Tuesday 24 July 2012

The Coldest City by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart (Graphic Novel, Oni Press, 2012): Signed and Dedicated Edition

From a signed and dedicated (to me) copy of the Harvey Award-nominated Alan Moore: Storyteller, next in this series of posts on signed editions we turn to a signed and dedicated (again, to me... kind of...) copy of a graphic novel:

Published by Oni Press in May of this year, The Coldest City is British writer Antony Johnston and British expat artist Sam Hart's comics take on a John le Carré-style espionage novel. Set largely in Berlin just prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, it follows MI6 operative Lorraine Broughton as she's sent to the city to recover a list of names of every agent at large in the area, which has been lost following the death of a British spy. Once there, she's met by head of station David Percevel, an agent of the old school who objects to a woman being sent to "his" city, and who proves as obstructive as he is helpful. Of course, nothing is as it seems, and Lorraine is soon caught up in a web of intrigue and violence, with hidden agendas and double-crosses aplenty.

Johnston already had form with spy thrillers prior to The Coldest City: in 2005 he wrote a fine three issue miniseries spin-off from Greg Rucka's excellent Queen & Country comic (Queen & Country: Declassified), an experience which inspired him to pen more spy fiction. I believe I heard about The Coldest City via Double O Section, and given my passion for all things espionage, naturally I snapped a copy up from Dave's Comics in Brighton when it was published. But as I was paying for the graphic novel, the man behind the till mentioned that Antony would be signing copies at the shop that weekend, and if I left my copy, he'd sign my one.

So I left the book behind with a note of my name, and later tweeted Antony in an excitable fashion telling him I was looking forward to getting my signed copy – which prompted him to point out to me that in fact he would be signing the weekend after the one I'd been led to believe, and which in turn meant I wouldn't get to read the damn thing for nearly two weeks. Arse. However, I did discover that Antony was already familiar with Existential Ennui, and the delay gave me the opportunity to to pop back into Dave's and amend the note I left inside the graphic novel, with the net result that Mr. Johnston kindly scrawled this on the front endpaper:

There we have it: the first book ever to be dedicated to Existential Ennui. And I couldn't have asked for a more appropriate one either: it covers two areas of my interests – comics and spy fiction – and more importantly it's really rather good – low key, murkily evocative of the era, and with a nice twist in the tail.

And I've another signed graphic novel to showcase before moving on to some signed books of the non-comics variety – although there may well be a Westlake Score ahead of that...


  1. Cool! Antony's a thoroughly good egg! I hadn't heard about this but it looks great. Sam's artwork is vaguely reminiscent of early Steve Yeowell.

  2. That's a good point about Yeowell – I hadn't registered that, but you're right. Wonder if Steve was an influence?