...in IF there are no questions...
The IF Anthology is a new project by Peter Simeti and Alterna Comics, an independent graphic book novel publisher that focuses on black and white comics with unconventional artwork. The anthology compiles the work of 36 different comic book creators who are all told to stick to a single theme. The 2015 edition, which I am reviewing today, has the theme science fiction. Though I had never read an indie comic before (Usually sticking with Marvel/DC), I love the science fiction genre and was curious as to what Simeti was trying to accomplish with this bold project. So, when Peter Simeti offered to send out review copies, I snatched one up to see what the book (and successful Kickstarter campaign) was all about.
As an anthology, IF includes fifteen different short stories that are each about 10 pages in length. The stories are supposedly unified under a single theme, but the incredible amount of variety in the artwork, storytelling, tone, and influences of each story make the set theme seem more like a flexible suggestion. One story may call to mind the bright, superhero tale. Another is a completely creepy horror tale, while the thirteen other short stories pull fantasy elements, monster movies, creation myths, dystopian futures, utopian futures, and sentient robots all into one, 160-page volume. The sheer variety of the comics ensures that no matter where your tastes lie, there is something for you in the IF Anthology. I applaud Peter Simeti for the clear amount of work that went into selecting these stories and making sure that no two comics ever felt alike.
Despite the different flavors to each story, IF also keeps alive many of the science fiction elements that its theme demands. If you're a huge science fiction fan, you'll be sure to recognize the common elements, from time travel to distant planets to wars with sentient robots. However, despite the common science fiction tropes all being present, the comics in IF shine with individuality from each of its creators. Many of the stories in IF have creative twists or refreshing looks at common situations, and me describing them any further risks spoiling the experience. However, if you do pick up a copy, look out for the interesting storytelling devices, my favorite of which gave exposition through a two-page spread of newspaper clippings.
The art style of the fifteen stories in IF is just as distinctive as the story elements, with all of it being of exceptional quality. Although some of the strange art is jarring for those used to ripped superheroes (like myself), the quality of the art is unquestionable. In some ways, the unconventional nature of the artwork adds to the experience, making IF that much more unique.
IF (ha) there is anything weak about the works in the anthology, it would be that the worlds within the short stories can never be expanded. It was disappointing to turn the pages of a fascinating premise only to find that the next story had already begun. And yet, the next story would be just as exciting, and the cycle would repeat fifteen times throughout the course of the book. Part of me wishes that there could have been a longer, overarching story, but that would have surely taken away from the variety and the appeal of an anthology in the first place.
So, for concluding remarks, it is clear that the IF Anthology was a true passion project for Peter Simeti, an avid comic lover, with love and care poured into the book so that it would show the true potential of indie comics. I would highly recommend picking up a copy through Simeti's Kickstarter, and I am personally excited for what surprises next year's IF has in store.
*The early copy of the IF Anthology was graciously provided by Peter Simeti for review purposes*