From Great Beast comes this digital collection of all the Chloe Noonan comics so far. If you’ve never encountered this scowling redhead – and never been charmed to bits – it’s a digital purchase that should be high on your list.
Written and illustrated by Marc Ellerby
Chloe Noonan is a monster hunter, but she doesn’t have any powers. She can’t beat up bad guys, she can’t run without getting a stitch. She’s kinda flakey and really not bothered about saving the world. Especially when she has to get the bus everywhere.
Set in the fictional British town of Ravensdale, this ongoing series of comics and short stories sees our eponymous hero Chloe Noonan team up with a government led squad of Monster Hunters to solve the ever growing monster problem.
This digital omnibus collects every Chloe Noonan story to date in full colour and comes complete with a cover illustration gallery, fan art section and a look into creator Marc (Ellerbisms, Love The Way You Love) Ellerby’s sketchbook designs.
It’s a bit cheap to compare this comic to “Scott Pilgrim” – Chloe’s in a band, blah-blah, the humour’s referential, blah-blah – but as a touchstone I think it’ll get us where we’re going. Mentally mix in some “Giant Days” (oh, how I love “Giant Days”), and you’re pretty close to the tone: punchy, silly, full of pop-culture references, and very, very British. I mean, you’re liable to encounter “flummox” used as SFX.
But let’s bring it back a little. As the solicit describes, Chloe’s more an everywoman than a Buffy type, and – this is important – not a very generous imagining of the everywoman. In short, she’s a grump – a bit lazy, a bit judgmental, but kind-hearted if you squint your eyes. As Ellerby is quick to note in some of the extra material, it’s Chloe’s best friend, Zoe, that humanizes her – and that’s because she too is a well-rounded character, blending thoughtlessness and superficiality with the kind of loyalty and sunniness you’d wish for in a best friend. These qualities may or may not come to light during drunken bus trips home – the kind where you have to convince the driver your bestie is safe to bring aboard.
The humour is broad but bright – which is to say, if you don’t see the beauty of a pair of chavs earnestly discussing Twilight, this is no place for you. Ellerby isn’t afraid to play around a bit – as evidenced by one comic completely missing its ending, with a tacked-on epilogue apologizing – and sometimes the references come so thick and fast (and indie-band-specific) that it’s hard to keep up. Ellerby gets points for a nod at the Moomins, though. Everybody should nod at the Moomins.
The unusual SFX are worth noting, bringing a dose of their own humour to the stories. From “BUMPO” to “SNORE!” to “Oonse! Oonse! Oonse!”, there’s silliness to spare in this sonic landscape, and Ellerby’s frittery letters keep the energy high.
The art – which gets more refined the deeper into the collection you get – winds up cartoony but graceful, with a naturalistic approach to gesture and pose. The compositions are often impressive, drawing the eye from crowded background to dynamic foreground. A club scene involving lots of conversation and movement somehow looks easy and natural, and the action scenes – usually quick and nasty – are zestily laid out.
Ellerby’s monsters are big and bossy but otherwise retain the grounded feel of the rest of the characters. This aspect fits in nicely with Chloe’s attitude toward the monsters: bored, conciliatory, and generally wanting things to be over with. The monsters seem to be ornery misfits rather than outright violent, and watching Chloe’s attempts to negotiate with, for instance, a churlish giant octopus-guy, is good fun.
The characterizations are what drive this story, and a glance at the character sketches at the end reveals just how much thought went into determining how Chloe and Zoe present themselves. Chloe’s haircut (or lack of one) seems all the more perfect a choice after seeing all the other designs that just didn’t work. She’s all slouchiness and layers, a visual sigh. (Or “Huff!”, as Ellerby writes them.) Meanwhile, Zoe is tailored and neat, sporting the world’s sharpest bob. We rarely catch Chloe smiling, but Zoe is all giggles, and their visual contrast underscores the push-and-puil dynamic of their friendship.Continued below
The comics have been coloured especially for this digital edition, but to be honest, it’s hard to imagine these stories (and those ginger jokes) without colour. The palettes are diverse and versatile, spanning dull hallways and neon music venues, but the overall look is never messy. When, for emphasis, the backgrounds drop out and are replaced by a single colour, the shade is always unexpected but punchy, lending extra verve to the proceedings.
Ellerby’s tendency toward blacking out characters’ eyelids is the only iffy element of the art. It seems like it’s supposed to emphasize sarcasm or skepticism, but sometimes it looks like the characters have double shiners.
In terms of story, the only lack here is depth – a feeling of what Chloe’s adventures are supposed to be adding up to. There’s at least one contemplative moment gesturing toward something in this arena, but overall it’s hard to say what Chloe’s looking for, or running from. And between Chloe’s attitude, the big questions as to how she got her unusual job, and (ulp!) the gradual uprising of the monsters, it’s hard to know what to be curious about first. There’s certainly ample material to be explored in future issues.
In an introduction, Ellerby asks that we consider this collection “band practice” or “an 8-track recording”. But from here, “Chloe Noonan” sounds a lot like a breakout album; it’s light and enjoyable and above all catchy. It’s the kind of book that’s a pleasure just to recommend – especially (here I go again) if you’re a “Scott Pilgrim” fan.