-imagining a cover for The Clue of the Tapping Heels.  Creepy and mysterious, but with the right amount of Nancy Drew-feel to it.

So when I ran into him again at the first Acme Comic Con a few months back, it was a cinch that he would be perfect to do a sketch in my new Ms. Tree sketchbook. It was also a given that I would buy the first of his graphic novel series, Shiver Bureau.  On vacation here in New Orleans, I finally had the chance to sit down and read it.  Let me say, this is some top-notch storytelling with some art that, under normal circumstances might not exactly fit my fancy (this ain't Wonder Woman or She-Hulk style, that's for sure), but most definitely fits this story and the characters in it.

Welcome to London introduces readers to Pickle - not Inspectre Pickle - just Pickle.  He is a green-haired inspectre for the Shiver Bureau, an organization that is supposed to be there to protect the innocent and stop the ghouls and goblins of the ghost world from doing harm to the people in this world.  Only, there are greater powers at play, and Pickle no longer knows who he can trust and who he can't.  Picking up some unique partners along the way (such as the tough-as-nails Trish McTavish, the shy-but-super-tech-savvy Mister Todd, and the genius-but-hip youngster Oliver - call him "Oli"), Pickle's first mission finds him and his new pals hunting down the reason for the missing children at the orphanage where Oli is from, all the while doing his best to avoid Minister Greev (who he hates) and Detective Ellis (with whom he flirts).  The investigation leads to a warehouse on the docks and, ultimately, back to the orphanage, where Pickle faces one-on-one with Monsignor Jacob, who has an insidious plan to take over the world utilizing the pure form of spectral that he is able to gather from ... well, let's just say, it's not a pretty source.  There is plenty of ghost-busting, lots of fantastic fight scenes, and some great bring-a-smile-to-your-face banter that make this book the thoroughly enjoyable read that it is.

Ostlie does something a lot of comic writers are not able to do - without any exposition or any details of these characters' past, through their dialogue and actions, you get to the point where you feel like you really know their characters, their motivations, and their personalities - you immediately fall in love with Pickle, his sarcasm and quick wit; you root for Trish and can't wait to see her take out the bad guys; and you feel rather bad for Mister Todd and wish you could see more of him and find out the full capabilities of his talent.  Although you see little of Minister Greev, you'll take an immediate dislike for him and without a doubt, you'll enjoy Pickle and Greev's interactions - they are a hoot!

Ostlie's art can tell a story.  His panels transition nicely from one to the next with a smooth storytelling technique, and although he uses a number of full-page panels (of which I'm not a big fan - I prefer pages with four or more panels, which give me more story for the buck, usually), most of them are purposeful and make an impact on the reader when you see them.  So I can forgive the use of them in this instance.  The coloring is effective as well, switching from purples to greens to blues and grays, keeping the mood for the tale and definitely drawing attention to each and every page.

All in all, Ostlie has a great piece of work on his hands here.  I truly enjoyed reading the book and look forward to the next one!  For more information on Ostlie, check out his website using the link to the right of this post; for more information about Shiver Bureau, check out the Facebook page at

RATING:  10 spectrum grenades out of 10 for blowing me away with a great story and great art - everything a comic should be and then some.

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