Reviewing an anthology comic is quite a task. You can’t review the book as whole, but by each of its unique and separate pieces of story. I was lucky enough to be given a physical copy of Faction 2, an anthology comic by New Zealand indie comic writer/artist creators. It was published by 3BADMONKEYS under Damon Keen, who also has a story in this anthology book. You can tell Keen has a love for comics in a way very few people do just by looking at the diverse and eclectic stories chosen in this anthology and also by the quality of the stories. So without further ado, I will delve into each of Faction’s comic stories and review them as pieces instead of a whole.
The first story is entirely visual in its portrayal. The artist for this story is Allan Xia and there is no dialogue within. The title of the story is Awakening. The art is astounding and it paints a bleak and grimly dark atmosphere of a world that has suffered some sort of cataclysm. The opening page shows a monolithic tree that has overgrown and entrenched itself in the ruins of decrepit abandoned skyscrapers. The imagery is vividly stark and yet gorgeous to look at. Sometimes the panels depicted are too dark and with no narration or words, it can leave you feeling lost in the dark, which isn’t such a bad thing, so it’s the only small hindrance this first story suffers from in my opinion. Also with the last page it seems to make a large jump in terms of time, which may leave you somewhat confused because the characters shown and depicted don’t seem to look like the ones shown previously, although one was heavily shrouded and wearing a mask and the other was bald. Overall a very cool story told through images alone which is rare these days and if this happened to be a full series it would pique my interest in seeing more. Awakening is probably my second favorite story in the anthology.
The next story up is called Saurian Era by Cory Mathis. This segment of the anthology is about something near and dear to my 12 year old self: dinosaurs! Who am I kidding, dinosaurs still rule! So this short tale tells of a girl who rides a ferocious Raptor and hunts other dinosaurs for sport. This grizzled woman and her battled hardened raptor are a fierce duo, and they rampage across the land chasing down this trio of other raptors that are attacking a brontosaurus. The chase ends in a “horse went over the cliff” moment and this hybrid raptor ends up growing wings and saving the duo from certain death at the last moment. This story has an inner child feeling to it, in that every kid at some point has dreamt up scenarios like this in their voracious imaginative minds and its very quaint in what it portrays, a child like adventure with high stakes. The art isn’t exactly my style, but it does very well with what the story is about and serves its purpose. 12 year old me is stoked right now after reading this.
The third story in the anthology is by the publisher himself, Damon Keen, and it is entitled Ectype. It is the longest story in the anthology by far at 23 pages and for good reason: it’s really awesome. The concept seems very loosely inspired by the movie Moon with Sam Rockwell. Now, it may seem biased since he sent me this anthology, but I truly and genuinely enjoyed the hell out of this story, visually and narratively. A stranded astronaut begins a journey - the last journey she will ever make - because she is dying and only has a matter of hours left to live due to an error in cellular reconstruction. I’d rather not give too much away about this aspect of the story because it’s much more than meets the eye. You can really feel the dire circumstances plaguing this dying astronaut as she sets out on her perilous journey. The weary astronaut is followed around by a space drone that relays any information possible to her at various intervals of the story, the drone is sort of an exposition character, but one that works great for this narrative. As her failing body begins to expire and she gets further into her quest, new mysteries and discoveries show up, revealing a larger and very inventive new mystery that culminates in an awesome reveal of what the astronaut was searching for the whole time. It was sad and wonderful at the same time. The way Keen illustrated and colored this whole story also gives a great sense of visuals to it all. There’s a duotone color palate of yellow-ish browns that foreshadows the final panel. I truly loved this tale, and if there was one in this entire anthology that was my favorite, it was this one. Truly exceptional work by Keen.
The next tale is called “A Day at the Races” by the Sheehan brothers. This story feels like a 20’s silent film mix of The Warriors and Death Race 2000… except with bikes. This story starts of a lot like the classic 70’s cult film The Warriors. There is a radio host narrating a motley crew of characters that are about to embark on this vicious and cut throat bike race. It seems slightly futuristic in its nature, but yet it isn’t, if that description makes any sense. The story goes through each of the characters and the individual aspects of what they are doing in the race. There was a lot of set up leading to the eventual continuation of this story by showing the racers taking off from the starting line, presumably in the next edition of Faction. It’s a cool little story, and the art was interesting enough to make it pleasant to look at, but overall I just don’t know what the point of this story was or where it’s going. After I read it I just kind of felt underwhelmed about it and uninterested, but that’s just my opinion and maybe it just didn’t resonate with me as it should have.
This is all for part one, I had to split this up into 2 parts because there are a lot of stories and I wanted to give each one their due.