This is going to be either tricky or really long. I want to be as meaty as I can, but it may be leaner meat, since I want to give every story at least a little bit of love. The nature of this beast will require a different approach.
Not much to go on here--or maybe too much to go on--but I'll say this: if you all set out to make a thrilling series of macabre stories, following in the--slightly clownish--footsteps of Edgar Allen Poe, Roald Dahl, and Ray Bradbury, then you've triumphed. The entire thing resembles a cross between The Twilight Zone and MAD Magazine.
Have a Cookie:
Art: I'm going to say it's decent, because in this particular case, I think I'm going to hold your entire roster to a higher standard than usual. There is an admirable level of polish to every story, so I'll use a different baseline. Every component of the art in the intro is competent--linework, color, composition, blah blah. The problem is stiffness. The first panel in particular, the characters look like mannequins, but even mannequins are usually posed dynamically these days. The Mutant MC looks good, if a little traditional looking.
Writing: A pattern is going to develop where I gush over your writing. Everyone knocks it out of the park, most of the time, and although the intro is largely theatrical overtures, I appreciated the monstrous origin story. What actually ends up happening, however, is that I don't like either MC, and I while I can tolerate them, I would not miss them if they left. Fortunately or unfortunately, they're your mascots now, so ditching them is probably out of the question.
I'm not fond of the Silver Age look, but since this is pantomiming, that's not really a problem. It looks good, albeit very crowded at times. Lots of fighting for space. Marlin's silhouette looks great, Mystic Mistress looks great... no issues beyond minor, unimportant details.The panel where Omega Lad is surrounded is pretty boring considering the situation, and there is probably too little excitement generated by the fight scenes, but the air of dread helps all of that pass smoothly. What I really like is that Omega Lad is unnerving on his own, despite his classic cliche look, particularly as the comic goes on. That helped nail the mood immensely.
I was a bit let down by the specifics of the twist, but, again, I immediately felt ripples of unease from the first page. It might be because I knew the genre going into this. The point is that you established an uneasy tone immediately, and it underscored EVERY panel effectively. I was waiting for something horrible to happen, and happen it did, but I can't help but feel unfulfilled. Exploding into a planet destroying nova is almost too dramatic--and I think Marvin's leap of explanation might be a TAD too convenient. Not quite sure. But otherwise, this was splendid.
Looks great! The Autumnal palette did its job, and that may be why I think this incarnation of the MC was my favorite. The whole comic looks clean, here. I don't feel like it was rushed--and critically, I did not see clutter or busy panels, which would have destroyed a story like this. I personally get impatient doing establishing shots and grumble the whole way, so I appreciate the effective and high quality shots you have here. Did not feel like padding of a shorter short story.
Love the twist. Not much to comment on, here. Solid and fun, clever as hell. I'm shocked I've never seen this angle before. The predator says just enough and no more.
Trippy and surprisingly unnerving. Violent. I admit that I was too much of a brainlet to understand the actual story, but the art helped reinforce the explanation I read. To be honest, however, the painting of the model is leagues below every other render. The hands are so convincing, and the errant paint splatters scream at me, but the portrait looks sloppy, and I don't believe that our man here is a sloppy artist.
Like I said, I did not catch the story first time around. Or the second. i had to read the comments to fully understand. Shame on me, when i figured out what was going on... but that's only half the issue. There is DEFINITELY too few hints that are too subtle. The art is a clever mimic of a bloody murder scene, but the conveyance of key specifics is lacking. The watch checking, the endless coffee, and the haunting half finished stare of the portrait are effective, but they need maybe one or two more obvious panels to lean on.
Park Closes at Sunset:
Very retro, very 80s, which was no doubt the goal. The art here is in keeping with the rest of the anthology in terms of quality. There is nothing remarkable about it beyond its competency. The twist panels don't look as horrifying as I had hoped, but that doesn't take away from the visual story too much. It might even emphasize the sad horror of it all. My one issue is that the night sky is jarringly different from the rest of the art. Without texture, it draws a confused eye.
