By Svetlana Fedotov
Comic anthologies are hard to pull off. There’s always someone that doesn’t pick up the slack in one of the stories, whether it’s the crap art or dull dialogue, and that one anchor can weigh down the entire ship. Luckily for The Island, while perhaps a mixed bag of story quality, it is at least beautifully drawn, fantastically dialogued, and pretentious in the best way possible. If you ever wanted to feel fancy reading a comic, this is the way to do it. Mostly sci-fi with a touch of bizarre, The Island brings together three creative people and lets them loose in a Heavy Metal style madness to poetically explore the world around us.
Made up of three comic works and one short story, The Island opens up with the Emma Rios’ short work, ID. In the not-so-distant future, a riot breaks out in the street outside of a café where three people sit and discuss changing their bodies with experimental technology. Just as they wrap up, both the rioters and the police break into the café, forcing them into the streets and into the reality of a future obsessed with war and beauty. The second story, Ghost Town by The Island founder Brandon Graham, is a nonsensical exploration of a guy with a gifted werewolf penis living in a strange fantasy world filled floating whales, talking creatures, and pun based humor interweaving with mind-bending buildings and future technology. Does anything happen in it? Not really, but it looks cool. The last story, Dagger Proof Mummy by Ludroe, is set in a place where anamorphic cat creatures run the streets and one girl is on the hunt for her friend who disappeared while skateboarding. (Oh, and the short story is a small work dedicated to poet Maggie Estep).
The Island is a weird read. This is definitely one of those anthologies that was created to push the boundaries of the imagination of the contributors, but it seems to do that at the cost of alienating the reader. But, like a lot of collected works, it needs to be judged on individual work as well as a whole so that’s what I shall do. My favorite so far is definitely ID. I love the easy flow of dialogue and the story, while fantastical, is easy to understand in context to the real world. The art is absolutely gorgeous as well. Well placed panel spacing creates a unique visual experience and the aesthetic harkens to an adult manga vibe that moves well along the pages.
Ghost Town, on the other hand, while a huge pictorial undertaking, does not do much for the story. It seems like Graham spends most of his time trying to get a dream world onto the page than a story that goes with it. I guess it’s like a poem; you have to read between the lines. While the claustrophobic beauty of the art is a thing to behold, I just wish there was something else going on.
Dagger Proof Mummy is alright. It harkens back to the early 90ss indie art with thick inking and blocky letters – you know, like clip-art from an early writing program. The story is fairly straightforward with an interesting twist at the end and is definitely the easiest one to get into. The characters are a bit flat and kind of go to the wayside of the story, but they work for what needs to get said.
So, all in all, The Island is alright. It’s big, it’s colorful, and it’s visually enthralling, but dig a bit deeper and it’s hard not to get stuck on the lack of direction. That being said, it just screams potential and I’m interested in seeing where it goes from here.