Rivers of London: Body Work by Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel and Lee Sullivan
Titan Comics, HB, £10.99
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
When a BMW crashes through a barrier into the river, there doesn’t appear to be any foul play. Certainly, nothing to involve the Special Assessment Unit. At least, not until Beverly Brook tells Peter Grant it might be something worth looking into. Delving deeper, Peter realises BMWs all over London are acting strange, driving themselves, weird images coming from the windscreen, and owners being involved in accidents. To Grant, it’s weird, but to Nightingale, it dredges up memories of his friends and an incident involving the most haunted car in England. Does the past hold the answer, and can Grant and Nightingale find the answer before anyone else is killed?
This copy of Rivers of London: Body Work is the deluxe writers’ edition which means we get lots of extra information about how the story is put together behind the scenes. The layout is different from other comics or graphic novels as the panels are on the right page, and all the notes, dialogue, narration and other information are on the left. Reading the two pages simultaneously was a little strange at first, but that didn’t last long. It slowed down my reading, which is not a bad thing, and I could appreciate the art without being distracted by words. The detail that goes into replicating London is outstanding; not a surprise, really. I loved the first panel on Issue 2, page 16, which shows Nightingale holding a dust sheet and the direction on the opposite page states, ‘the dust sheet, by accident, fallen into a classic cartoon-ghost shape.’ That attention to detail made me appreciate the effort more than I would have without that information.
With some comics running for many issues, Rivers of London: Body Work proves that you can have a satisfying story with less. With only five issues, Body Work plays with the idea of hauntings and the ghost story genre, linking history, the past and the present seamlessly.
Without dialogue or narrative to distract me, I could really appreciate the use of colour in this story and how palettes and shading were used to ground the reader in the moment. In Issue 2, page 13, we have three panels using muted greens and shading to indicate heavy fog. When the action moves inside, the dominant colour is blue, and there is less shading, so the overall effect is clinical and stark, what you would expect from a boring office at a car pound. My favourite is in Issue 5, page 1, where panels 1 and 2 have the same background, but panel 1 is in the past, with misty and muted colours, and panel 2 is present-day, sharper and more colourful. Its poignant, tying the whole story together, as Peter Grant is at the heart of the action despite the peaceful nature of the panels.
As a fan of the River of London series, I guess it’s little surprise that I enjoyed Body Work, but this edition elevated the story as it took me to the heart of the creative process. I always avoid bonus material for films, but I think they’re a must for graphic novels and comics. Highly recommended and follow this link to get your copy!