An anomaly, says my Chambers dictionary, is an "irregularity; deviation from the rule, or from the strict characteristics of type, etc...". In that case, Anomaly is well named: its six substantial pieces, plus a handful of one-page gags, set out to put a fresh twist on established genres. They don't aim to break or abolish the rules, only to deviate from strict adherence to them. This isn't a revolution, it's just an entertaining anthology comic, a mild anomaly...

One novel aspect is, as Dennis Shumate's editorial implies, the diversity of the material:

We've got it all. Superheroes, detectives, mad computers, ghosts, humor and freaks. I ask you to read them all...
Best Friends... just like Buddy Mr Natural knows the scoreThere may be nothing here that you haven't seen before, but you don't usually see it all in one place. Johnny Lowe's short humour pieces owe huge debts to the established names of alternative comics: Best Friends invites comparison to Peter Bagge's Hate, The Big Score to Robert Crumb's Mr Natural, but, scattered between the longer stories, they leaven the mix agreeably. His EC-style chiller, Upgrade, stylishly drawn by Richard Garcia, also has a humourous feel to it, as does Dennis Shumate and Seaward Tuthill's Hero is a Four Letter Word.

Familiar figuresIn fact, Hero is a Four Letter Word pulls off the neat trick of combining three genres in eight pages, using comedy to hide the join between film noir private eye and Anomaly's second major theme: superheroes. The anthology is anomalous in displaying some of the variety of which comics are capable, but not that anomalous: costumed vigilantes still dominate, appearing in three of the six full-length stories - not to mention an unmistakable homage to the X-Men in Raymond E. Brown and Felipe Chow's The Sincerest Form of Flattery, a riff on the themes of accepting deviant talents, and not jumping to conclusions.

Ellen Topkis and Fabian Chow hand in a conventional origin story: how wealthy Ms. V. Sheridan (first name unknown) first refuses, then agrees, to join "top-secret" security firm" Copernica, and is given her team pseudonym: Shaula, "the stinger of Scorpio". Her initial assignment, attending a charity gala where she helps unmask fraud involving poker chips doctored with a mind-altering drug, has a period feel to it - the high-gloss production and silly science are pure seventies. The writing could benefit from editing: a little mystery just whets the curiosity, and questions like "what is this power our heroine has?" and "what is the relationship between her and Lorelei?" serve this purpose. Others, like

accumulate, creating a sense of unclarity. And, talking of things which accumulate and create a sense of unclarity, someone on the Anomaly team should give some serious thought to the number and placing of speech balloons: Sting of the Scorpion is not the only story in which more than one reading was required to sort out who said what, and in what order!

Shaula talks herself into a job

Dan Hoagland's The Hitch is a more offbeat treatment of the same theme: every fan's dream comes true for a young man with an old car, when he gives a lift to a hitchhiker who turns out to be his childhood hero, Hipshot - who takes the opportunity to hand on the torch (in the form of a stereotypically phallic gun). Both of these stories are complete in themselves, but are set up with the potential for development as a continuing series - although I doubt that The Hitch's quirky charm could survive this process.

Only the last piece in the book, A Christmas Story, written by Caleb Gerard, pencilled by Filip Sablik (who also provided the distinctly classy artwork for the cover) and inked by Katie Commodore, comes clean about being only the first installment of a continuing story. This pays off, allowing the writer space to set out his premise gradually, so that the reader is sucked in, takes time to realise what is going on (this time I'm not complaining about having to read the first page twice: the pleasure of dawning understanding was worth it!) and wants to know more.

...wouldn't be seen dead in L.A.?
The artwork looks as if it is based on photographic references, and, as with Strangehaven, this realism adds to the uncanny atmosphere of a story which combines the everyday with the extraordinary.

A Christmas Story stands out as the work of creators who have already developed a creative voice; despite the professional experience of the other contributors, Anomaly as a whole has the feel of a student portfolio, an opportunity to show potential employers what the team are capable of.

Anomaly is available from:

Brass Ring Productions
1152 W. 24th St., #1
San Pedro, California 90731
Issue 3 (Summer 2001) is now on sale! For further information, write to Brass Ring Comix.

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