edited by Joe Pruett
AfterShock Comics continues to push boundaries by presenting its very first anthology collection featuring a slew of today’s top writers and artists. Presented in the European Album format (same as the recent Animosity: the Rise hardcover for LCSD), this handsome hardcover features the creative talents of Neil Gaiman, Michael Zulli, Charles Vess, Michael Gaydos, Andy Clarke, Andrew Robinson, Mike Carey, Jim Starlin, Phil Hester, Paul Jenkins, Dalibor Talajic, Bill Willingham, Travis Moore, Brian Azzarello, Francesco Francavilla, Cullen Bunn, Marc Guggenheim, Marguerite Bennett, Frank Tieri, Brian Stelfreeze, Szymon Kudranski and more! Cover art by John Cassaday! (Goodreads)
I’ll be honest, I only decided to read this graphic novel anthology for the Neil Gaiman and Brian Azzarello stories. Funny that their stories weren’t among my favorites after I read through the rest of the stories in this anthology.
I have yet to find an anthology that gets higher than 3 stars from me. Some of these stories were just… bad. However, there were a handful that actually blew me away with the stories and the artwork. Unfortunately, most of these come right after one another, so you have to get through a mass of “meh” reads in between the good ones.
Witch Work by Neil Gaiman — ★★★☆☆
A story about a witch who sells storms and keeps her life in a box.
Eh. I loved the artwork, and the language itself was nice, but the story/poem seemed lacking. I’m also not really a fan of ABAB rhyming schemes.
Blooderflies by Cullen Bunn — ★☆☆☆☆
…What even was this story. A little girl plays with some butterflies (which she calls “blooderflies”) and her mother calls her a queen, and then some half-naked forest lady pops up and says the little girl is taking her place as queen of the blooderflies. Oookaaay. And everything happened super super fast. Not impressed.
Kerguelen by Andy Clarke — ★★☆☆☆
Some dude gets thrown out of a spaceship for… some reason.
Two stars just cause the artwork was really well done. I have absolutely no idea what this story was about. There was a lot spoken, but little was said. Definitely felt like more of a prelude to a much longer story, which doesn’t really work in an anthology.
Invasion by Francesco Francavilla — ★★☆☆☆
Planet-invading aliens fail to invade earth.
This was a super, super short story, and very little happened. It was about these aliens who go around invading planets. They try to invade earth, but they can’t. The end. Really lacking in story there. However, the narration felt like a Star Trek episode (which was fitting considering it’s a sci-fi story) and the artwork was alright, which bumped it up from one star for me. That’s really the only reason it didn’t fail completely.
Mountain Pass by Bill Willingham — ★★★★☆
A traveler comes across the goddess of vengeance and gets offered a lifetime of godly powers and duties.
Interesting story with a nice “you get what you wish for” lesson at the end. The best of the bunch so far.
Beserker by Jim Starlin — ★★★★★
“Once, I was insignificant. Then I metamorphosed into the celestial.”
Yooooo, this one was so good!!! I can’t say much about it or it’ll ruin the effect, but it has some amazing artwork and a perfect ending. Made me go “ohh shit!” aloud. Plus, Starlin is a writer/illustrator for Marvel and DC comics, so there ya go.
Dumb Bitch by Marguerite Bennett — ★★★★☆
An abusive wife adopts a dog who brings her presents that affect the future.
Good, interesting revenge story. Doggy saves the day! But not in the way you would think.
The Last Dance with You by Paul Jenkins — ★★★★★
A daughter receives a long-kept gift from her father on her wedding day.
Wtf, Paul Jenkins?! Wtf?!?! This story was absolutely heart-breaking from beginning to end. It was so, so sweet, but boy that hurt.
Escape from the Lost World by Mike Carey — ★★☆☆☆
A man tells of his childhood in the slums.
I was expecting a lot more to happen. Very much lacking in the story department.
End Game by Marco Croner and Andrew Robinson — ★★☆☆☆
Space rockers are on their way to an intergalactic gig.
Another less-than-impressive story that lacks story. I know how hard it is to write a story in just a few pages that feels fleshed out enough to act as a story in itself, but I also know that it’s totally possible, and it seems like a lot of these authors honestly just aren’t great at it.
Iste Bu Istanbul! by Charles Vess — ★★★☆☆
A man and his mule travel to Istanbul.
Short, cute story with adorable artwork.
Based on a True Story by Brian Azzarello — ★★☆☆☆
A grown nephew finds more than just old junk when sorting through his deceased aunt’s attic.
Eh. This one has an ending that makes you curious, but the rest of the story was just okay. Like a few of the others, it felt more like a prelude than a story in itself. It just… stopped, without telling us anything about the ending. Where’s the story behind the ending, Azzarello???
Little Red Hood by Frank Tieri — ★★★☆☆
A darker retelling of Little Red Riding Hood.
Decent story. Interesting take on the fairy tale classic, with references to other fairy tales sprinkled in there as well. It’s definitely a darker spin on the story, with drugs and crime lords and murder. And, unlike most of the other stories in this anthology, it actually functions well on its own. Finally!
Dead City by Michael Gaydos — ★★★★★
Life is given to death.
A super short but beautiful story, accompanied by some truly magnificent artwork. It was only a few panels long, and I wanted more!
Live or Die by Joe Pruett — ★★★★☆
A man who’s about to die is given another option, but is it worth it in the end?
Not bad. Not bad at all. Dark. Creepy. Disturbing. Just how I like my stories! I wish it went on longer, though. It works well on its own, but I still want more!
Metrocrash by Marc Guggenheim — ★★★★☆
When cities collide… (literally!)
Bahahaha, this comic was so weird. It was neat, though! Simple idea, appealing artwork.
Paroled by Stephan Nilson — ★★★☆☆
Super villain parole officers.
Interesting concept! However, this one also felt more like an intro than an actual story. I liked what I read, but it didn’t have much of a story to it. Seems like it’d make for a good, funny read in a longer format!
Devolution by Aaron Douglas — ★★★★☆
The government tries to control the population using artificial means, but things take a turn for the worse when humankind begins devolving.
This was a good one! A dark and disturbing insight into the future of humankind when the higher ups try to take control and weed out the weak.
Circle of Fear by Richard Starkings — ★★★☆☆
This one was… weird. There wasn’t really any sort of story there. Worthy of 3 stars cause it’s interesting enough and the artwork is good.
Moments by Mike Zagari — ★★★★★
Social media of the future.
A really good, dark tale of what happens when we see the future like we see every other post on social media. And what happens when we become too comfortable with that foresight.
A Job by Marko Stojanovic — ★★★★☆
Comatose patients and virtual reality wake-up calls.
Another short but good story about a couple of guys whose jobs revolve around waking coma patients up using virtual reality simulations. The point is to stimulate the patient’s brain enough to essentially jolt them awake. Pretty interesting concept!
Though about half of the stories in this collection are “meh” or worse, the others certainly make up for it. I can’t give the anthology as a whole a rating higher than 3/5 since I just did not enjoy some of those stories at all, but the 4-star and 5-star reads buried in there are worth checking the anthology out when it’s released!