I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, but I knew that it had creators involved that I knew and liked, along with some I don’t have any real knowledge of- which is a perfect combination, a great blend of “old and new” that should be enough to pique anyone’s interest. I wasn’t exactly sold on the book though, because an $8 price point for one anthology issue is pretty steep (though, really- the cost is barely double of a 20-something page DC book, so I shouldn’t complain…). But the look and feel of the book really pushed me over the edge- so I bought it. I was swayed by the oversized magazine format (the square-bound spine is a nice touch on something this big, I am sure it would have been easier to cut corners and just staple the whole thing together) and the art looked solid as a flipped through it, so I grabbed it up and brought it home with me.
I thought that Brandon Graham was going to be a bigger part of this first issues creative teams, but only having one (okay, really two- but the last story is like two pages total, so it isn’t that much) story means there is more room for other stories in the first book. I liked the look of the first story from Emma Rios a lot- the redscale coloring (that’s a word I just made up for colors that are similar to greyscale, but are actually in a different color like “red”. You can use it for any color really- try it out. Unless someone already made it a thing- in which case, don’t use it- and don’t tell them; I don’t want to get sued). I thought the idea was solid- it basically feels like a rather informal support group for people who are contemplating switching bodies. But their meeting gets interrupted by some sort of “civil unrest”, when a riot breaks out in the streets surrounding them- which was a quite unexpected turn of events for this story. I thought that the book had an interesting approach to an opening chapter of a story- giving a bit of backstory for all the characters (but not too much) and forgoing any real setting information in favor of letting the characters get to know one another, and the reader get to know the characters. I would have liked to see more of this story, even though I know it is part one of a multi-part story for this book, but I think that it would have a solid place if it is collected and printed as a complete graphic novel once the story has been told.
The second feature, which was the biggest surprise for me (or shock? Would “shock” be the right word???) was that Kelly Sue Deconnick was contributing to the issue, but that she wasn’t writing a story, she had penned an essay, or more specifically a memoir. This came out of left-field for me, I didn’t think that this would have been a place for comics, and they could be interspersed with op-ed pieces- but I am glad they are doing it in Island. I thought that her memoir of Maggie Estep, her longtime friend and mentor, titled “Rail Birds” was really emotional and touching and just beautifully done. I think that Kelly Sue was a really good fit for this book, and that she really sets a very high bar for the written portion (if there is to consistently BE a written portion) of this book going forward.
The third section of this book was the one that really lost it for me, personally. I have not read a single Multiple Warheads story, so I am completely in the dark as to what the story is about or what or who the characters really are. So, when this story just seemingly jumps into the middle of whatever their lives have been, it really threw me for a loop. I was able to enjoy the book, but I don’t think that anything about it really stuck with me- beyond it being weird and oftentimes having inscrutable dialogue. I thought the artwork was solid, and I am almost certain that I would like Multiple Warheads if I went back and actually read the series from the beginning. I know that I like Brandon Graham’s writing style- I know that I like his work on Prophet, so I am hoping that I will grow to like his other work as well- though I definitely don’t think I will like any of it if I am just unceremoniously thrown into the middle of it.
The final story was what really made this book for me. The story was written and drawn by a creator who I am fully unaware of, named Ludroe. Ludroe has a style that feels like it jumped straight out of the 1980’s, and could fit right in alongside some classic Malibu Comics “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” comics. His story, Dagger Proof Mummy has lots of different elements to it, and even feels like it could easily continue on into a monthly book as well- I liked the way that the mummy character looked, with only one visible eye, and a skater-dude dress code. I liked how there was really no suspension of disbelief needed to accept the idea of the strange mutant cat people in the story, or that they were just some “young toughs” like some street gang, except this was all cat people. The Dagger Proof Mummy story was also the longest story in the anthology by a few pages, but it felt like it took up the entire last half of the book. Maybe that pacing problem is due in part to the Rail Birds story breaking up two similarly lengthened pieces, instead of coming before the longest, and final, story. Whatever the reason, it feels as though the first story and the essay were very slow and deliberate, but then, once I got done with Multiple Warheads, the book just flew by.
This was an interesting book, and I enjoyed seeing new and different stories, and also getting exposure to new creators as well. I wish there had been more, shorter chapters- so that the pacing didn’t feel so lopsided in the book. But I did enjoy what I read (at least the segments that didn’t seemingly need a bit of preparation in order to understand the story) and I think that this book, in spite of it’s hefty price tag, can easily find an audience of new readers looking for a different kind of story, or readers who want to experience new things from creators that they are familiar with.
This book is not necessarily for the entry-level reader, but it does have appeal for someone who may just be starting out in comics, because for eight dollars you can get yourself three stories by different creators and a very meaningful and heartfelt essay by one of the most prominent women in comics today. This will probably be a book that I don’t pick up again (I wont be adding it to my already overworked pull-list) but that I could definitely make space for if there is an issue that features another impressive essay, or if it has a mostly self-contained story that just jumps out at me like Dagger-Proof Mummy did.
This book is definitely worth checking out, because it has a lot of different things to offer, and because it is always great to support indie creators.