Writer: Gary Moloney Art: Hendry Prasetya, Mary Anne Mackey, Clare Foley, Katie Fleming,
Andrew Taylor, Daniel Romero Publisher: Limit Break Comics
Because this is a 28-page anthology of short stories, and not the trade paperback length I typically review, this review will look a little different from my weekly Friday reviews of volumes.
WHAT IS IT?
In here, you'll find 6 very different stories, all within only 28 pages total (or 23 pages of actual stories).
The stories don't seem to be connected by genre, tone, color, theme or artist, but each is written by Gary Moloney and all but one are lettered by the brilliant Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou. Also, most people who contributed to this comic are from Ireland.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Like other anthologies I've covered before on this site, each small tale has to do a lot of work in only a few pages. It's like flash fiction within the comic book medium. Because of that, each story has a lot to accomplish in a relatively short amount of time and space.
While some of these stories were better at hitting that goal than others, this is a great vehicle for the contributing creatives. Though Moloney doesn't get to showcase his ability for depth of story here, we get a good feel for his versatility as a writer, whether the tone calls for humor, drama, or stepping back and letting the art carry the story awhile. It also seems like a way for him to discuss a wide array of issues, from wars and arms races to the dangers women face daily, racial issues and even the concept of good and evil.
The wide spectrum of art and color inside was enjoyable and varied, from traditionally and brightly cartoonish to watercolor with a simplified color palette. However, Otsmane-Elhaou's letters were truly standout and deserving of applause. The anthology reads like a portfolio piece, showing how his lettering changes based on the story, the art, and the overall tone of the book. I also know that I don't often talk about covers here, but want to make sure to credit the art to Gareth Luby and its color to Paul Carroll.
Now, the stories! I don't want to go into each too much out of fear of spoiling them, but it's hard, since each is so brief. Thus, I'll just give you quick hits on each one.
Weapons of Mech Destruction: The cost of war seems to be a big theme here, and the title goes along with most of the subject of this story: mech-based battles mirroring the "mechs" we know from so much '90s media (and, to a lesser extent, later media). I think this was just a ruse to make the final panel hit harder, since the moral and meaning of the story seems not to relate to mechs so much as what some would be willing to do to win a battle, or a war. That's how I interpreted it anyway. I really love Prasetya's realistic art here, and O'Halloran's faded colors that look almost like they came from colored pencils. Check 'em out in the image below.
Lex Iniusta: This one's a satire of the courtroom drama, showing how a supervillain came to be. It's based on a legal maxim that means, "An unjust law is no law at all." Basically, it's a humorous exploration of the actions and origins of villains, the arms race between those villains and their hero antagonists, and the lawyers who protect those villains. The art is more cartoony here, and Wright's colors are styled to look a bit flatter. Gravelle's letters were solid, and I appreciated switching to hand-drawn letters when Komodo bellows at one point. The stinger here seems like a fun nod to classic DC & Marvel comics.
The Last Stop: A brief vignette brings the drama back with beautiful watercolor by Clare Foley. It's a great metaphor for PTSD, comparing the concept of "home" to a normal life without the horrors of war to haunt you.
Fist of the Orc Star: A play on the classic "Fist of the North Star" manga, it acts as some much-needed comic relief. Basically, a human thinks he has what it takes to train at an Orc gym. He thinks his moxie can beat the superior strength of orcs, apparently. This might work in your typical fantasy where an average white male can beat anything he sets his mind to, but not here. Outside of pugilism, it doesn't seem to have much to do with the manga, but to be honest, I really don't know much about the manga. Like Lex Iniusta, the art and color are a little more cartoony and flat here -- the colors make sense, since Wright returns on colors.
The Interview: Whether it's played as food for thought or a metaphor for the fall from grace, this story takes place around a laid-back talk over tea with the Devil, himself. Taylor & Tracey's line work are clean, but not overwhelmingly minimalistic. It's fascinating to contrast how basic the environments are vs. how detailed the devil is, with his hipster accessories and tattoos.
Wishing You Were Here: The final 3 pages show a woman walking in a new city. It's narrated through a letter to her parents, telling them not to worry about her in the big, scary city. The placating words are juxtaposed with her having to defend herself from a man with a knife, which is an interesting narrative device. Romero & Griffin's art and colors here are really fantastic, especially with a limited palette. I'd love to see them illustrate an entire noir comic, sometime.
