Reviews: Meanwhile Issue 2

Published On February 5, 2015 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Reviews

Meanwhile Issue 2

By Able, Cook, Garstkowiak, Hine & Stafford, Millidge, Rabbitt

Soaring Penguin Press

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The first issue of this new anthology was all about Strangehaven for me, a more than overdue and very welcome return to Gary Spencer Millidge’s excellent 90s comic, the thing we used to sell loads of back in my Nostalgia & Comics days, the standard pitch always being “Twin Peaks meets the Prisoner with a soundtrack by The Kinks and fabulous artwork”. But once I got that nostalgic mistiness over and done with, it turned out Soaring Penguin really know how to put a great anthology together, ably assisted of course by the top notch talent, new and old, they’ve assembled inside the covers.

In case you’re in a rush here, the takeaway idea from Meanwhile Issue 2 is thus; second issue, same as the first, an excellent selection of diverse comics, everything in place to deliver a great anthology.

Now, that over with, shall we look inside?

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(Meanwhile Issue #2 – Strangehaven by Gary Spencer Millidge)

Strangehaven by Gary Spencer Millidge

Well, the mystery deepens and deepens and deepens, the first few pages a lesson in astrophysics and an alternative astronomy guide from Adam, self-professed alien immigrée, the rest a conversation over fishing between Jeremy and Meg, from the far-flung reaches of space to a very down to Earth relationship over the most English of recreations, pretty much covers everything about Strangehaven.

The relaxed nature of Millidge’s storytelling and tone suits this sort of exposition really well, a gentle embrace by any number of strange ideas. After the step by step introduction last issue, Millidge drops us in deeper, the hand-holding gone, it’s time to explore, and although you could say there’s not too much going on in here, this is actually a great part of the appeal of the comic, the slow build of the storylines enveloping you, nothing certain, nothing easily or quickly revealed.

You’re here, like many of the residents of this deceptively tranquil corner of England, for the long haul, unable to escape the gravitational pull of this very unusual village.

Enjoy your stay.

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(Meanwhile Issue #2 – 10 Minutes by Yuko Rabbit)

10 Minutes by Yuko Rabbit, translated by Motoko Brimmicombe-Wood

In the first episode of this dark fairy tale of unusual physics, we met Judita, a young girl imprisoned in the ‘gravity tower’, and her new guard, Teodor, a young man very different to those who’ve looked after her before.

The appeal of 10 Minutes is twofold, the delicate line work so attractive, reminding me strongly of Chris Riddell once more, plus the sheer strangeness of the idea, where young Judita struggles with her own personal gravity which, should she ever leave the ‘gravity tower’ for more than 10 minutes, will affect the rest of the world. And so it continues, Teodor and Judita getting to know each other as we get to know them, secrets on both parts, Teodor way more interested in the Judita’s powers and the gravity tower than he should be for a guard, Judita enticed by the outside. It’s an intriguing and fascinating premise, done pretty well.

There’s difficulties here though, the nature of the ‘gravity tower’ still uncertain and perplexing, a little too perplexing at times, mystery taken too far, the idea of the whole world dependant somehow on Judita’s strange personal gravity, the reverse of the norm. Perhaps I’m being thick about this, but at times it simply doesn’t work, the logic failing me. And the depiction of Judita is another issue. From panel to panel, page to page she ages unpredictably, girlish one moment, womanly in another. It’s not a storytelling thing, it’s a lack of consistency in the art. But still, even with those provisos there’s more intrigue than frustration, more pleasure in the art than problem, and certainly plenty to return for.

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(Meanwhile Issue #2 – The Bad Bad Place by David Hine & Mark Stafford)

Bad Bad Place by David Hine and Mark Stafford

No such problems in The Bad Bad Place, Hine and Stafford delivering superbly on the setup in part 1, creating a mystery rooted in the old haunted house idea.

Faraway Hills is simply in the wrong place, a new development overlaying the old, modernity all through. Except one small patch of land, right on the edge of town, where the Castavette house stands once more. It’s a bad, bad place, the haunted house, shunned and ignored by everyone.

