Jonathon Ross is best-known in the UK as a chat show host. He’s also a movie buff, comic collector, and married to Jane Goldman, who scripted the movie versions of Kick Ass, Stardust and X-Men: First Class. But despite these geeky credentials, the fact that he’s written a graphic novel remains something of a surprise.
Originally serialised in Mark Millar’s comics anthology Clint, Turf is a lot of ideas and genres rolled into one. Set in an alternate 1930s New York, there’s a gang war going on. Prohibition is in full swing, as are the smuggling operations and the speakeasys. The police are corrupt from the top down and everyone’s taking their cut.
But there’s a new gang in town. These mysterious eastern Europeans are literally blood-thirsty and only come out at night. Their vampiric credentials are impressive, hiding horrors in the basement of their gothic hideout that would make Count Dracula weak at the knees.
Then an alien space ship crash-lands in Central Park and things start getting really weird.
Although there’s a lot going on, Ross holds it together surprisingly well. The last chapter proved a bit disappointing, perhaps because tying all these plot threads and genre diversions together in a crescendo of violence proves to be less interesting than the journey. But Ross’s skill with dialogue, and the ease with which he draws tension and empathy from his melting-pot, actually makes for a great read.
Tommy Lee Edwards’s art is well up to the job too. Considering the complexities of combining period gangster drama with vampires and aliens, Edwards holds the strange bedfellows together with remarkable skill.
Whether Ross thought “I’ve only got one chance at this” and lumped all his ideas into one, we’re not entirely sure. But he pulls it off, on the whole. The ending could have held more attraction, perhaps, if the story had been allowed more room to breathe. But we’re left wishing there was more of it, which is high praise in itself. For the comics debut of someone we’re more used to seeing presenting chat shows, Turf is a tight ship, and is bound to surprise Ross’s fans and critics alike with its intelligent take on a somewhat extreme genre mash-up.