(Allan Xia / Cory Mathis / Damon Keen / Sheehan Brothers / Rachel Royale / Michel Mulipola / Ned Wenlock / James Squires / Adrian Kinnaird / Mukpuddy)
I love to sample. Beers, chocolate, ice cream, music, excerpts, trailers, sound bites, and the like. You know, you get to try all sorts of new experiences without having to fully commit. Nothing wrong with trying before you start buying, amirite? Maybe that's why I like anthologies so much, as you encounter new voices, see new visions, be set assail on new seas, without having to invest your full self to the experience. I mean, when was the last time you sat down and read the work of 10 different cartoonists from New Zealand?
I rest my case.
Faction #2 is the second anthology released by Three Bad Monkeys and once again it fulfills its mission to: “show off the diverse range of comic talent that exists in New Zealand and celebrate the extraordinary new direction that comics have been taking in the past years.” Diversity is certainly the name of the game here as the material presented in its 80 or so pages runs the gamut from science-fiction to fantasy, thick painted panels juxtaposed with lightly inked expressions, dead seriousness contrasted with the oddly goofy. As my grandmother used to say, “It's got a little something for everyone,” some stronger than others, but all worth a sample.
Of particular note is “Ectype” by Damon Keen. This is the longest story in the collection and is also one of the more innovative and thematically resonate pieces I've read in awhile. Washed in inky blacks and soft shades of ocher, this story of space exploration pursues questions of the intersection between identity and science in a manner I just haven't encountered before. Typically, stories that follow the adventures of individuals who are “the first to discover” often follow a particular path and carry with them a certain amount of comfortable expectation. While Keen incorporates much of the trope in his story, he also expands the ideas to epic proportions. I kept being surprised by this work, page after page, and I was left with a sense of having met something profound by the end.
Another standout selection in Faction #2 is “A Day At The Races” by The Sheehan Brothers. This shorter piece serves as a teaser of something much grander in the works. In six pages we're introduced to “The Roaring Boys and Friends” who “will take themselves out to The Edge.” I'm reminded of Ron Wimberly's Prince of Cats spun off into an alternative dimensional outback. There's a bike race out to the Big Nothing. Each participant is a particular type of quasi-wonk adventurer sort and I was instantly fascinated with all of these characters. There needs to be more. The sample had me salivating.
Editors Damon Keen and Amie Maxwell are doing an amazing job of curating this anthology. They say that their “main focus is on great art and great storytelling.” They understand that these things are found in all sorts of different genres and styles. So far the Faction anthologies have proven this. Kiwi comic creators have a grand champion in this series, and, if you are like me and enjoy being able to sample some amazing work, pick up a copy now.