Edited by Kyle Baddeley-Read and Rob Jackson.
I reviewed the first two issues back here, and wasn’t exactly enamoured with them, the whole alt-sci-fi short story thing coming off very much as Future Shocks, and you probably know how I don’t really like Future Shocks. And although there’s still that annoying bittiness here, that same sense of the small story not saying much, there’s, for the most part, something sufficiently different in three of the four strips to make this by far the best issue thus far.
But I’ll start with the one that sadly didn’t connect; Nick Soucek’s Terminal, tellingly it’s the most FS-y of the lot, the story telegraphed too early, Soucek’s simplistic art doing little for me. Oh well. Maybe next time.
Far better is Kyle Badderley-Read’s couple of short strips, the first just a single pager, Automatic Happiness playing on the intriguing, ridiculous, homicidal idea of just what would happen if happiness was always on. But better than that is the longer Fresh Horizons, which is manic and all over the place in the very best way; zombie infestations, rioters, madness, deranged masses, a dystopian nightmare in stark angled artwork only ever alleviated with mind altering drugs. So this…
But never for long, and it’s that that makes it work, the madness of reality is punctuated by chemical peace, the contrast with what we expect the key, the realisation that life is a constant switching between two impossible to maintain states lending a tragic air to the madness.
Completely at odds with the sci-fi aspect of the anthology is the David Jackson written, Rob Jackson drawn strip here, an autobiographical illustrated journey to a familiar and well loved destination. There’s a lovely lyricism and gentle drift to the words, as we pass burial cists, stone circles, the landscape so familiar that the felling of a much-loved tree feels as though a loss. It’s a lovely piece, and thanks to Rob Jackson’s artwork, where he goes in close to the natural elements, almost to the point of abstraction, nature given alien aspect almost, it actually sort of, nearly but not quite, fits in with the rest of the anthology.
Finally though, the very best thing in here… William Cardini’s Rock Troll, which is just so good, although I can’t necessarily tell you what exactly I really like about it, it’s just one of those that just is.
The idea’s so simple, so silly as well, the art’s so simple, practically crude, just a black scrawl atop a background of almost letraset-grey marks.
A thing of some shape meets a rock. And the rock turns nasty. And then other stuff. It’s hardly War & Peace but by heck, it’s great. Maybe it’s the visual simplicity of it all, but whatever it was, it’s great.