Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Anthologies: Hellbound 2

Hellbound Vol II is interesting because it's a focused anthology with a dedicated production staff and a list of contributors that doesn't stray too far from the Boston Comics Roundtable. With regard to the former, the organization of this anthology shows in the high production values and the sense of continuity in terms of design, which is owed to editor Jesse Lonergan and editor/designer Roho. From the stark yellow cover to the sharply-lettered table of contents, Hellbound 2 is a pleasant object to peruse.With regard to the locally-produced concept, it's obviously a good way for a local comics scene to make itself known to a larger audience, though the actual quality of the work is predictably uneven. That said, it's clear that every creator is putting their best foot forward, but many of the stories either fall flat or feel cliched. That's especially true with some of the "funny" entries.

For example, Nathan Kitler and Jerel Dye's "Necrocomicon" features a joke so obvious that the comic could have been wrapped up in a single page without losing its punchline. Logan Faerber's "Grampire" is a groaner of a story with an art style that's one long visual assault; the linework is so thick and textured that it's difficult to tell what's happening in some panel-to-panel transitions. On the other hand, JL Bell and Andy Wong's "" takes a clever idea (a website that compiles facebook and twitter statuses indicating that someone is going out of town so that people can rob them) and gives it a horror twist. The initial idea is interesting enough on its own to follow through on, even as the reader knows that the robbers will not meet a kind end. Caitlin Plovnick's "Eye Contact" is perhaps the most unsettling strip in the whole book, even given the simple and even cute nature of her line. This story involves a nervous, timid woman at a job who struggles to make friends who is befriended by a nice woman, only to reveal her macabre fascination with eyeballs. The scenes at the end, focusing in on the deranged woman's face as it breaks out into a desperate, loving smile, are both funny and creepy.

The other highlights of the book include Joshua D. Hoaglund's "Mt. Auburn Night", which is a fantasy strip about the statues in a famous cemetery coming alive at night, with a sphinx acting as a spoiled pet and a set of bones coming out from under the ground to dance with the statue of a woman. The way Hoaglund spots his blacks is the key to the story's success. Ansis Purins uses zip-a-tone to smart effect in "Slappy", a zombie story whose title character lurches toward sun-up and a st of cutely-drawn forest creatures (complete with a smiling butterfly). Gabriel Robinson employs some heavy grey-scaling in "The Red Calf", a retelling of a local legend about why people pour out part of their drink in a small town. While her actual draftsmanship is only middling, her understanding of atmospherics and how to invoke dread make this story successful. Speaking of atmospherics, the most frightening story in terms of its pure visuals is Patrick Flaherty and EJ Barnes' "The Plague", a scratchboard story about how a group of grackles attacks a dog and the dog's fate when it retaliates. Clayton McCormack's "The Breath of Life" was also interesting in terms of its uses of blacks and painted approach, but it's so overwritten that the text overwhelms the story.  This is a case where less would have been more. All told, this is a typical small press genre anthology, with a balance of weaker and stronger work but with solid production values and craftsmanship throughout.

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