Written by Andi Watson
Art by Josh Howard
176 pages, black and white
Published by Minx/DC Comics

With DC Comics’s new Minx line, the closest the imprint seems to get to a trade dress is having covers be a mixture of photographs and drawn art. Looking closely at Clubbing, the book mixes the London club scene with the pastoral hills of England’s Lake District. It’s a bit of a mish-mash of a cover, the two pictures and the piece of Josh Howard art not working very well together, looking like it’s trying for several different feels and not succeeding at any of them. And, unfortunately, that’s also a pretty good synopsis for the book itself.

When Lottie gets busted for using a fake ID at a club in London, her parents decide the best response is to send Lottie to live with her grandparents for the summer up in the Lake District. It’s rural, peaceful, and cut off from London culture; everything that Lottie hates. Discovering a body on the golf course at the resort her grandparents own, though, gets Lottie suddenly interested in her summer exile. But can she figure out who the killer is before she ends up the next target? Or will her ineptness working at the golf shop kill her first?

Clubbing is a book that starts off very promisingly; it’s a fun if slightly predictable set-up, with out-of-her-element Lottie stumbling through Meadowdale, wishing for goths or the internet and getting groundskeepers and five-irons, and starting to gain an interest in groundskeeper’s son Howard. The mystery itself is one where there’s a distinct lack of clues available to the reader (versus something like The Kindaichi Case Files where part of the set-up is to try and let the reader figure it out along with the hero), but the ride is enjoyable enough if perhaps stuck in a perpetual loop of Lottie suspecting the same person, not finding anything to support her feelings, then suspecting him some more. And then when the revelation does appear, well, that’s where the entire book falls apart.

The identity of the murderer itself is a little outlandish, although it does at least follow one of the traditional rules for solving mysteries (pick the least likely suspect and they’ll be the twist at the end). There’s absolutely no reason to suspect the killer, and when the motive is revealed you as the reader can at least be relieved that there is literally no way to have figured it out; no clues were ever placed, and it’s over the top and a little ludicrous. But it’s at that point that things really jump off the proverbial rails, unfortunately, as the book decides to suddenly cross genres in a way that is both surprising and ill-fitting. The eleventh hour revelation (with literally less than a dozen pages to go) makes as much sense as it would for Emily Brontë to decide that the finale of Wuthering Heights should involve Heathcliff turning into a zombie and eating Cathy’s brain. As a reader, it’s hard to not feel like a bait-and-switch was just played on you, with the promise of a trendy girl forced to live in the countryside all being a lead-in for a nonsensical shock moment that really belonged in a Resident Evil game. It’s strange, because Andi Watson’s stories in the past have never contained such a bizarre shift; it’s very unlike him, and doesn’t feel like his style at all.

Howard’s art is, unfortunately, little more than competent. Almost every character is drawn with their head in three-quarters profile; the rare times that you get a side profile or a full-on look at their face is almost shocking because it’s so infrequent that it makes you think that he can’t draw anything else. (As it turns out, he can, which makes his reluctance to do so all the odder.) Characters generally come across as stiff and posed; there’s an early scene where Lottie is suppose to trip over a golf ball that looks more like she’s just done a strange yoga pose that involves having pretended to kick a potato backwards. Add in unusually large heads for most characters (only the grandparents, with their larger frames, seem normal) and an apparent desire to make Lottie’s fashion sense always look like she’s ready for her latest gynecological exam (which to be fair could have been a request from Watson, although I must admit I’m doubting it) and it’s a jumble that never really rises to the occasion.

It’s a real pity that Clubbing is such a misfire; Watson’s handled people in strange situations much better before (most notably Slow News Day) but this doesn’t seem up to his standards at all. Add in less than attractive art and the end result is nothing short of disappointment. I wish I could have liked it more; I certainly had wanted to, going in with high expectations. The end result, though, is something that seems like it needed an additional draft.

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