Review: SHOCK Anthology – Joe Pruett (editor)
by Andrew Robinson, Andy Clarke, Bill Willingham, Brian Azzarello, Brian Stelfreeze, Charles Vess, Cullen Bunn, Dalibor Talajić, Francesco Francavilla, Frank Tieri, Jim Starlin, Joe Pruett, Marc Guggenheim, Marguerite Bennett, Michael Gaydos, Michael Zulli, Mike Carey, Neil Gaiman, Paul Jenkins, Phil Hester, Szymon Kudranski, Travis Moore
Publisher: Aftershock Comics
Publication Date: April 24, 2018
Genres: Graphic Novel
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
AfterShock Comics continues to push boundaries by presenting it’s 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!
From the multiple Eisner and Harvey Award nominated editor of the classic Negative Burn anthology series.
Trigger warnings: torture, death, rape.. look, when it says “shock,” it means shock!
I generally like checking out anthologies as I think it’s a great way to find new authors. It takes a certain kind of storyteller to manage a short story, though, considering you need to condense so much plot and characterization into not too many pages. The same thing holds true for comics, as there’s a total of 21 stories in the 166 pages of this book – so only about 8 pages per story. Considering the shortness of each one, I’m doing a short 1-2 sentence review along with a rating and art sample. So without further ado…
“Witch Work” – Neil Gaiman, Michael Zulli & Marshall Dillon – ★★★★★. A lyrical, creepy poem with beautiful sepia-toned art.
“Bloodflies” – Cullen Bunn, Leila Leiz, Toni Fejezula & Marshall Dillon – ★★★. Creepy little fairy tale. I’m not exactly sure what the heck it was trying to say.
“Kerguelen” – Andy Clarke – ★★★★. Not exactly a pleasant story, but it definitely told a story in a few pages and the art was atmospheric and supported the story perfectly.
“Invasion” – Francesco Francavilla – ★★★★★. Loved the retro art and the story with a twist!
“The Mountain Pass” – Bill Willingham, Travis Moore, Hoyt Silva & Marshall Dillon – ★★★★. Beautiful art, and interesting, if predictable, story.
“Berserker” – Jim Starlin, Phil Hester, Kevin Mellon & Crank! – ★★★★. Utterly twisted, but brilliant.
“Dumb Bitch” – Marguerite Bennett, Hoyt Silva & Marshall Dillon – ★★★. I loved the idea, but I didn’t care for the art, and though the dialogue was a bit clunky.
“The Last Dance With You” – Paul Jenkins, Dalibor Talajić, Stipe Kalajazic, Seb Camagajevac & Marshall Dillon – ★★★. Beautiful art, and bittersweet story, but I guessed the twist right away (who the heck puts candles on a wedding cake??). Too emotionally manipulative for my taste.
“Escape From the Lost World” – Mike Carey, Szymon Kudranski & Marshall Dillon – ★★★★. Memoir of a boy growing up in 1960s England, done in grayscale. Moving and thought-provoking.
“End Game” – Marco Kroner, Andrew Robinson & Adam C. Moore – ★★. Interesting idea, but confusing in such a short format. This might’ve been pretty good as a full-length comic.
“Iste Bu Istanbul!” – Charles Vess – ★★★★. This story is most told through the beautiful art. Quirky.
“Based on a True Story” – Brian Azzarello, Toni Fejezula & Marshall Dillon – ★★. It was going good and then it stopped. Relied more on shock value than actual storytelling.
“Little Red Hood” – Frank Tieri, Joe Eisma, Toni Fejezula & Marshall Dillon – ★★★. Like Fable, but a crime family. Fun idea, boring execution, though.
“Dead City” – Michael Gaydos – ★★★. Lovely art, but eye-rolling story.
“Live or Die” – Joe Pruett, Cliff Richards, Guy Major & Marshall Dillon – ★★★★. Creepy war story. Fits perfectly into this short format!
“Metroclash” – Marc Guggenheim, Laci, Aljoša Tomić & Marshall Dillon – ★★. Interesting beginning, but then it just turned into another Kaiju knockoff.
“Paroled” – Stephen Nilson, Wesley Gunn, Hoyt Silva & Charles Pritchett – ★★. Meh art, meh story.
“Devolution” – Aaron Douglas, Szymon Kudranski, Hoyt Silva & Marshall Dillon – ★★★. Interesting dystopian future, but too wordy.
“Circle of Fear!” – Richard Starkings, Sarah DeLaine & Axel Medellin – ★★★. I… just… what? It probably has my favorite panel of the whole book, though (not shown due to spoilers).
“Moments” – Mike Zagari, Will Sliney, Sjan Weijers & Marshall Dillon – ★★. Interesting idea, boring execution.
“A Job” – Marko Stojanović, Ivan Šanović & Marshall Dillon – ★★★. An interesting end to the anthology.
All told, the ratings average out to about 3.5 stars, but I’ll round up to 4 just because I think the idea of a comics anthology is pretty great. Yes, some stories were spectacular, some worked, and some were just plain awful, but that mixed bag is about what you get with any anthology. There’s not really an overarching theme to the anthology, with genres ranging from scifi to fantasy to just plain weird. There’s enough diversity here though that I think pretty much any comic book reader could find something to love!