Advanced Review: Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors Issue 1

What do you do when you are a failure at your chosen career? Super villainy is not for everyone, and Ashu Gladstone has tried many a time and failed in equal parts. Mocked by his peers, constantly getting caught…well you know what they say “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach”.Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors is a comic written by Mark Smith and illustrated by Armand Villavert, and follows the story of a group of kids at a school which almost certainly wouldn’t pass it’s OFSTED inspection. With a syllabus straight from one of the most evil minds in the galaxy, including the likes of extortion, oversized reptiles, espionage, home economics and dodgeball [urg!], this exclusive school is where all the masters of the evil arts want their kids to go.

Initially the story starts with a narrator, a narrator who talks about this ‘comic’ (“as you can tell from the title of this comic”). I’ve never really been a fan of storytelling from this perspective, but it works pretty well in this case, and really does help to set the scene. I then had a problem with the slow pace of the story; I can let them off for this though as it is a first issue and really about introducing characters and the premise of the comic coupled with a history of the school. I found this at times though to be a little dull. I must categorically state at this point, that I was hooked from page one. The characters are all noticeably very different, and interesting (although some originality in naming would have been nice, isn’t that right “Mummy Girl”), and in relation to the story line, whilst not huge amounts happened, and there was nothing too much to get excited about, there was some pretty fun parts and I did find the odd titter escape my lips.

The artwork is great, not overly detailed, yet not too simple. The characters look fantastic, and the colours are brilliantly bright and vibrant. There isn’t any case of trying to fit too much onto a page or into a frame, this really is a strong case for ‘less is more’. However as you read through a second time you tend to notice things that your eyes may have flicked over the first time, one slime kid in a corner, or a robot guy picking up his lunch in the background. A lot of imagination has gone into the drawing of the main characters, but as you absorb each frame you notice more and more little individual characteristics for some of the children in the background, that really don’t need to be there but just add to the feel of an energetic school environment. I can’t praise Armand Villavert and Carlos Carassco (who did the colours) enough, the whole look and feel of this comic is fantastic.

Whilst this is another in a long line of ‘suitable for all’ comics (and even more so nowadays written from a villain’s perspective), I would suggest this one might not be for the more hardcore elite of comic book fans. It is ideal for kids, and a casual reader. If you’re just looking for something light and easy, it is most enjoyable. It is a shame there wasn’t a bit more action in this, the opening gambit, but it was a nice introduction. They have unfortunately left me unsure as how they intend to proceed with story lines and character development.

All in all I would say that the premise is great, and if Issue 1 can be followed up with some high quality stories, and a bit more action, then it could become a really cool series. I personally would love to see how they fully intend to bring this school, and all the kids in it, alive.

Issue 1 of Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors is due for release on 4th May 2011 and I rate it a solid 3 out of 5.

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