Stonehaven: Milk Cartons & Dog Biscuits
Written by Kevin Tinsley
Drawn by Phil Singer
Published by Stickman Graphic; $19.95 USD

Stonehaven is a pretty unique concept in the world of comics. Itís a city-state comprised of mythical beings such as werewolves, dwarves, ogres, lizard men, spell casters and elves, all of whom interact with humans on a daily basis. Envisioned as a series of graphic novels, this first volume, Milk Cartons & Dog Biscuits, focuses on a Ranger, Dan Parsons, from an outlying town who comes to Stonehaven to find his runaway daughter. When the City Guard canít help him, Dan hires private detective Victor Jardine to guide him through the cityís underworld and hopefully rescue his daughter.

The overall story is hardly original, and in fact has been done to death in the world of fiction, but fortunately the melding of familiar plots with fantasy themes turns Tinsleyís slightly-above-average story into something more exciting. He has clearly thought this world through (as evident by some of the books bonus materials), and itís obviously something heís passionate about, which is almost never a bad thing.

One of the bookís few real drawbacks is the over-the-top, borderline cheesy narration from the main character. You have to admire Tinsleyís desire to emulate and pay tribute to the noir works that have influenced him, but the wanted affect is not achieved; instead of getting a picture of this urban fantasy metropolis and its distress on the citizens who live there, weíre treated to a laughable account by a man who has made up his mind about the place before he ever gets there. Rather than to let the citizens speak for the city, Tinsley has chose to let an outsider influence the way we will view this world, which feels completely wrong for the type of story, or series of stories, both the writer and artist are trying to create.

Phil Singer's art is slightly above standard at its best, and absolutely held back by the coloring process (also done by Tinsley), especially considering the noir tone the two are trying to achieve. Black and white would definitely suit the story better, but one can hardly blame the artist for choices he likely didn't make. He works best, it seems, with some of the wider shots illustrating the city and its inhabitants, while the close-ups come off jarring and out of place, again, possibly not entirely his fault, but it interrupts the flow of the story, which is always a minus.

Thankfully because of both the well thought out and occasionally well illustrated characters, the book achieves what it sets out to, creating a world where technology and fantasy exist side by side, something with elements of the modern world and the sensibilities of classic pulp-style literature. Itís a bit of a page-turner; you do want to see how the two evolving storylines will intersect and what fate has in store for these characters, and itís a welcome change from some of the more mainstream comics on the shelves today. No, itís not groundbreaking material, after all itís just a simple story of a runaway in the big city, but sometimes the simplest of fiction can be the most enjoyable.

It will be interesting to see what Tinsley and Singer have in store down the line for the citizens of Stonehaven, hopefully they can build on the fairly solid foundation set here and tell something a bit larger in scale than this story. If nothing else, it will be fun to explore this modern day fantasy world for a little while longer. As for this volume, it hovers in mediocrity almost entirely do to the poor coloring choices and the often out of place, laughable narration, two things that can immediately pull a reader out of the emotional involvement needed to pull a tale like this off. Grade: 3.5/5

-- Logan Polk

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