Because it's an anthology, you get several stories in a single issue
The balance of dramatic stories with lighter fare is nice and well thought-out
Anthologies like these are great buffets of stories and tones and talent -- it's great to be able to take in many different kinds
It has color, and sometimes, very good color -- something you don't always see in indie comics
This should be the first stop for any editor looking for talented creative minds
Once again, Otsmane-Elhaou's lettering was straight-up solid throughout
A lot of the art is very, very good for an indie comics anthology
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
The endings and story meanings aren't always clear, but this can lead to so good discussions with others who have read this!
Similarly, a lot of the stories felt like they needed to be taken one step further to make clear the intent of the moral or ending
Stories like these that only have a few pages to tell an entire tale can be a little simplistic, since they can't rely on volume of exposition and character growth
If you're picky about how comic book art should look, the stories inside may not all appeal to you
WHY SHOULD YOU READ IT?
Anthologies like these are treasure troves of talent and flash fiction content. There's a lot of great talent in this collection, and it's great to see so much of it across varied stories. Plus, if you're an editor putting a creative team together, you absolutely should not miss this one.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
If you like the art:
God Complex, Vol. 1 by Paul Jenkins, Bryan Lie & Hendry Prasetya
Frozen Waste by Aaron Fever & Clare Foley
Potential by James E. Green III & Andrew Taylor
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Gary Moloney – Writer
Wrote every story in the anthology and edited the entire issue
Regularly contributes to PanelxPanel, the digital magazine about comics that Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou edits
Outlander: Based out of Dublin
Hendry Prasetya – Artist
Did the art for the 1st story, "Weapons of Mech Destruction"
Outlander: Is from Indonesia
Enjoys playing Dota 2 in his free time
Mary Anne Mackey – Artist
Was the artist on the 2nd story, "Lex Iniusta"
Outlander: From Hong Kong
Loves puns and stories with strong female characters
Multitalented: Outside of comics, she also enjoys painting, modeling for video games, and drawing storyboards set to catchy musical tunes
Clare Foley – Artist
The 3rd story, "The Last Stop," owes its beautiful and haunting watercolor art to her
Outlander: Lives in Dublin
Multitalented: Sometimes hand-letters her work
Katie Fleming – Artist
Did the art for the 4th story, "Fist of the Orc Star"
Seems to do mostly inking, but also comfortable doing pencils
Andrew Taylor – Penciller
Did the line art for the 5th story, "The Interview"
Multitalented: Also does work as an inker, colorist and letterer
Lauren Tracey – Inker
Inked Andrew Taylor's pencils in the 5th story, "The Interview"
Outlander: Lives in Ireland
For her original art, she seems to enjoy illustrating women's faces
Daniel Romero – Artist
Thank him for the final story's ("Wishing You Were Here") great art
Outlander: Hails from Chile
Chris O'Halloran – Colorist
Did the colors for the 1st story, "Weapons of Mech Destruction"
Also did colors for Image Comics' "Generation Gone" and "Ice Cream Man," which are spectacular
Outlander: Works in Cork, Ireland
Ellie Wright – Colorist
Colored the 2nd story, "Lex Iniusta" and the 4th story, "Fist of the Orc Star"
Attended a coloring workshop at RED CUBE Studio run by one of the industry's top colorists, Jordie Bellaire
Outlander: Also lives in Ireland
Joseph Griffin – Colorist
Colored the 5th story, "The Interview," and the last one, "Wishing You Were Here"
Outlander: Works in Cork, Ireland
Moniker: Also goes by "Joe"
Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou – Letterer
Lettered all but the 2nd story
Multitalented: edits PanelxPanel, the digital magazine about comics, and also writes comics & films
Outlander: Lives in the south west of England
Julie Gravelle – Letterer
Lettered the 2nd story, "Lex Iniusta"
Not a whole lot of info on her readily available on the ol' Internet
Gareth Luby – Cover Artist
Outlander: From Ireland
Dream Team: Often works with colorist, Paul Carroll
Paul Carroll – Cover Colorist
Multitalented: Also credited as a writer and artist of comics
Outlander: Like many attached to this book, he is from Ireland
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