Written by Daniel Bell and Iain Buchanan, art by Anna Readman, Katja Lindblom, Daniel Bell
Issue 1 (review) introduced us to two women, both lost, both possessed of special powers, rescued or manoeuvred (we’re not sure as yet) into position by PT Barnum (yes, that PT Barnum, the very famous circus bloke) to serve in the mysterious Psircus organisation fighting “an unseen war against a collective mind intent on global domination“.
Psircus is something of a secret society of psychics, Barnum at the helm, aided by mysterious right-hand man Prometheus, and their two relatively new recruits, waifs and strays, the two lost ladies, Kathy and Icarus.
Last issue we got three short stories; brief introductions, saw them all in action, delved a little into something akin to origin stories, and that was it. Bell certainly handled that issue very well, grabbing disparate threads and weaving them into one fairly cohesive whole. Rough certainly, especially artistically, but something intriguing about it.
This issue we’re given three stories once more, and each delves just that little deeper into this mysterious world, there’s more about Kathy the powerful psychic, who may not have broken out of that mental hospital after all, there’s more of Prometheus’ back-story, more of Barnum and his world, the introduction of a strange, lost child along the way, as we explore madness, dreams, fathers and daughters, military nightmares, visit Kathy’s darkest insecurities, and see much more of Icarus, whose powers are swiftly attaining frighteningly devastating levels.
(Psircus art – Anna Readman)
Again, Psircus #2 is similar to #1, a slow development of the characters and ideas, very much something of the long-game, certainly not something that’s planning on playing out any time yet, and I’d not recommend it for anyone who wants resolutions or even partial answers to any of the questions thus far. In fact, it’s far more likely you’ll leave this issue with far more questions than before. Handled badly this sort of tease, tease, tease approach fails dismally (you all remember Lost don’t you?) but Bell is (just about) keeping it together here, intrigue and fascination outweighing frustration. Just.
Like I say, there are times it teeters precariously into the realms of needlessly mysterious for its own sake, but on long reflection, I’m coming down on it being slightly more fascinating than frustrating.
(Psircus art – Daniel Bell)
One thing that does help with my enjoyment is Bell’s willingness to change it up, drifting away from his main plot and whiling away a moment with Kathy and Icarus in the second, very short, story. They’re floating free a couple of miles in the air, Kathy vocalising her thoughts and fears, Icarus making snowballs, a seemingly meaningless interlude until Bell cleverly uses Kathy to identify the snowball making, the very act of slowing down kinetic energy at a molecular level as possibly the most powerful manifestation of Icarus’ powers yet.
I like the fact Bell isn’t afraid to punctuate his plot, his over-arching story with something more character and tone driven. I like it even more that he then uses this quieter moment to establish something important for the characters. A little thing, but it adds a lot.
It’s not all praise, praise, praise though. Bell gets most things right with the story, but if his plot and pacing is occasionally teeting into dodgy territory, I’ve sadly got to say the art occasionally just takes a big leap there.
I like Bell’s own art best of all, but even that feels a little too rough around the edges. As for Readman and Lindblom, too often we get art that could, should be better, that’s characterless, overly static, that simply isn’t carrying the story well enough, storytelling proves lacking, characters and scenes aren’t clear enough, anatomy and facial expressions come off wrong.
I always like to immerse myself in whatever I’m readiing, and I’m pretty forgiving, but when a thing jars too much such as the scene on page 8 where Kathy manages to cover the 4/5+ft across the room whilst a man holds a gun on her in just three panels that seem to happen in no time at all had me scratching my head, disbelief no longer suspended. Little things such as this happen too often.
It’s not terrible art, just could be, probably should be, better.
Psircus starts great with issue#1, this issue may be a drop in overall quality, but there’s still something in here that intrigues, the premise and the potential of a sound idea winning out in the end.