Apparently, Brandon Graham and I have similar ideas about how comics should be marketed these days. It’s time for us to start raising serious questions about how the means of production are affecting the possibilities of comics. Do comic stories have to fit into twenty-two pages anymore? Would consumers be willing to pay a little bit more to not have to look at garish adds? Can something like serialized styled compilations work in America like they do in Japan? Personally I would love to see a shake up in the way comics are produced and Island is a strong step in a new direction.
Island consists of three “meaty” pieces by various artists/writers and some short works stuffed in between, including a prose piece by Kelly Sue Deconnick. At first that one struck me as the odd man out, being prose. However, once I read it, I realized that story was of a high enough quality to belong most anywhere. Seriously, that short alone is worth the eight dollar price of admission, but lets humor the other artists quickly review each story.
The first story, “I.D” is a kind of sci fi thing by Emma Rios. It’s a short beginning to a new story and follows a group of three people conversing about an experimental procedure for which they have all volunteered. This procedure will allow them to switch into new bodies. It’s a little unclear if they are switching into each other’s bodies and, if so, in which direction. The plot doesn’t really get to kick off in this first issue, but we do get a nice set-up for some interesting characters. Overall, the art is decent but some of the action scenes are a little muddled. In general, I felt like coloring the story in solely black and white (or red and white as the case is) makes the artwork a little hard to digest. However, this is a one-person work, so I understand if coloring might have taken too long by themselves. The story has nice characterization but a little clearer indication of where the plot is headed would be nice.
From there we move to one of the nicest surprises for long time fans of Brandon, which is a return to Multiple Warheads, his long time project from way back when he was writing for the “adult” comic industry. I have to drop all pretense of objectivity and just say that I’ve got an artist crush on Brandon which goes back pretty far. I think that his work is amongst the best in the industry (the Eisners agreed, btw) and I will follow most of what he does. His work is like looking into the doodles in the margins of some teenagers notebook and finding they had grown into its own little world, with real characters and entire lives occurring in the margins between math notes. He’s one of the few writers out there who isn’t afraid to be a comic artist and not just a movie writer knock-off. He tells stories visually, using a mixture of text and pictures which is supposed to show interaction between the two. Like an acid dropping, manga enthusiast, modern version of Dr Seuss, he creates worlds where just about anything feels possible and packs each panel with treats for your second or third perusal. I will say that newcomers who haven’t checked out Multiple Warheads before will find themselves a little lost as the story doesn’t get very far into action of any kind but long time fans are in for a treat.
Last and surprisingly my favorite is Ludroes “Danger Proof Mummy”. I find myself quite infatuated with this little comic. In fact the reason that I like it is that, for me, it represents exactly what an issue number one should be. With apologies to the other two great artists in this compilation I can’t help but use them as examples to show why this is a perfect number one. The first story is great but it doesn’t go anywhere. We get an introduction to some characters and setting and then it just sort of ends. This is becoming more and more common in comics and I for one don’t approve. An issue one should be like the first episode of a tv show, not like thumbing through a random sampling of the first couple pages of a novel. On the otherside we have Multiple Warheads, which while great, and technically doesn’t advertise itself as a number one, still counts in my book as one of many Number 1’s in this business designed to get new readers which isn’t accessible to new readers because it is a continuation of a previous story. Meanwhile Danger Proof Mummy has skateboarding mummies and a beginning middle and end which are crisp as a newly printed bill. The artwork is clean and succinct and tells me everything I need to know about the characters without being unnecessarily obfuscation. Plus SKATEBOARDING MUMMIES!!!
It’s hard to see where the stories in Island connect thematically but that may be because the first two stories haven’t really developed their themes yet.All of the stories are written and drawn by the same person but other than that I don’t know if they necessarily belong together. However, overall, I’m happy this kind of comics is coming to America. Anthologies aren’t very common and certainly none this size and caliber. For roughly two and a half times the price of a standard comic you get over a hundred pages of interesting art. And for once it seems like we are getting a real comic book, with a bound back and no adds. Yet it still doesn’t feel like a graphic novel as well. Whatever it is, it’s something that could sit in your bookshelf and make you damn happy you picked it up.