Popgun Volume One
After the success of the Flight anthology, Image Comics took a deep step into the collected short stories format with Afterworks, Afterworks 2, Four Letter Worlds, 24Seven volume 1, and 24Seven volume 2. And this past week, they’ve added another anthology to their expanding library in the form of Popgun Volume One. A self-described “graphic mixtape", Popgun showcases quite a number of talent folks, including Erik Larsen, Rick Remender, Mike Allred, Mike Bullock, Jonathan Hickman, Joe Keatinge, Jim Mahfood, Michael Linsner, Khary Randolph, Jamie Rich, and James Stokoe among others. Highlights include…
Chuck BB and Nick Stakal each contribute two pages to “Blood Inside”; a short story that draws parallels between a Viking’s dying breath and the smoker’s last puff.
Mark Andrew and Paul Maybury turn in a 7-page preview to their upcoming Aqualung OGN. Titled “Aqualung: Ambush”, Maybury’s cartoony brush work and pastel palette is great to look at but the story is a tad too confusing. I got the sense that this is just a primer for something much more epic. Regardless, the pretty pictures make this one standout.
“Manhunt in the Obsidian Hills of Mars: A Futari Tale” by Nick Derrington follows a wanted astronaut who is willing to go down fighting to keep his precious treasure safe from a group of pursuing law enforcers. Economic but effective dialogue and great artwork make for a great installment by Derrington.
The 6-page wordless “Tag” by Dave Crosland chronicles a Darwinian game of tag from prehistoric times to the far flung future. Crosland goes for a punchy, pastel tone that keeps his short lighthearted and playful.
Tony Cypress’ “Island of 100 Corpses” features Colonel Kursk: “a cursed man born through science bred to destroy.” Kursk is on a mission to find a lady when an egg-shaped robot with multiple legs and a human head (with an over-sized brain, of course) gets in the way. Luckily, Kursk has a really big knife. Fun stuff.
Brian Churilla and Jeremy Shepard present a 10-page teaser for their upcoming Engineer mini-series from ASP. Titled “Egg-Centric”, the short story features the Engineer as he attempts to cheat nature by creating a giant chicken. It goes without saying that things don’t go as planned. The story has just the right amount of goofy and Churilla’s Mignola-inspired artwork is dead on.
The Amazing Joy Buzzards make an appearance in a 4-page story titled “The Fearless Vampire Hunters, or…Excuse Me, But You’re Stake is in My Heart.” If you have yet to read The Amazing Joy Buzzards, this is a nice intro to this touring band of misfit mystery solvers created by Mark Andrew Smith and artist Dan Hipp.
“La Llorona” by Marcus White and Ed Tadem is a beautifully illustrated, haunting tale of a ghost crying out for her lost son. Unfortunately, an innocent passerby runs into the maternal spirit and is drawn towards her supernatural weeping.
Finally, writer/artist Moritat produced a gorgeous 10-page jazz tragedy of a talented trumpet player whose skills with the horn are worn away by the grim face of corporate greed and his own Chet baker-like demons. Amazing artwork, perfect coloring, and subdued dialogue make this short story a perfect example of how graphic story-telling can succeed on a number of levels.
Overall, Popgun is a pretty impressive achievement. Lots of talent contained in a single spine. Sure, there’s bound to be a few hits and misses, but there’s enough genre blending to keep it entertaining and diverse. Personally, I would’ve settled for a 300-page hardcover rather than a 450-page softcover, considering that Image already has volume two in the works. At 300-pages each, they could easily get three to four quality volumes together in no time. But, again, that’s just my preference and it doesn’t diminish the sweetness of Popgun Volume One.
If you want to preview a few of the stories online and find out more about this anthology, make sure to visit the Popgun website. Popgun Volume One is available now at your local comic shop and Amazon.