Sunday, 20 April 2014

Comic Review - Amazing and Fantastic Tales Issue #2

A review by guest blogger Richard Williams.

Published by: Planet Jimbot
Author: Anthology
Artist: Anthology

More stories of the unusual in the second installment of Amazing and Fantastic Tales. Sadly this issue does not build upon the expectations created by the first edition and I feel my interest has been dimmed considerably by #2.

Once again it starts with Kroom (written by Jim Alexander with artwork by Glenn B Fleming) and I can’t help but wonder why when there were other, better, stories which were begun in #1 which didn’t have an appearance in #2. The dialogue is still poor and the story itself just hops from one ill-conceived moment to the next. Our heroes teleport/dimension jump/I don’t really know what into a realm of clothes. Because they need clothes after escaping from the hospital in issue #1 so of course you go to a dimension of clothes which rather pointlessly tell the wearer about the lives of previous owners. A fact which is not built upon at all. A quick fight with a monster is resolved by having the hero literally cough up a kidney to distract the beast whilst making an escape. Should he be concerned that he just lost an internal organ? No, because apparently he’s got lots of kidneys. Or so he says. It’s just not very good.

The second story is part 2 of The Posse by Jim Alexander. Alexander’s prose work is significantly better than the dialogue on show in Kroom and I find myself enjoying this tale of wild west weirdness. We now have some more famous characters added to the roster and a fair amount of action but I would have liked to have a little more time spent on the overall mystery of the strange town of Totem. Having said that I can appreciate a slow burn if the ending has a decent pay-off and my hope is that Alexander continues as well as he’s begun.

Happy Slappy is the third tale (yet another Jim Alexander piece with artwork by Andrew Docherty), and it is so far the first tale that does not fit with the titles stated mandate of being Amazing & Fantastic. Instead we have the mundane story of an artist who is slapped until he bleeds upon a canvas which then sells for big money at auction. This is a short story (1 page/9 panels) and I’m not sure if it’s meant to be mildly amusing or a commentary on the art world but it falls flat as either. Were I to make a recommendation to the creators of A&F I would say ‘stick to the publication’s title’.

Next up we have the aptly named Flat Champagne, by John McShane, a one off short sci-fi story about a man who wakes up from cryo on a spaceship but is only one of three survivors. Why nobody else has survived is neither explored nor questioned. There is much to not like about this story, from the childish wording (one character is described as a ‘spoilsport’ when insisting that the protagonist will need to learn a useful skill) to the shallow characterisation and frankly unsympathetic central character. McShane would do well to read Save the Cat and learn the important lesson of making your hero a person the audience will like. During disposal of the unfortunate crew, sadly never to wake from cryosleep, our ostensible hero can only think about Star Trek II and how bored he is.

Following Flat Champagne is Point Blank by Jim Alexander and artwork by Scott Sackett. A hit-and-miss affair that tells the tale of a two men born at exactly the same moment and the one finding himself with the uncanny ability to know when the other is in mortal danger. As a basic premise I like it but I felt that the story followed the wrong elements. Instead of exploring this intrinsic link between the two men instead we have a recapping of near-fatal close-calls, which often leave the hero injured or otherwise worse off, and ending with a frankly mystifying conclusion. The artwork is also somewhat up and down, sometimes being decent black and white line work yet at other times making errors, such as drawing people with oddly proportioned limbs. The real shame here is that it could have been a great story but they told the wrong one. Perhaps the authors could salvage it by making it a recurring theme but using different protagonists, like 100 Bullets, and having the many possible versions of this story told.

Lastly we have the second part of The Roustabout by Lynsey May and Fin Cramb. Once again it’s only a page but it’s a good page and this time it ends at, what I would say, is just the right moment. The writing is generally very good and I like the first person perspective. It reads somewhat unrealistically regarding the procedure following a death but by the same token it reminded me of the way Hollywood movies fluff procedure in order to tell a good story. Because of this I find myself forgiving it as I would for a good horror film. My favourite story of the issue without a doubt.

But could I recommend the issue over all? In all honesty the answer is no. There were too many misses this time around and if the stories don’t improve by issue #3 then I certainly won’t be inclined to give issue #4 a chance.

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