One of my favorite twists and one hell of an interesting recurring character. You show admirable restraint here--which is reflected in every story. It is neither sappy nor indulgent, which is a real danger in emotional scenes like this. You are content to understate and imply, which really works well for you. With that said, the final exchange leaves me conflicted. Yeah, it's a little funny and it's great for creating interest in the batter, but it undermines a lot of the sweet sadness of the previous conversation. I think I'm disappointed there.
Prophecies and Premonitions:
I'll start by saying that I absolutely LOVE the design of the robot seer. She looks fantastic. This comic gave me strong Neil Gaiman and Sandman vibes, which is a big positive as far as I'm concerned. The woman looks oblong and sloppy, but she's the red herring here. The seer has an odd, out of place chin in Part 11, and I can't find an explanation. This comic might also have my favorite paneling in the entire anthology, with parts 5, 7, and 8 as clear champions. Others are unremarkable, but those pages look downright awe inspiring--and spooky. They OOZE a dreamlike dread.
Strong dialogue, but I completely missed the twists and turns of the narrative itself. The ending is a total mystery to me. I leave it to you to determine if I'm a brainlet or if the story is too murky. Not only do I still not know what the woman was worried about, i don't know what the last page is meant to mean. I also found it a strange about-face when the woman BEGS for help, and, when asked for compensation, IMMEDIATELY turns into a skeptic. Odd. An altogether disappointing story in terms of narrative conveyance, but it makes up for it with one of the strongest atmospheres and a damn good sense of unease.
Long 3 Count
Charming throughout, which complements the wholesome story. It maintains the baseline quality of the rest of the anthology. Despite that, I'm going to suggest that the quality actually degrades over time. It is not comprehensive, but I immediately began to sense some artistic fatigue around Part 10. The proportions become inconsistent, the poses become less dynamic, and the characters actually LOSE energy. The last page has a striking conflict between how excited I expected things to be and how calm and staid they are on the page. This is all in spite of the great character design. The Novajo Kid looks B A D A S S. I love his outfit. The backstage performers had tons of personality for only being in like... four panels. Kent looks fantastic as well, the artist showed effective commitment the moustache's ability to establish the strong facial features--although his teeth look hideously misshapen in Part 6.
This story is delightful, charming, and heartwarming. It's a welcome reprieve from the darker stories surrounding it.... That said, the same delight that gives it strength ultimately makes this entire story arguably pointless. What was the conflict? Was it resolved or just executed? There were no stakes, no risks, nothing. An event came and went. Even the interesting lore--the Novajo, the hints of an alternate American history--are glossed over in favor of a toothless story. it's cute, and nothing more. On a minor note, I don't fully understand the choice of Whooty's blurbs. They interfered, and they belied a lack of confidence in the context. The story was being told clearly without them.
Real highs and lows throughout the story. The level of detail--and the show of effort that is manifest through that detail--make up for a lot of the sloppiness. I can relate. I have detailed slop as well. That said, I am curious if I'm just undisciplined. Readers don't see the process, they see the final product. I think we both might be handicapped in that way. Pages 1-4 are free of this, and they look kickass. The influence of 70s/80s sci-fi and fantasy novels is evident, and it works to fill in all of the gaps that might come from the vague epic of Obmar.
I was shocked to see people having a chuckle at this, because this comic was, to me, one of the darker ones. The brevity of the narrative helps sell it. You touch on the currents of his legacy, and you let them flow away from you. Such a simple thing is rare, and it is very effective. The ghostly vignettes are like ants--tiny, yet pulling extraordinary weight. I'm torn on the last page. I don't know if the speech works or not. I don't know if less would be more, or if nothing would allow the full existential horror fall as hard as it could. I'm at a loss, so I'll leave it be.
