Another anthology book up for review today, and coincidentally it’s another issue #4. The anthology this time is krazybov.com, an interesting project from the enigmatic Bov. I really like the ethos of this anthology, which is making comics just for the love of it, making them free and accessible to as many people as possible. As well as being able to have the comic mailed out to you at the official site (all you pay for is post and packaging), issues are later made available to read online free of charge, and print copies are handed out free of charge from various sources around central London. The goal is to get more people reading comics, and to give more creators a platform to have their work published. And I’d say that makes this an admirable operation.
Now, with this issue in particular, as tends to be the case in anthologies, certain stories are stronger than others. Our opening short, Grey Days by Nik Neocleous, starts things off with a bang, turning out to be probably the best story of the whole issue. Nik clearly has a solid grasp on how to tell a self-contained short anthology story. We’re limited to a single scene, with concise plotting building up to a single punchline at the end. Nik doesn’t stretch himself too far, recognising the constraints of the format and giving us a story that focuses on a single plot point and carries it through to its completion. By narrowing the focus in this way, Nik has the room to breathe characterisation into the characters of his story – a conversation between an alien and a human on a spaceship together at some point in the distant future – and make them feel fully-realised in this brief moment rather than cyphers getting hurled from one plot point to another. Wonderfully constructed.
While Grey Days is very wordy, and draws most of its effect from its wordplay, the second story – Bego, by Indonesian cartoonist Ononwae Batara – doesn’t have any dialogue, with the story told only in images. It’s a cute little two-pager, if a bit insubstantial. But it still works nicely, and the starkly different format and art style demonstrates the diversity of content being offered by the krazybov anthologies.
However, the third story – Zero Man, by Joe Simmons – doesn’t fit as well. It’s not that it isn’t an interesting story. It’s well-written, with some convincing dialogue, and the art looks suitably stylish and kinetic. The problem is that it just doesn’t feel like an anthology piece at all. For a start, it’s 16 pages long, considerably larger than the 2-page tales which came before it. 16 pages is over half a full-length comic book. And with all this space, we still don’t get a complete story. This feels like the opening sequence of a larger story, like with another 6 pages setting up a larger conflict this could be the first issue of a miniseries. And to be honest, I might be tempted to give such a series a go, as the concept of a vigilante using television as a weapon is pretty cool. But it just doesn’t gel well in this context.
Rooftop Battle – by writer Adam Wilson and artist Beatus Vir – also proved to be problematic. I don’t really know what point the story was trying to make, and the art, while good enough during the opening battle sequence, made the unclear ending even more confusing. I’ve read it several times now, and I still don’t know what is supposed to have happened on those closing pages.
Pictures Don’t Lie – by writer Knut Knutsen (I hope this is his real name and not an alias!) and artist Dave Windett – thankfully sees things start to improve again, with Windett’s cheery, cartoonish art concealing a surprisingly dark little comedy tale about the fury of a woman scorned.
Soda Ninja, by Elvis Brillotto, is like Bego: a lightweight little silent strip built around a single gag. I think having these little breezy reads peppered between the more substantial entries is a welcome change of pace, helping with the overall structure of the anthology of a whole. So kudos to Bov himself on that front for some canny editing.
Our final story is The Suicider, by writer Rafael Wambier dos Santos and artist Kewber Arruda. I was a bit torn on this. For the most part it’s very good. The plot is probably the most compelling of the entire anthology – a dark, harrowing tale about a woman being cruelly exploited and the consequences this incurs – and the moody, atmospheric art is a welcome compliment to the grim narrative. But after some great setup, with the end I was – much like with Rooftop Battle – left a bit unclear over what exactly was supposed to have happened. Perhaps this is a note that Bov could take onboard for future editions of the comic – making sure that everything is clear and easy to understand for all readers, even the ones as dense as me!
Overall, I found this to be an enjoyable anthology. But I think what sets the overall package apart is the enthusiasm Bov brings to the project, his afterword at the end emphasizing how much of a labor of love this endeavour is for him. His goal is one we should share: making comics accessible and available for readers and creators alike. I’d definitely recommend supporting him, whether that be through submitting some short stories to the anthology or checking the comic out for yourself. You can find out more at www.krazybov.com.