Thing is, it hasn’t always been there. It made a sudden reappearance overnight. Weird huh? It’s certainly perplexing the authorities, the town crier proclaiming doom and gloom, the council stumped, even Google Maps failing them, a pixelated no-go zone where the house stands. Responsibility trickles down, with the task of setting the wheels of officialdom in motion falling to poor postie Franklyn Phelps, perfectionist at home and work, obsessive, angry man determined to get the mail delivered… except…

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(Meanwhile Issue #2 – The Bad Bad Place by David Hine & Mark Stafford)

The house defeats even Franklyn, more than defeats him, changes him. Mail undelivered, the obsession turned up to maybe murderous levels, and next he knows he’s stood outside the bad, bad place, a mystery woman beckoning him in… and what a sight awaits him. The house is the key, the house hides so many secrets, so many strange things.

Alternatively it could all be ….

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(Meanwhile Issue #2 – The Bad Bad Place by David Hine & Mark Stafford)

The Bad Bad Place is bloody good. It really is, so cleverly told, brilliantly paced, the old gent’s tale enthralling, drawing you in, as all the best folk tales really should. And that’s just what this is, a good old fashioned very dark kind of fairy story, where mystery women live in strange old houses where no-one likes to go, with monsters and death and murders. Dark, dark, dark, but ever so good. It’s an excellent story, Stafford’s art all dark caricature, Hine delivering something intense and ever so readable, a great writer/artist team.

Tree by Krystian Garstkowiak

A bit of a deceptive thing this, hardly original, hardly surprising, a silent tale, a little parable of a thing, something that harkens back to 20/30 years back, think Euro Future Shock, obvious almost from the start, the surprise not really the thing, instead you end with a clever call back, a loop effect through the art and idea, Moebius Strip forestry. It’s ok. It’s good, okay, good. I’m in two minds. But what I am sold upon is the art, nearly right from the off. Reading it digitally, scrolling down half page by half page, the first panel did little yet the second panel absolutely had me. It’s all in the tree, the razor sharp horizontal lines just excellent.

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(Meanwhile Issue #2 – Tree by Krystian Garstkowiak)

Inc. by Krent Able

If you’ve never seen any Krent Able before, never read his comics, then you may be in for a shock. It certainly marks Meanwhile out as a comic for the grown ups, and then some. Able’s work is always somewhere on the borderline of challenging and daft, which is exactly where Inc. finds itself.

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(Meanwhile Issue #2 – Inc. by Krent Able)

Water cooler moments take on a very different meaning here at this strange corporate HQ, where a mission outside to the woods has an unusual twist, corporate sexual witchcraft, office supplies that bite and dribble and leak bodily fluids.

Yes, very much everything expected from a Krent Able comic, not for the easily offended, not for those wanting something clear and simple and laid out for them.

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(Meanwhile Issue #2 – Loved and Found by Jenny Robins)

Loved and Found by Jenny Robins

Fascinating to see this done, the story crafted from found text, everything clipped from magazines and newspapers, Robins adding them to the page, the story determined by the clippings, surprising author and reader alike. Obviously there’s a level of organisation, connecting panels, captions, speech, but the staccato nature of the delivery in the cut-ups gives you a different reading experience, the idea of the format more important than the actuality of the story. But you’ll still be surprised by how Robins spins a love story with all the ups and downs you could expect and a couple you might not.

It’s more interesting exercise than great comics, but even with that, it’s still a good thing.

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(Meanwhile Issue #2 – Fish ‘n’ Chips by Euan Cook)

Fish ‘n’ Chips by Euan Cook

End the issue with a very good single page strip from Cook, WHERE FROM?????? a little thing, musings over a fish ‘n’ chip supper, in many ways as much as an exercise in craft as Jenny Robins’ cut-up piece, telling a simple mood piece, musing on isolation, on a lack of focus in life, monologue moaning, capped off with a final few panels where the isolation is hammered home by the moaner’s companions complete lack of attention. It’s a nothing strip in many ways, but damn, it’s an entertaining nothing.

So, two issues in and Meanwhile continues to deliver the goods impressively, the diversity of the content and the high quality important in creating a very, very good anthology. Strangehaven and The Bad Bad Place are certainly the standouts, but everything here, continuing or one-off has at least something in it to make a regular return a must.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton
- Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he's written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard's day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children's graphic novel library in the country.

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