Welcome to the world of tomorrow! With the specters of long lost EC Comics anthologies now haunting only the reprint section, the people at Dead Canary Press attempt a forbidden act of format resurrection with thirteen tales of science gone mad. These people want to shock your future, but can they succeed?
Written by C.S. Baker, Matt Fitch, Nark Lewis and Paul Clark-Forse
Illustrated by Vincenzo Sansone, Casper Wijngaard, Krent Able, Eli Powell, Jacen Burrows, Mark Stafford, Shaky Kane, John Aggs, Matt Fitch, Vincenzo Sansone, Gibson Quarter, J. Francis Totti, Geoff Senior
Colored by Greg Menzie
Lettered by Zakk Samm
ADVENTURES IN SCIENCE! is a neon-soaked, darkly comic, technicolor graphic anthology daring to tell the fates of imagined futures!
Dead Canary Comics have assembled a crack team of artistic architects to build worlds beyond imagining! These pioneering pencil prodigals have bled blood to bring you nightmare visions of a futuristic prison system, the next stage in warfare, the humdrum life of a single-women, and everything in between!
Each story is a self-contained ‘what if’, a pulpy adventuristic delight of scientific dreaming, a sideways glance at “what could be”. Some stories are funny, some are serious, some are deep… all are guaranteed to entertain
These tales have been lovingly curated and compiled to make a fantastical, mind-blowing graphic novel by the team that brought you The Fitzroy Comic, Reddin, Last Driver and The Frogman Trilogy.
An anthology comic is something I always approach with a mix of appreciation and worry. On one hand I like the idea I can be surprised several times within a single book, that if one story doesn’t work than next one might; however, even few bad stories can drag down a mostly well curated collection. With the age of Kickstarter, the comics anthology format seems to experience a new boom cycle as newer (and sometimes older) talent band together to showcase their stuff. The idea has an obvious appeal on the creative side: multiply creators means the financial risk is spread a bit thinner and it’s a chance for several people to burst out at once.
Kickstarter is exactly where the men of Dead Canary Comics went to finance the first issue of their brand new anthology; which harkens back to the days EC Comics and their “Twilight Zone in seven pages or less” style. It’s an old school format with an old school presentation. This short story format is a very demanding one: you need to establish world and characters and build them up well enough so that by the time the twist ending arrives the reader is already comfortable within the fictional reality, comfortable enough to be shocked by the ending.
The big problem is the reader had already learned to expect the twist and that most of the twists have already tried over dozen times. So when we jump into the first story, ‘Time on Ice,’ in a which a prisoner in futuristic freezing prisoner is starting his final day we know all is not as it seems and that he’s destined for one final twist of the knife. Likewise, the annoying tourist couple of ‘Holiday of a Lifetime’ who use time travel technology to party on the Titanic as thousands are approaching their demise are such big jerks that formula demands they’ll receive their karmic due.
None of these stories is particularly shocking but they do a good job of putting the reader in a certain mood, easing us into all these alien realties. Some of the stories actually cry out to be longer, to allow us the explore the possibilities they suggest: the robot presidential candidate of ‘Campaign 2079′ feels like something that could fill a whole series, building up not just an interesting character in its center but also the world that would allow him to exist. Likewise, the suburban comedy of ’51st Century Blues’ built up a world with some very interesting ideas, parents who bioengineer their children to be better than them as a commentary on the generation gap, but has to leave them behind to rush towards the ending. I really want to read more of these worlds.Continued below
The real surprise here is the art team, a great mix of old and new that makes sure the comics never feels like it’s stuck in one mood for too long. I will say that it’s a shame that with four writers and a dozen artists the diversity of style wasn’t translated into a diversity of voices- somehow not a single woman was included. I don’t think it’s intentional but there is something to be said about how an all-female anthology will be read in one way, as a statement, while an all-male one is just a collection of stories.
Some stories are worth it just for the visuals: Geoff Senior, the prime “Transformers” artist of the 1980s, was someone I haven’t seen in quite a while but he shows he hasn’t lost a step with the nicely choreographed aerial battles of ‘Deadly Skies.’ Avatar Press mainstay Jacan Burrows brings a nice sinister edge to ’14 Arms to Hold You’ which feels like a prelude to something bigger. ‘Campaign 2079’ is illustrated by the great Shaky Kane who brings a nice deadpan delivery to story about faith and humanity, he has some great designs for the future America (such as the over-exaggerated body armor of the cops) and manages to sell you on the facial expressions of a robot with no eyes or mouth; I would certainly vote for him.
The biggest winner here is the ‘Next Customer Please,’ by Matt Fitch, Paul Clark-Forse, and Gibson Quarter. This is closer in spirit to bleak humor of a 2000AD story, in which a transporter malfunction on Mars quickly escalates to an epic proportion disaster. Matt Fitch strikes just the right tone in selling the banality of corporate devastation (“we can’t be missing out on profits, can we, Nigel?”) and how humanity can make even the act of travelling across space mundane: we’ll travel billions of miles just to live out a variation on our old existence.
A word of praise also to letterer Zaak Saam who does the whole thing himself and manages to give all the stories some nice distinct touches: the jugged edges of ‘Vita Extensum which provide a dark and sinister tone, or the comically curved letters of ‘Holiday of a Lifetime.’
Final Verdict: 6.4 – “Dead Canary Presents: Adventures in Science” ends up as mixed bag. But the good parts are quite good and even when it falters it does so in some interesting ways.