Probably the best art in the anthology. What else can I say? It all works. The styles of the previous stories are perfected in this one. I could be biased, because Punisher is the only Marvel/DC/et al series I think is worth reading. Maybe I'm blinded by that, but I genuinely can't think of anything worth mentioning. No issues. All I'll do is gush over how clever it was to turn the thugs into firing range targets. It looks striking, enforces the classic dehumanization trope, and adds a tasteful layer of allegory and reference. I guess that leads me to one complaint. The paper targets give you a way of making this story "family friendly" but the graphic bone break betrays that ability. It's not a problem, just a potentially wasted opportunity. I guess the more pressing idea is that the paper targets had way more potential than was realized.
Unless I'm missing the point again, I don't really understand the point of this story. In the same vein as Long 3 Count, this story not only seems to be the odd one out, but the story itself seems less a story and more a concept for a story, or an intro to a story. There is a conflict this time, but it is straightforward to the point of automated. Compared to the more devious stories all around it, it definitely took me off guard. I felt as unfulfilled as I did after Long 3 Count.
The Soft Bones:
This was another contender for best art in the anthology, but I realized that I was simply gravitating towards the least human characters. The more human they were, the more superficial they seemed. Grey is the biggest offender, but the Vampires stray into that territory as well. Something about their faces seem stenciled. The rest of the art is rock solid. Great backgrounds in particular. The Prologue is an insanely strong start. The first panel of the drooping, warped city skyline is excellent. Tasteful use of background characters, too, as almost all of them look unique and give another small glimpse into the nuance of this bizarre world. The character design in general is superhuman, if I may be frank. Don Vector, Long Arm and Flatfoot, and Suki Gloop are the real standouts. By comparison, some of the others feel boring as hell. The Vampires, Mary Grey, even the Orangutan all pale in comparison. Hard to say though, because a crowded field can be rough on the eyes.
Hands down best dialogue in the anthology--that may be unfair, because this story has a couple things going for it. Unlike other stories, this sucker is noir, which gives a great starting template for what kind of voices should be heard. The hardboiled narration is aces and God damn hilarious. The constant baby allusions are gut busters without sacrificing the mood. The writing in general is clever as hell. Amino Casino? I genuinely laughed out loud, and I laughed again when Long Arm and Flatfoot show up. Clever as hell. Except for one thing: The chaos begins to undermine the entire experience halfway through. I had a general idea what was going on, but I was being overwhelmed with new characters, new perspectives, conspiracies without build up, and a storm of lore I could not expect.
The Needs of the Many
This is a brief comic, so i'll keep this brief as well. With the exception of the funky looking chair, the strip is practically flawless. I have nothing else to say really. Very slick stuff. It's probably the cleanest looking of the anthology. The most professional looking.
What a funny little story! I was surprised. I hope I'm not reading too far into it, but I'm attracted to what seems like a subtle controversial question being raised, here. It's a clever jab. The only thing that could ever hold it back is how absurd it is, but i don't think that's a problem here, especially since it does not overstay its welcome.
No Swimming Allowed
Most of what I said for our boy's previous adventure still stands, but the night sky looks MUCH better, and the ghost girl's true form is delightfully grotesque. I will say, however, that there's something off about her intact body that is off. Seems too thick or too flat. hard to say for certain. All I know is that my eye rebels when I look at her basic look.
Clever stuff here, but it isn't finished yet, so it's hard for my thoughts to fully caramelize. The dialogue is as snappy as ever, and our boy is as charming as ever. The exposition works well here, which is surprising given the usual way this goes--dumps are tedious. Not so, here, well done. I'll reserve my judgement for when it is finished.
That was exhausting, but that's credit to you gys who made it worth it. I can honestly say I'm subscribing to this one. It's up my alley, the genres I'm interested in, and it executes them well. The problems are all hiccups rather than landmines, which is helped all the more by the fact that this is an anthology, and is therefore enjoying the benefits of a segmented existence. No story is held down or uplifted by the others in unfair ways. They each fend for themselves, and they all survive. Now for the crowning compliment to your crew= I can't for the life of my choose a favorite story... but I know it isn't Long 3 Count or Dominoes Falling.
Note to self: No more anthology reviews for now...