The Edinburgh Book Festival, which has just celebrated its 30th anniversary, shows that its commitment to promoting graphic novels remains strong by teaming up with the publisher Freight Books, and a dream team of novelists and artists, to visualise Scotland’s future.
This Scotland, some 30 years from now, lies beneath rising waters with a dramatic lifestyle shift for rich and poor alike. The highest remaining village boasts the futuristic Sky Farm and hi-tech tower; the former televised live, houses the genetically modified livestock and plants that feed the population, while the latter is home-sweet-home for the wealthy. The surrounding lands are given over to sprawling slums where the poor live in constant fear of smallpox and starvation.
It’s a dark look at the future world, and covers a broad variety of ever-relevant themes, from the obvious climate issues and class tensions, to the corruption of capitalism and the selfishness of human nature. These grand ideas though are not ladled on without subtlety; the story unravels through the eyes of Cait McNeil, the “bit of rough” Sky Farm presenter from the slums. Cait is the readers’ everygirl, clever and coarse, bursting with anger and life.
Editor Denise Mina has brought together a perfect caboodle of creators for this job, with chapters by 2000 AD creator Pat Mills and acclaimed graphic novelist Hannah Berry; artist Will Morris; The Phoenix artist Adam Murphy; author Irvine Welsh and Doctor Who artist Dan McDaid; Mina herself and famed French artist Barroux; and Sally Heathcote: Suffragette collaborators Mary Talbot and Kate Charlesworth.
This hodgepodge of styles is further complimented by each chapter taking a decisively different turn. The jar of pulling directions definitely means that this book deserves the label “quirky”, but overall it works rather well. Barroux’s chapter, wonderful as it is, doesn’t quite fit however, and the ends all tie up rather too neatly after such a thrilling build-up.
Special note must be made of Murphy and his larger than life chapter, focusing on Cait’s anger at a dinner party for the rich, and exposing the class tensions that have been bubbling away. It is here that our protagonist truly comes into her own, more than just paper and ink, demonstrating real emotion that pulls the reader in to her life, crackling with anger alongside the fiery redhead.
The future of Scotland may well look drookit, but the future of Scottish comics looks promising indeed.
IDP: 2043 by Mary Talbot, Hannah Berry, Irvine Welsh, Barroux and others. Freight books £14.99