Alsation Cages by Grayham Puttock - A Review

Alsation Cages by Grayham Puttock - A Review

Alsation Cages is a beguiling book indeed, and as it turns out I suspect author and artist Grayham Puttock intended and wanted this to be the case.

Don Siegel's 1971 American classic that stars Clint Eastwood is clearly referenced in the dialogue of Grayham's fascinating book.

With this in mind Puttock later cites The Wicker man as a more obvious inspiration for his graphic novel.

What is to be said about Grayham's rather unique creation?

There will be a conclusion...


Grayham Puttock was kind enough to send me a review copy of his latest work, and I will say at the outset it was an odd book to read. Wisdom dictates it makes sense to leave some of those thoughts a little while longer.

Instead there is some common sense in establishing the basics first:

Alsatian Cages is published under the writer's own publishing imprint "Don't Look Now" banner and it is very well produced.

Behind a polished exterior there are well over 150 pages of black and white artwork in this book. In addition there are some lovely unused images Grayham Puttock decided not to use but does ultimately share with the reader.

The book is printed in an exact A4 format and boasts a clean white spine that will stand out nicely on any comic fan's bookshelf.

Also the paper stock is perfect and ideal for black and white art, especially where on occasion there are some (but not many) very solid black images.

Simply flicking through the pages one of my first observations was the quality of the lettering. The word balloons are well placed and mostly circular. They are reminiscent of John Workman's excellent work on titles like Doom Patrol.

Elsewhere the lettering on some of the bare white backgrounds can't help remind this reader recall some classic Swamp Thing pages, and that feels entirely appropriate.

The story here is a strange but freakishly addictive tale of VERY old English folklore.

There is also a dose of sarcasm and wit to enjoy. It all comes with a tasty buffet of  some amusingly dated pop culture references that are used in a clever but twisted way.

There are surprise appearances from polite talking animals and icons from 70's and 80's sitcoms alike.

It would be rude to spoil the storyline except to say there is an element of Chris Nolan's movie Memento to the extent that not every chapter is told entirely in the right order. This is hardly a spoiler because that is apparent from page one onwards, and it is a storytelling tool that makes the ride (perhaps the TRIP) all the more enthralling.

The uneasy feeling of joining a cult and being indoctrinated into it is palpable. It is a feeling that makes the journey that little bit more fun.

Puttock's writing shows a flair for naturalist and poetic dialogue. He creates normal characters with a sideways diction that I would love to meet for a drink but not on a dark night in a forest.

Nevertheless in the best traditions of creating a spooky tale there are some right weirdos to enjoy here. I mean seriously ODD!.

To add to the cauldron there is a nice reference to The Rise and Fall of Reggie Perrin that solidifies a love of a certain era of British culture.

The chain of GROT shops gains a new lease of life in two or three simple pages. It may be a subtle reference, but it is fun for those of us of a certain age that can spot it.

The real star of the book beyond a captivating storyline are Grayham's many sublime pages. Each page draws you in and yet confounds with equal measure.

The storytelling is not perfect but in many ways it feels quite deliberate to throw the occasional curveball to keep the reader on their toes. Grayham's love of the natural world is abundant, the clarity of imagery is fundamental. His love of nature is so obvious.

(Simply put Graham's ability to draw animals and make them alive is incredible!)

To accomplish this in black and white, without any colour, is to be applauded. This takes some skill in forcing the reading to see the colours without there being any on the page! It is truly OUSTANDING.

The ending is a cacophony of panels merging together, like an insane drunk tap dancer that is high on life or something more illegal. All the images haunt the reader as they reach their crescendo. Images repeat themselves like the beat of a deep violent Drum-And-Base tune in a dark sweaty night club. As you read the story you may be able to smell the incense and the wild flowers of the strange village in the story.

The final fifteen pages of the book feel like a piece of classical music or a Hans Zimmer soundtrack. It is a book you cannot put down because it would wreck the rhythm in your head as you read it. You NEED to play music as you read it.

I would suggest reading this book whilst listening to a Doors album, or some Tom Waits, or maybe a few Leonard Cohen tracks. Maybe this is a book that practically demands to be read with music. It is not a book in the traditional sense, it is a journey you take with the art where you slowly enjoy and absorb every carefully placed line on the page in front of you. It is not a comic. It is an experience. It is a trip!

To say any more would be to offer huge spoilers. All in all Alsation Cages is well worth a read. Back in the day I could see it having a Vertigo logo proudly upon the cover. If it was a movie I'd say it is certainly not PG but none of the imagery will cause many any obvious offense. That said they may cause several weird dreams.

As the afterword says, it is certainly not horror. Instead Grayham says "Alsatian Cages is, I think, the itchiest story I've written. I hope anyway, that it feels off to you. That it feels other. That's what I'm trying to scare you with."


Inspired a bit by the Wicker man?: Yes!  Almost certainly. SO WHAT?

Do I think The Beguiled is a good movie ? Is Clint cool?
Yes and yes!

BUY this comic.

Summary question: Should you buy a copy of Alsatian Cages:

Total summary Answer:
Yes, worth every penny.


As a final note it is only fair to say whilst Grayham does not currently have a website, copies can be purchased directly from him at:

But it MUST be known I was not paid for this review or bribed in any way beyond receiving a review copy which I could have said nasty things about. This was an honest review. Buy the comic !! Not because I wasn't bribed, but because it is very good comic ! (not for kids though)

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