By: Various (see below)

The Story: A Vertigo anthology with a sci-fi bent.

[Note: The regular “what’s good”/”what’s not so good” format doesn’t work so well for an anthology like this.  Don’t worry, it’ll return…]

Case 21: (Selwyn Hinds, writer & Denys Cowan, art) A very clever story dealing with a dystopian future police state where a tattoo artist is forced to make some pretty harsh decisions.  It’s well written and has some nice dynamic artwork, including a topless lady getting into a fight with the jackbooted cops.  Cool twist at the end too.  I’d definitely be in favor of seeing more of this story.

The White Room:  (Talia Hershewe, writer & Juan Bobillo, art)  I didn’t love this story as much.  It is set in the future and deals with a couple of punk-kids’ experience with a type of virtual reality/drug called The White Room.  Misadventures in virtual realities or hallucinogenic trips just aren’t my bag, so my lack of enjoyment is 100% due to the subject matter.  Bobillo’s painted and pinkish-tinged art is very visually appealing.

Partners: (Peter Milligan, writer & Sylvain Savoia, art)  This story didn’t really scratch my itch either although I think there is a clever premise within it.  The problem is that the cool twist is revealed a little too soon in the story and that robs it of some of its juice.  For some reason, the artwork reminds me of Charles Burns, but I’m not sure why.  Perhaps it’s because the subject matter is kids with identity crises sitting around a campfire?

All the Pretty Ponies: (Lauren Beukes, writer & Inaki Miranda, art)  This was one of the stars of the issue for me.  What starts out as a Surrogates-type story where rich people are paying money to inhabit and take virtual/remote control of a bunch of poor folks has a very wicked twist.  Great art by Miranda too.  This is another I’d like to see more of.

Ultra the Multi-Alien: (Jeff Lemire, writer and art)  Is it any surprise that Jeff Lemire would give us a heart-wrenching and plaintive tale?  The art is typical Lemire, emotive and stylized, and will be immediately familiar to any fan of Sweet Tooth or Essex County.  The subject matter hits the same types of notes as those other works too.  I don’t want to spoil the twist, but the story deals with an astronaut who is far from home in more ways than one.  More please!

Refuse: (Ross Campbell, writer and art) This story wins the award for the grossest, holy crap moment of the issue.  I really liked Ross’ willingness to show such a nasty looking story and anyone who is willing to draw that has got some real potential.  But, I didn’t really understand the purpose of the story and why this mother is living in such a filthy apartment that her child has been taken away by social services.

Post-Modern Prometheus: (Kevin Colden, writer & art) This story had a very X-Files vibe and is about an escaped sentient lab experiment and his struggle to find happiness as he tries to stay a step ahead of the nasty forces who created him.  I really liked Colden’s art on this because it caused you to really feel badly for this little monster.

A “True Tale” from Saucer Country: (Paul Cornell, writer & Goran Sudzuka, art) Another miss for me.  One problem for this story might be its placement in the issue.  This is a slower story dealing with a man recounting his experiences being kidnapped by aliens, but it’s a little too weird and meta to be on page 61 of a comic book.  Readers are a little weary at this point.  Not sure I need to see more of this story even though it is well written and drawn.

Spaceman: (Brian Azzarello, writer & Eduardo Risso, art) From the 100 Bullets team comes this enticing new tale.  If you read and enjoyed 100 Bullets this story won’t be much of a surprise.  Despite the sci-fi setting, you get classic Risso art (you can tell it’s Risso from page #1) and very chatty and jargonal dialog from Azzarello.  The story is set on a near (?) future Earth where the climate has been destroyed and seems to follow a character who was genetically engineered by NASA to be able to thrive in the lower gravity of Mars.  I’d LOVE to see more of this, but there is a rumor going around that Risso is going to work for Marvel, so who knows what’ll happen.

Cover: I usually don’t comment on covers because they have so little to do with the story, but why in the hell DC would commission a beautiful cover by Paul Pope of a beautiful lady floating out of a space suit and then plaster an ugly ass Green Lantern movie banner across the top is beyond me.  As if Ryan Reynolds didn’t look stupid enough in that mask, he now looks even worse being on the same page as Paul Pope art.  I’ve rarely been so annoyed as seeing a beautiful cover screwed up!

Conclusion: While it didn’t have a “holy crap” awesome story, there really aren’t any turds in this anthology and a few stories are quite promising.  There’s also the bonus that the whole comic is sci-fi themed and that isn’t something we get enough of in comics today.  Hopefully Vertigo will sell enough of these to keep this series going for a LONG time because we need more anthologies on the shelves.

Grade: B

-Dean Stell

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