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[Review] “Island” #1 Starts A Flawless Anthology

Emma Rios (Pretty Deadly) and Brandon Graham(Multiple Warheads, Prophet) have embarked on a new adventure with this monthly anthology that is an absolutely must-have this week. The Island is a project that brings together creators who love creating for the sake and need to create. Anthologies haven’t had the best of luck lately, over-sized books tend to scare people away, but this one will draw in any reader who loves the weird and random. It’s an ambitious move to bring back collections of non-traditional stories, but it’s so beautifully and carefully put together that it truly captures the actual freedom of creator-owned work over at Image Comics. No two stories are alike in this book, there is no concrete theme, and each issue is a new collaboration with authors and artists around the world including both the well-loved and welcomed upcoming creators to make on one of the strangest compilations on the shelves today. Each issue will appear monthly and contains about seventy to a hundred pages of pure comic and prose content with no ads to detract from the experience.

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CONTRIBUTORS: Emma Rios, Brandon Graham, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Ludroe

PUBLISHER: Image Comics

PRICE: $7.99

RELEASE DATE: July 15, 2015

We begin with deep water color oceans, or whatever else you might see in the wide brush strokes from Marian Churchland and we flip the page to reveal a half submerged Brandon Graham surrounded by his floating creatures. It’s a completely original work right off the bat.

The first full piece is written and illustrated by Emma Rios titled “ID” which is about a chance for people to physically change bodies via a new technological body transplantation program. Each character involved in the process has their own reasons, revealed or not. This showcases genuinely new personalities and perspectives about personal identity, both physically and mentally. Rios explores the complex concept of identity in self-perception versus perceived  presentation. There’s no shyness in writing about transhumanism, gender, sex, or criminality with her characters and I can’t wait to find out their reasons for participating in what seems like some vague and dangerous government experimentation. Rios’ art evokes the nervousness and tension of the situation as everything is purely contrasting dark shades and light tints of red on a stark white background. She captures those specific ticks and habits of her characters effortlessly providing so much character depth in a well-paced and interesting new space. This story continues in the second issue due next month and these fascinating mysteries will, perhaps, be solved.

Next, Kelly Sue DeConnick contributed “Railbirds,” a four page memoir to her friend that is truthful and heart warming as it is heartbreaking. The piece is deeply personal and readers are invited in to a true story revolving around writing, living, and dying that I almost guarantee will make most readers cry. It’s best to read it in her own words, to experience it, and it’s complimented by a few small and powerful watercolor pieces from Rios.

Immediately after the tears from DeConnick’s prose is Brandon Graham’s continuation of his series Multiple Warheads. After a few years on hiatus, Graham’s strangeness still shines through, featuring Sexica and Nikoli, her werewolf partner, in a new adventure into their surroundings. Even if you haven’t read the previous series, you’re not lost, only on a new adventure into a strange, strange world where everything isn’t what it seems. All words look like kanji and Russian mixed together, but legibly English. It’s a trip that you don’t want to miss and as creatively odd as his work on Adventure Time. Graham also pens and draws a short at the end that invites us into his writing process, which I hope is an ongoing thing because it’s absolutely enthralling when creators write about their artistic process.

Last is a comic about skateboarding and monsters by the upcoming artist Ludroe. His story revolves around a girl who wants to learn to shred from the best of the best, but he’s missing. Well, unbeknownst to the world, he’s fighting giant cat gangs and keeping the world safe. It’s like reading a cult Image comic from the 90s, surprisingly refreshing and entertaining. Ludroe will also be in the second issue and he provides a great, fun sense of style that will only grow cooler with time.

The Island a new incarnation of the classic Heavy Metal magazine without being a photocopy. It’s an experiment because they can, and should, use their medium to do what they want. There aren’t constraints on over-all plot and it’s freeing to read those side-projects presented without constraints. The creators have joked about it being pretentious, but it’s not just by definition. They know what they’re doing and they’re doing it because they love it. It’s a grab-bag of the best stories that month without boundaries that is absolutely worth more than the eight bucks you’ll spend. Look forward to many others joining the crew including Amy Clare, Farel Dalrymple, Gael Bertrand, Onta, and many more in the future. One of the best and simple aspects of this oversized book is actual paper stock that just feels good to the touch, despite not fitting into any bag and boards.

The core team is made up of creators on Image’s sci-fi world of 8:House, a mini-series of mini-series that are also must-reads and comics to really look into if you’re looking for an engaging and surprising series.

 

5/5

 

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