By The Etherington Brothers (David Fickling Books)
Kids love to be scared and they thrive on imaginative adventure, especially if it comes liberally dosed with oodles of wry sardonic comedy. Such being the case itâ€™s quite understandable how Long Gone Don came to be such a popular and enduring feature of British comics phenomenon The Phoenix, where it has run almost continuously from the first issue.
Since 2012 David Fickling Books have published a traditional weekly anthology comic for girls and boys which has successfully restored the glorious heyday of picture-story entertainment; embracing the full force of modernity whilst telling old-fashioned fun and thrilling stories.
Each issue offers humour, adventure, puzzles and educational strips and material in an exultation of cartoon fun and fantasy. Since its premiere, The Phoenix has gone from strength to strength, winning praise from the Great and the Good, child literacy experts and the people who really matter – the utterly engaged kids and parents who read itâ€¦
The Phoenix was voted No.2 in Time Magazineâ€™s global list of Top Comics and Graphic Novels and is the only strip publication started in the UK in the last forty years to have passed the 100 issue mark. The magazine celebrated its first anniversary by developing a digital edition available globally as an app and is continually expanding its horizonsâ€¦
As devilishly devised by The Etherington Brothers – Robin and Lorenzo, whose past efforts have included Malcolm Magic and Yore (in The Dandy), Monkey Nuts, Baggage and the brilliant puzzle-venturer Von Doogan – this thrilling and hilarious spooky romp stars unlucky Don Skelton, whose proper history doesnâ€™t really begin until after an astounding concatenation of crazy circumstances leave the hapless schoolboy dead in a bowl of Oxtail Soupâ€¦
From there itâ€™s a quick and disorienting drop into the netherest of Nether Regions where the bewildered waif discovers his unruly hair has turned milk-white and the fantastic, green-sanded landscape is dotted with familiar objects expanded to most unlikely proportionsâ€¦
No sooner has he struggled out of the colossal bowl heâ€™s splashed down into than Don is taken under the scabby wing of a rather lugubrious and excitable crow with an outrageous Spanish accent who tries to explain the unlikely situation to the stunned and incredulous lad…
Moreover the antsy avian – one Castanet, by name – strongly stresses the sense of urgency needed to get off the Arrival Plains as Brobdingnagian means of expiration tend to land with a crash every momentâ€¦
Having safely escorted the newcomer away from the region of plummeting dooms, Castanet then begins his introduction to the bizarre afterlife by taking Don to the chaotic pit of trouble dubbed Broilerdoom (â€œAfterlife of the Lost, the Damned and the Generally Terrifyingâ€) where they are promptly robbed and forced to participate in a rigged election.
Don, however, manages to vote for the wrong guy, instantly setting off citywide alarms and immediately earning the undying enmity of monstrous dictator General Spode and his unctuous assistant Valush, if not the supreme dictatorâ€™s glamorous but bored consort Reginaâ€¦
Soon boy and bird are being hotly pursued through the grotty avenues and alleyways by the demonic yet incompetent soldiery but are only saved when an even bigger and scarier monster called Lewd makes his terrifying entrance.
The giant outlaw and his agile assistant Safina are no fans of Spode and, after duffing up the militia, take the fugitives deep into the sordid, sprawling slums of Krapookerville where they can catch their breath in relative safetyâ€¦
Their current base is an inn of iniquity named The Demon Drink where, between brawls, the outlaws give Don a quick lesson in post-life geography and geopolitics. He soon learns his companions are more rebels than rogues and have taken his miscast vote as a sign to strike against the despotic General. Don then meets the freedom fightersâ€™ inside agentâ€¦
Seen as catalysts for change, Don and Castanet are despatched to coax the cityâ€™s Great Hero Ripley out of retirement. The person Don mistakenly voted for has become a celebrity gardener and has no intention of facing Spode again but he does suggest another potential candidate and rallying point for the massesâ€¦
Soon the entire under region is aflame with unrest and rebellion and Don has made the acquaintance of one of the underworldâ€™s most incredible and awe-inspiring entities whilst turning said underworld upside downâ€¦
Rocket-paced, spectacular, absorbing and utterly hilarious, this uncanny adventure is conceived and rendered in a gorgeous, loving pastiche of the magnificent style of Goscinny and Uderzo, a kind of Asterix in the Underworld meets Eric the Viking.
Fast, fun and funny, Long Gone Don is a superb serving of macabre mirth no lovers of daft or dark delights can afford to miss.
Text Â© Robin Etherington, 2014. Illustrations Â© Lorenzo Etherington, 2014. All rights reserved.
To find out more about The Phoenix or subscribe, visit: www.thephoenixcomic.co.uk