Written by: John Smith / Illustrated by: Edmund Bagley / Published by: 2000 AD/Rebellion / Format: Paperback / Release Date: Out Now
Downbeat, nihilistic urban horror that perverts our worst fears of the UK’s underbelly characterises this bleak and nasty collection from the pages of 2000 AD.
Far from the exaggerated sci-fi most commonly associated with 2000 AD, Cradlegrave follows the life of young offender on parole Shane Holt as he returns to the claustrophobic estate referenced in the title, populated by pillheads and joyriders that chase every high available to make their hopeless lives more bearable. This dystopia is made all the more nightmarish for its utter believability, from the dysfunctional families welcoming each other home from prison with a couple of cans to Shane’s inability to escape the same fate as his peers.
Thanks to this grounding in the harsh realities of what we now dismiss as Britain’s feral underclass, when the Cronenbergian horror elements creep into the mix they seem right at home, dragging Ravenglade Estate into the bowels of hell. Bagwell’s art cements the authenticity of urban life and excels in the grotesque, bringing out the best in Smith’s measured pacing. The introduction by Ramsey Campbell should hint that Cradlegrave offers something out-of-the-ordinary and he’s right. Cradlegrave is a sickening affirmation of everything you ever feared about society and it exposes the worst of our traits without ever resorting to exaggeration or stereotyping.