If there’s a good side to Marc Ellerby bringing his excellent Ellerbisms webcomic to an end, it’s that it leaves him more time to focus on Chloe Noonan. And the first fruit of said shift in focus, the third self-published issue of the series, is immediate proof that he’s made absolutely the right move – because if there’s any justice, this series should be the making of a long and successful career.
Having spent two strong if slightly inconsistent issues (both were good, but I preferred the first) setting up the series’ central characters and concepts, Ellerby’s now in a position where he can play with things a bit more. So rather than going over the conceit again – it’s implicit that we know Chloe is a monster hunter with no powers and that the stories are more likely to be about her life around fighting creatures than about the fights themselves – we can just launch in and explore the comic’s world a bit more. And it’s to the book’s immediate benefit. What we’re given here are three stories, each alighting on a different aspect of Chloe’s life (and featuring her to varying degrees of page tim), and each telling a different kind of tale (most notably, the first story doesn’t actually feature any fighting at all, instead ending with the really quite superb metatextual gag that shows just how comfortable Ellerby is with the comics form nowadays).
What’s particularly impressive is the way each story is able to drop in on a large amount of detail and character that Ellerby has already decided to populate the series’ world with. From the irritating can’t-think-who-they-might-be-based-on girl band The Pozzy Pops (don’t feed their drummer after midnight), to Chloe’s own band’s bassist’s hinted-at history with a Kraken, to chavvy Moomins (yes, Moomins) in West Ham shirts, each story gives us a fresh glimpse at an involving and well-thought-out setting. Either Ellerby has planned this thing out a lot, or he simply enjoys coming up with things that seem cool and throwing them at the page as they occur to him; but either way, it works a treat. The only disappointing aspect of this so far is that we still, three issues in, don’t really have a sense of who Chloe works for, or why, or how she got started – or indeed anything that would come anywhere close to being described as an “origin” story. But for as long as the actual fighting itself doesn’t really matter, so too I suppose we can leave such questions on the back burner.
And if there’s a major, standout reason why the actual fighting itself doesn’t really matter, it’s that the comic is too busy being bloody funny. If Ellerby has become increasingly influenced by Bryan Lee O’Malley as time’s gone on, then that’s absolutely no bad thing – and there’s as much humour to be had in his timing, panel composition and expression as in any of the dialogue-based jokes. The final page of the third story includes an utterly great scene-changing pull-back-and-reveal gag, with Chloe’s silently seething facial expression unchanged in both the close-up and wide shots. This stuff is very sure-footed comics, and as with his art itself – now cleaner, sharper and more characteristic than it’s ever been – it’s an absolute pleasure seeing Ellerby grow from his raw beginnings into this accomplished creator.
The only question now is just how long it takes for a publisher to notice the brilliance of Chloe Noonan. These self-published books are turning out extremely well – and after some well-publicised production problems, the fact that this issue is such a lovely object in terms of print quality, size and feel is a joy – but it really is about time someone started paying Ellerby to do this. Chloe is clever, dynamic, engaging, funny and original – by rights, it should go on to be comics’ next big indie hit.