Review: Grafix Chronicles #5

This is the second Will Lill comic I've read this week; a company I'd never heard of till now. From what I can gather from these books, the indie publisher specializes in throwbacks, both in writing and in art, putting aside modern developments in the language of comic storytelling for books with the pacing and feel of something twenty or thirty years old. While the other title 'Mercury' was too slight of an experience to even put down a review for, the fifth issue of their anthology series 'Grafix Chronicles' is...better? It's not impressive to be sure, throwbacks are fine, but without some sort of development or filter apologizing that the medium has in fact evolved for better or worse (Morrison's wonderful 'Thunderworld' one-shot comes to mind) the books tend to feel like secondhand artifacts by people resentful that the medium has matured. 'Grafix Chronicles' has none of this cleverness or self-awareness, but in this rare case it's not that bad, having some decent art and two mildly engaging stories. Faint praise? Absolutely, but consider us lucky it wasn't worse: the book's editor in chief is listed as Allen Smithee.

Faint possibility that is his real name. Apologies in that case.

13172_130481BThe first story is a horror tale about a writer of monster novels, who claims he feels his visions of terrible creatures are almost like seeing another world. It's simple to the point of being kind of dumb, but in a way that really works, seeing as it is the better of the two stories. It chugs along at a steady old-fashioned clip, wasting little time or panel space. The art is straightforward and features good classical composition. Even the lettering is solid in a way I feel should be pointed out. It actually does a good job of feeling as if it is from another time storytelling wise, no surprises for a modern reader, but a pleasant reminder of how these stories can still be entertaining.

The second story almost felt like it could end the book on a stronger note, but in the end, simplicity was its downfall. A police officer who predicted a massive crime wave built an armored superhero suit to combat it, but died before his prediction could come true. Now his adult son, grieving his father's loss, takes up the suit to honor him and distract from mourning. It's actually a pretty compelling set up for a superhero story and the dark stylized art lends a vague apocalyptic tone, definitely more contemporary than Will Lill seems to lean. The story feels like it's building to something, but the final page lands a deafeningly flat note, leaving me, surprisingly, disappointed. One can maybe give the story credit for engaging me enough to let me down in the end, but as previously mentioned: faint praise.

Books like this are less marketable works and more creative outlets, something to sell at local cons and tell stories that the writers and artists like but have limited mainstream appeal. I'll admit it, it's not always fun to read, especially when the books dip well beneath professional quality, but at least with this issue I had a pretty good time. The book has stronger art than some larger scale anthologies, which I definitely appreciated and was grateful for. What else can you say? Credit where credit is due.

Score: 2/5

Grafix Chronicles #5 Writers: Ron Fortier, Mark F. David Artists: Gary Kato, Randy Valiente Publisher: Will Lill Comics Price: $3.99 Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital Website