Hey, all! I know that it has been a good long time since I have written any articles for Comic Crusaders, but now I am back from my hiatus and ready to get some reviews done! This week there was some fantastic book in my Dropbox folder to choose from: Go West, ShipWreck, Hook Jaw, Generation Zero, the list goes on. However, A Train Called Love was just too perfect to pass up. The art, the writing, it is exactly where I feel the modern comic book should be headed. Now, this comes with some heavy bias, since Garth Ennis is one of my heroes, but like always I will try to be as objective as possible.
I didn’t have to read this whole TPB, since I collected all ten issues as they came out, but I did have to thumb through in order to refresh my memory. You may be saying to yourself, “Damn, Dylan, is your memory that terrible? It is only 10 issues.” Well, let me tell you, this book is packed is dense with characters, relationships, and plot points that I would challenge you to remember everything. Which, for any fans of Ennis, this should come as no surprise. What should be shocking for all those familiar, though, is the content of A Train Called Love.
For the most part, Garth has filled his career with horror stories, war books, and their ilk, and while they are all amazing, they have carried a very familiar somber tone. A Train Called Love is nothing like any of his previous books, and that is exactly what makes it so perfect. There is so much humor and ridiculousness packed into these pages that I guarantee that you will be chuckling up a storm on the bus ride to work, which is exactly what I was doing. In addition to the comedy, however, there will also be some moments where you will find your heart bleeding, and that is what really impressed me about this whole run. It wasn’t the plot that made this book great, it was Garth’s huge cast of characters. There were seriously about fifteen or so vital characters that each with their own vibrant and distinct personalities, and he really took the time to air out all of their flaws and aspirations. So much so, that by the end of the series, I felt like I lost a few friends. It didn’t help that Garth some great co-creators to really bring life the pages.
The kind of line art that Mark Dos Santos brought to this book mirrored that theme from Garth perfectly. It was cartoonish, light and funny, but in a believable and mature way. I know that sounds contradictory, but you honestly have to check it out for yourself. There are times in this book where he brings out the absurdity in such an off the wall fashion, like when the crime lord is getting a blow job, that all you can do is take it at face value and laugh (and hope the person behind you on the bus isn’t peering over your seat), but there are also times where he can drop the mood with a single facial expression, like when Marcy kicked Penny out of her apartment, and make you cry like a baby (which in hindsight may have been the whiskey).
All of which was aided by the two colorists, Andrew Elder (for issues one through five) and Salvatore Aiala Studios (for the rest of the series). Andrew kicked off this issue with a very poppy and cartoonish style, which complimented both Mark and Garth. To this day, I still have the first two issues of this series on my desk as inspiration for my own coloring. The way that Andrew mixed in cel shading and mild gradients is the exact style that Mark needed to ebb between humor and sorrow. And just as impressive was the way that Salvatore was able to come in the last half of the series and keep up with the foundation Andrew laid out. That kind of feat really speaks towards the talent that this book had on its side.
I hope this review was enough to convince you to buy this TPB. As I have described, in a quite wordy fashion, both the writing and the art were outstanding. You would really be robbing yourself of something magical if you fail to pick this one up. 5 out 5 stars from this reviewer!.
Cover: Russ Braun
Writer: Garth Ennis
Art: Mark Dos Santos, Russ Braun