IF: A Sci-Fi Anthology

When the Isolate and Swarm crowd decided to take a swing at the good guys over at Alterna Comics, I (along with a few thousand other comic book fans) advanced my purchase schedule to send a financial signal to Peter Simeti that he has a lot of people in his corner.  The titles were already on my list, they just motivated me to send in my money a little sooner than expected.  That means ordering Issues 2 and 3 of Zero Jumper before Issue 4 hits the newsstands.  To round out the order and minimize shipping costs, I threw a copy of IF into the mix, and I’m glad I did.

A digest sized comic clocking in at about 6-inches by 8-inches, and drown entirely in black and white, this anthology features 36 creators and 15 stories with mixed results.  That’s no surprise with an undertaking like this.  Each story clocks in around 12 pages in length, making them a mix of short-short fiction and short vignettes that feel like part of a much larger story.  Some are great, some are not.

Of particular interest to a casual comic fan like myself, some of the stories feature great writing and mediocre art, and some vice-versa. Sitting down to read all of the stories back to back really helped a neophyte like me appreciate how the two aspects of the sequential art format interlock and see what happens when they don’t.

My favorite was Love By Numbers about a helpful household robot who learns to love, but maybe not in the way you think.  The 50’s style art plays well with the storyline and presents a chipper front that clashes with and thereby emphasizes the dark underpinnings of the story.

“Love By Numbers”, Art By Dan Lauer

In contrast, Alex Eckman-Long writes and does the art for Moon, which isn’t much of a story, perhaps by design, but looks fantastic.

No stakes, just pretty art and a punchline

This collection would make a great bathroom reader. Physically, it’s the perfect size for the back of the toilet – just don’t resell it when you’re done, for the love of Kirby – because the short nature of the works. Also, reading the stories back to back can result in some jarring changes of pace and mood. Some of the tales are just plain goofy, such as Chas! Pangurn’s Big Foot, Little Hope, which feature’s sasquatch’s existential crisis, which is immediately followed by the scariest work in the collection, Jon Clark’s Cling, which pits two young boys home alone against a mobile and hungry portal to a dark dimension.

My one real complaint circles back once again to the emphasis on strong girls who don’t need no man.  While not universal, and by no means present in a heavy enough way to make for a deal-breaker, the stories tilt strongly towards the heroic women and those goofy old menfolk at it again.  That’s the zeitgeist, and if you need to up the fantasy element in that way, more power to you, but the strong adherence to Current Year counter-instinctual storytelling represents a flaw in the writing and editing that detracts from the enjoyment it might have otherwise provided.  If you’re the type to favor go-grrl stories, you’ll have one less complaint that I did, at any rate.

Overall the quality reaches a level that makes this a worthy by for comic fans ready to step out of the usual capes.   It’s also a nice sampler that can help a hungry reader find new talent they might not otherwise locate.  It was a little over-priced for what I got in hardcopy, but at six bucks for the Kindle version, it’s worth a shot.

About Jon Mollison

Jon Mollison was weaned at the literary knee of Tolkein, Howard, Moore, and Burroughs. He spent decades wandering in the wilderness of modern genre fiction, wondering when the magic and wonder went out of the world of dragons and space ships. In his darkest hour, he encountered a wise man who handed him the open secrets to crafting works that emulate the stories of the great authors who built the genre. They are easily summarized in but two words: Regress Harder. Now one of the twelve champions of the Pulp Revolution, his self-published works represent a more direct lineage to the tales of action, mystery, romance, virtue, and pure unalloyed adventure than the bland imitations churned out by New York City publishing houses in recent decades.
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