Graphic Novel Reviews

Rivers of London: Bodywork
Deluxe Writer's Edition

(2022) Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel & Lee Sullivan, Titan,
£26.99 / Can$38.99 / US$29.99, ISBN 978-1-787-73625-2


True confession time, I am a bit of a hoarder, thatís why the loft in Hunter Towers is jammed packed withÖer, stuff, and among that stuff are boxes and boxes of comics which I started collecting at an early age. I donít collect these days, mainly because of the lack of space, and mainly because of the price. When I started buying comics they were 10d in old money, or 4p in new money, nowadays they are more like £4 a comic, but despite not collecting these days, I can appreciate a good comic, and the Rivers of London comics, brought together as graphic novels, are better than just good.

As someone who collected comics I also dabbled at trying to write some, and attended the odd comic-writing workshop over the years. One, held at the Edinburgh Book Festival, started by the workshop leader contrasting his own, terse style, with that of Alan Moore, famous for writing Swanp Thing, V for Vendetta and of course, Watchmen, but it was another comic Ė Batman: The Killing Joke we were given an excerpt from, in fact a complete A4 page of description of one panel depicting falling rain Ė no dialogue, no characters, no action, just an entire page of text describing how the rain was falling. I mention this because both Aaronvitch and Cartmel cite Moore as an influence, although fortunately they havenít adopted his very detailed comic-writing style or this book would be very long indeed.

Yet, as the title implies this isnít a normal graphic novel because this is the Writersí Edition produced to mark the tenth anniversary of the Rivers of London series. Here, we get the full script on one page and Lee Sullivanís unlettered artwork on the other page. Unlettered meaning that there is no descriptive text, nor are there any dialogue balloons or speech bubbles coming from the characters. Therefore for those interested in the comic-writing process this is a very handy book to have to see how the script translates into the drawn page. The script also includes photographs of real locations which feature in the story such as Putney Embankment. The Thai Square restaurant, Henry Moore sculptures and paths beside the Thames, which are then reproduced as backgrounds by Sullivan, giving the story an authentic London look.

Rivers of London is a series that has spawned (so far) 12 books in the forms of novels and novellas and 9 graphic novels and I would imagine readers of Body Work are familiar with the series and lead character, Peter Grant, who is a police officer specialising in investigating crimes involving magic.

Iíve met Aaronvitch several times and I remember him saying that he wanted Peter Grant to be an ordinary bloke without the baggage that most detectives seem to have, usually involving them being a recovering alcoholic, or having a tragic incident in their past, as well as having an unusual name. Peter Grant is refreshingly down to earth, and the series has always been quite humorous given Grantís take on the cases he finds himself investigating, or the reactions of those around him. Body Work involves a killer car that kills without having anyone behind the steering wheel, and thatís just for starters. We also get refugees, pesky teenagers high on drugs and a wooden bench that isnít what it seems. Fans of the novels will be pleased to note that Peterís mentor, Nightingale, appears as well as Molly, the scary housekeeper; Peterís girlfriend, Beverley Brook; a certain terrier, and several other supporting characters in a graphic tale that takes place between books four and five, namely Broken Homes and Foxglove Summer. Among the extras are the covers of each comic, including a very Bond-like issue 1 cover depicting Peter, Beverley and the London Eye as well as some mini Tales from the Thames and Tales from the Folly involving other characters like Beverley, Molly, Toby the dog, and a Halloween creature that wonít stay down. Great fun.

For fans of the series, and those interested in how a comic is created, this is a must-read.

Ian Hunter


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