Anthologies – WOMANTHOLOGY: SPACE #4

womanthology-space-4

WOMANTHOLOGY continues its exploration of the deepest reaches of space in this penultimate issue. As well as making digital images, but we’ll get to that.

For those who haven’t been around for the last few issues, WOMANTHOLOGY is a project that brings various female comic artists and writers together. After the successful kickstarter for its previous incarnation, Womanthology: Heroic, the followup brought us from the realm of heroes to the stars above. The stories so far have been a mix of good and bad, but regardless it’s a series I wholeheartedly recommend to those wishing to support women’s place in the industry.

But enough jabber. What does WOMANTHOLOGY: SPACE #4 offer?

The first story is “Trinket” by Jody Houser, Sally Thompson, and Kathryn Layno. It’s a story about…well, stories for one. Specifically, an old storytelling mask stuck in a museum, lamenting its fate to anyone who will listen. The only one who will listen, though, is a thief with a need for cash and an employer with an eye for items of power. This is a story of what happens when two unlike personalities meet. Well actually this is what happens when two unlike personalities meet, but you get the idea.

Did I mention the museum is in the Space Smithsonian? Kind of important.

This one was an okay tale. The mask and the thief play off each other like one of those mismatched pairs you always find in sitcoms. Now I’m thinking this could be the beginning of a buddy cop show. “She’s a thief, he’s a sentient mask. They commit crimes”. Trinket uses a fantasy substory as a framing device, but it’s not all that relevant to what’s going on in the main plot. Then again, the comic kind of lampshades this.

Art was pretty good, though. I like it when the word balloons are altered to reflect characters of an inhuman nature. Also, two artists worked on the story, one for the main plot, the other for the substory. I liked the main plot’s art better.

In short, a fun little tale about…tales. Sort of.

The next one isn’t so much fun. “The Smell of Sunshine” by Devin Grayson and Lindsay Walker tells the tale of an unfortunate crewman of a spaceship, and the last survivor of an apparent alien attack. But were they really aliens? Or are the authorities trying to hide something? And if they are, what and why?

Of all the stories in this issue, I think The Smell of Sunshine is my favorite. It’s got the feel of Branbury-era science fiction short story. It’s told almost entirely after the fact, with a coat of future political paint that makes the tragedy all the more horrid. I’ll admit I’ve always been a fan of the more campy space operas, but I’ll never pass up a good serious story.

Artistically it’s nothing to write home about. Solid enough. The alien models don’t seem to have a consistent theme, but given the true nature of the threat, that’s to be expected.

Next we have by far the weakest story of the issue, and top contender for weakest in Womanthology: Space. “Drift” by Christine Ellis and Elva Wang is about a body being picked up from deep space, and the conflict that arises from it.

Or at least that’s the most solid bit of information I can give on the plot. To give you an idea of what I mean, the corpse is that of a star waiting to die. No, I can’t explain it any better, because the comic doesn’t do a very good job at it.

There’s a crew of a ship looking for money, and one of them needs a better neural connection to the ship. There’s a conflict about what to do with the star man (who looks like a human but says it’s a star). People die, and there’s a whole mess of pretentious narration about corpses staying the way they are when they die in space and how bodies fill the void. There are plenty of story elements, and at least a couple interesting ones. But the plot is disjointed, and no one explains things or stops to consider implications. How can a star be a human? And how can a star die in the human sense? Is it really so safe to let a star die inside a ship, and how would one profit from it? Why did the navigator need a new neck wire? And why is it so important to let a star-turned-human die in space instead of being sold, so important that people are willing to kill for it?

But what really gets me is the lettering. Drift uses a weird sans serif font that isn’t properly centered in the text boxes and word balloons. Not to mention there’s no border around said balloons, leaving it to feel like a really amateur production. At least as far as the letter is concerned. And the one credited as letterer is Robbie Robbins, the same guy credited for lettering on the other stories in this issue. None of them have such obvious problems. It seems like a beginner at comics did the lettering, which wouldn’t be so bad if it were someone’s first webcomic. But is it wrong of me to expect a little professional lettering work from a comic I’m paying for?

I don’t like to come off as some kind of ass when I rip on something the creator’s obviously worked hard on. The art (sans the lettering) wasn’t too bad. But for a comic I paid for, I must hold it to a higher standard. Maybe it was a rushed job or something, and it’ll be fixed in the collected edition.

And finally there is Lois Van Baarle’s “How To: Drawing Atmospheric Digital Painting”, which is exactly what it sounds like. In it, the writer gives a step by step guide on how to create a digital painting. It’s mostly technical, so give it a read if you like new media.

Leave comments below. Feedback is always appreciated.

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