Comic shop shelves don’t see many anthology comics these days. IDW is one of the few publishers brave enough to offer them. An anthology featuring an all-woman creative team is braver still. Marvel has done it recently to great acclaim, but in the case of the Womanthology series all proceeds go to the Global Giving Foundation, a noble cause for a noble project.
The trouble with any anthology, though, is inconsistency. That’s not to be confused with variety, the anthology format’s greatest strength. Some of the content will be breathtaking and, often, some will be merely okay. Let’s take these one at a time:
The first story, “Ча́йка” (which makes me glad this is a written review and does not require me to be able to pronounce Russian), is written by Blair Butler with art by Alicia Fernandez and letters by Rachel Deering. Yes, even the letters here are women. “Ча́йка” is a biography of the first woman in space, Russian Valentina Tereshkova, and though it’s a straight-forward telling it’s nonetheless moving. Playing up Tereshkova’s lack of agency in the middle of such a historic accomplishment makes for a powerful metaphor.
“The Agency” by Joelle Sellner and Jean Kang, with letters again by Rachel Deering, is not as strong. An enjoyable but pedestrian story of office politics and alien invasion with equally pedestrian art, “The Agency” follows executive assistant Chloe as she discovers her co-workers are being used in alien experiments that turn them into green, unironically tentacle-armed beasts. It’s inoffensive but not especially memorable.
Though I know men can be crazy cat ladies too, I couldn’t help but think of Ellise Heiskell and Maarta Laiho’s “All Cats Are Quantum” as a consummate example of a smart feminine story. More an explanation of a concept than a proper narrative, “All Cats Are Quantum” suggests that a civilization can only achieve interstellar travel if they have some form of cat. All felines, no matter their planet of origin, “share a common resonance regardless of distance” that makes travel between worlds possible. Laiho’s depictions of alien cats being, well, cats is worth the price of admission all by itself.
Filling out the end of the book is Devin Grayson’s tutorial “How to Script Comics!” and a set of pin-ups including one by Cartoon Network animation artist Brianne Drouhard. As someone who dreams of getting involved with the writing side of comics, I found Grayson’s script formatting template both helpful and inspiring. The comics industry is a massive, intimidating beast, and it’s nice to be reminded that all it takes is the right formatting to do from dreaming of comics to writing them. Getting them published? Well, there’s always the next anthology.