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  • Words: Rol Hirst
  • Art: Paul B. Rainey and Kelvin Green
  • Inks: Paul B. Rainey and Kelvin Green
  • Publisher: Rol Hirst
  • Price: £1.75
  • Release Date: Feb 20, 2011

Rol Hirst’s UK small press book PJANG hits its fifth issue and the anthology this time offers two complete comic strip stories, backed up by a short prose tale. For those scratching their heads at the title, PJANG stands for “People Just Ain’t No Good,” a Nick Cave soundbite that suitably describes the playfully misanthropic character studies that make up this gloriously cynical series.

The first story this time around is the economically titled “Derek”; a tale which deliciously illustrates Hirst’s ability to take standard observational material and push the concept that little bit further. We have all met people like Derek; in fact, if you haven’t worked with one at some point in your life, you can probably count yourself as exceptionally fortunate. Derek is a security guard at a small company and embodies that particular petty officiousness associated with that breed of pompous, small-minded jobsworths we all know and certainly fail to love.

When the company goes bust, and only the security staff are kept on, then the question is posed "what does a pedant do when there’s no one left to inform that gem of wisdom 'It’s more than my job’s worth...' to?"  The denouement of “Derek” feels fitting, unjust, and perhaps bizarrely, inappropriately feelgood all at the same time. Biting and droll, the real triumph of this story is that you can’t help coming away from it feeling that, against all the odds, you rather ended up rooting for this hideous little man.



The second offering is the more darkly comedic “Ex-Men;” an interesting parallel to “Derek” in that it also focuses on the unlikely influence of even the most invisible members of society on their peers. “Ex-Men” is an account of the deluded romantic attachments of Maggie, a largely ignored office cleaner, and the escalating consequences of her fantasies. This one works more consciously towards an obvious punchline than “Derek” but, once again, the reader is left raising a wry smile at its protagonist’s antics, however improper that may feel…

As always, Hirst assembles a fine selection of artists from the UK small press scene. Art on “Derek” comes via Paul B. Rainey, popular creator of There’s No Time Like the Present while Kelvin Green returns to the pages of PJANG on “Ex-Men." Rainey’s deceptively economical style is subtly witty throughout, while Green’s work has a more overtly humorous tone that fits the caricatures of “Ex-Men” splendidly. Complementing the interiors, Nigel Lowrey’s front cover screams “Buy Me!” to the reader while his “Ex-Men” back cover is a wonderful pastiche of romance comics.


Backing up the comics material is “Erase and Rewind,” a short urban horror prose story with a distinctly Hellblazer vibe to it. The climax doesn’t quite live up to the build-up here, but it’s enjoyable enough to tempt the reader to check out more of Hirst’s prose work online.

PJANG #5 once again champions the UK small press with carefully crafted storytelling that showcases not only Hirst’s skills as a writer, but the best artists on the “amateur” scene. Curmudgeonly and grumpy it may be, but PJANG remains one of the most refreshing and eagerly anticipated books on my “must read” list.

PJANG #5 is available now priced £1.75. Check out Rol Hirst's official site for details on ordering.

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