Anthologies – WOMANTHOLOGY: SPACE #5 (of 5)

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Oh I’m sorry, did I completely miss WOMANTHOLOGY: SPACE #5 coming out? Could it have anything to do with IDW’s website being so poorly designed? No, can’t be.

So yes, the sequel to the famous kickstarter anthology by the women of comics comes to an end. Will these last few stories finish off the collection on a high note? Or has it ended with a whimper rather than a bang?

Something I may have neglected to mention (or notice, whichever) about WOMANTHOLOGY: SPACE is that there appears to be a theme to each issue. Or at least that’s what I vaguely remember from previous releases, it has been a long time. What I do know is that every story in this issue has something to do with comets.

Some do a better job integrating the theme than others.

First we have “Eccentric Orbit” by Barbara Randall Kesel and Diana Nock, where a young girl adjusts to a growth spurt that leads her to being unwieldy and clumsy. So naturally, children being the cruel monsters that they are, she becomes a huge punchline. The only thing she takes from her increased height attribute is the speed. She can run really fast.

As a tall individual myself, I can attest to the power of a greater stride length.

This is probably the second weakest story in WOMANTHOLOGY: SPACE #5, partly because it’s only tangentially related to space. The thing in the title of the book. But more importantly, it’s very…small and…weak. And kind of obvious when you get right down to it. There’s plenty to be said about growing up (in more ways than one), so I can’t begrudge it for doing so. I think my problem with the story stems from me being far too old for it. This is a children’s story in most ways, and has the same limitations as many such tales.

In particular that the resolution didn’t need to be fought for by the main character. The solution to her problem was handed to her, with a conflict that was so…small. I’m reminded of the stories of my own youth, the things that would be read to be or that I’d read. And I remember how very easy the resolutions came, because for whatever reason we don’t think children can handle difficult problems. I will give this tale the benefit of the doubt and say the page count was very limited, as are they all, and we work with what we have. And I’m obviously not the target audience, so what do I know? Maybe some kid will read this and be really inspired. Who am I to take that away from them by saying the story is weak?

Oh wait, and I’m a critic. That’s exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.

Next is “The Wind In Her Hair”, by Allison Pang and Chrissie Zullo. In a steam punk future, the surface of the world is covered in deadly smog. Those that remain live in cities above the clouds. So basically it’s the Jetsons if they used a lot of brass and Victorian fashion. One woman, the voice of hope for the people in those troubling times, is saddened by how false her messages seem and how much she misses a truly green world. Until her life is saved by a gardener robot, who sees in her the possibility of life for the tree in his charge that wastes away below. So he concocts a plan to perhaps pass his charge to her. But is there something more between the woman and the mechanical man?

I found this one pretty good, owing a lot to the excellent art style. I kind of reminds me of the art that accompanied The Sleeper Awakes, a lesser known novel by H.G. Wells. Which is fitting, given that Sleeper was also a steam punk dystopia. The one failing I can note is that, because of how short it was, the characters (and their relationship) don’t have a lot of time to assert themselves. As such, while it is a romance, I can only take the story’s word for it that the romance happens.

Nevertheless, it uses the time it does have to play with a number of themes. And in the end, I got to see a steam punk robot seduce a woman. I’m satisfied. Although the only thing connecting the story to comets was the fact that the robot was designated Comet X27G. Weak.

“In The Drink” by Laura Morley and Sara Richard follows third, and has much more to do with comets than the previous ones if only because they sort of spur the plot. Sort of. In the seventeenth century, two thieves hatch a plot to make some easy cash. By the light of the comet, they intend to steal a cache of brandy hidden at the bottom of a pond. But by the light of the comet, others can see them too. Comets can be miracles or curses, or so the comic says.

Two things drew me to this story: 1) the rapport between the two thieves, one a diminutive ginger with a scheming little mind, the other bigger and wanting to move on after a stint in jail, is really interesting. You get the feeling these guys have been at the small crime game for a while, and will likely continue long after, and have a blast doing it. And 2) the art is gorgeous. It’s difficult to describe, but suffice to say it looks great and helps the story stand out from the others.

This is probably my personal favorite of the issue.

“I Will Return” by Cecil Castellucci and Kel McDonald takes the them of comets directly and symbolically, whereas the other stories might do one or the other. It personifies the heavenly bodies of the solar system, telling the tale of a comet woman who, tired of the cold of the outer reaches, seeks to find a lover in the arms of the hottest guy around: the sun. But there’s a reason everyone she meets on the way remains in their orbit, a safe distance away. Her dance with the sun begins.

Probably my second favorite, as the story gives personality to otherwise inanimate celestial objects in order to teach of the nature of the solar system. Each in some way reflects their nature, like the gas giants who are the sun’s friends but remain at a respectable distance. Or the inner planets who are the sun’s many lovers, some who came too close for their own good. It’s all very poetic in a way I don’t see very often.

The last is “Broken Glass” by Kiala Kazebee and Isabelle Melancon. In an alternate universe where the country or world is controlled by a vaguely Judeo-Christian theocracy – which apparently has government prophets – a comet is set to fly past the planet. A side-effect of its presence will prevent conception, and its for this reason that many horny teenagers, including the main female lead, are waiting for it so they can have lots of sex while the comet is out. All this in a world where apparently contraception of any kind can incur the death penalty for no adequately explained reason.

And then the comet smashes into the world, ending it. That’s the whole story.

Okay, where to start? How about by saying this is easily the worst story in the issue. It’s got a hardline but vague anti-religious bent to it (as evidenced by a death penalty on contraception), so already it loses points with me personally. But even then, what exactly is this comic trying to say? That it’s wrong for society to stop teenagers from doing it? Because given what happens in the comic, I could easily make a case that the opposite was true. That the religious authority was right, because apparently whatever god they worship got pissed off at teens trying to use his awesome comet as an excuse for sex without risk of pregnancy, and decided to destroy them all out of rage. In which case, the government was well within their rights to do whatever it takes to prevent people from cheating at sex.

Of course it doesn’t make sense! Neither does the comic! And why did the lead girl just decide to be gay at the end? Were you always struggling with homosexuality, and decided to let it go since the world was coming to an end? I don’t see how, given not fifteen seconds ago you were trying to hook up with a random boy and left no evidence of being gay. I can only guess it was another stab against religion, except it doesn’t mean anything. This comic takes two pages to say something, but ends up not saying anything. Things happen, and then the world ends. Big deal!

And of course, it’s the very last story in WOMANTHOLOGY: SPACE. We’re ending on two pages of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Oh, and COMETS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY! Either as contraception or as world-destroying falling bodies. I’m done!

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