Island #2 is a great chance for readers to discover some impressive talent they might not have otherwise heard of while trudging through their overpriced superhero pull list. Let's not beat around the bush: I think comic anthologies are fucking great and I want more of them in the mainstream. There are so many comics (not to mention so many mediocre and straight-up bad comics) that it's hard for one person to effectively curate their own pull list without missing out on something awesome. When I first indentured myself to the Comix Overlords, my pull-list quickly grew to a dozen titles. I can tell you, quite confidently, that for all of the money I spent, I missed out on some great ongoing titles in lieu of things I can't believe I spent hundreds of dollars on over the course of several years.
Anthologies offer a welcome solution to the addiction many of us have to serialized mediocrity. Instead of you going out and selecting a bunch of titles you think you might like, an editorial team curates a selection of stylistically diverse comics, puts a bow on them, and delivers them to your LCS for your consideration. You are paying for the privilege of being exposed to multiple artists from diverse artistic backgrounds, all with a particular kind of story to tell. There is almost no better way to discover your new favorite creator and, if you find out that the curators have a good eye for picking things out for the anthology, then you know to come back to discover something new even when your favorite story leaves the anthology's pages.
Enter Island #2. This issue features three comics: thirty-eight pages of Ludroe, twenty-two pages of Simon Roy, and 38 pages of Emma Rios. Simon Roy's "Habitat" is beginning anew with part one, book-ended by returning (and concluding) serials from Island #1. Since you can pick it up fresh with this issue, I'm going to mostly focus on "Habitat." True to my point about anthologies, I had not previously heard about Simon Roy; now, however, he'll definitely be on my radar.
Roy's pencil work is super dense. From peeking at his other illustrations, he often opts to really flesh out this already-detailed style with equally dense inks. In "Habitat," however, color is what fills out Roy's worlds: the color of skin, the color of trees, the color of concrete, and the color of blood. With any other line work backing it up, I would be inclined to call the colors in this series too uniform throughout, with the palette rarely shifting throughout a twenty-two page story. Of course, it's not as if the colors are unpleasing, overwrought, or confusing and, more importantly, they allow the rich, almost muddy, but incredibly detailed lines on these pages to shine.
Something about Roy's work on the letters is especially welcome. If you have a copy of Island #2 already, go back and look at this story, but imagine a stock comic font in the speech bubbles instead of Roy's all-capitals handwriting. This is not a very intimate story just based on the visuals: this world is big, scary in some really fucked up ways, and full of people. At least in my head, there would be something almost patronizing about this story if you changed the lettering font to a more typical format. Maybe I'm bonkers, I don't know; but, the takeaway here is that down to the custom lettering, this is a carefully crafted comic that has a unique feel.
And "Habitat" is not alone in benefiting from this. All three comics in this issue of Island are drafted by writer/artists. You need to get sort of lucky to find writer/artists with the kind of singular vision for their stories that folks like Roy, Ludroe, and and Rios bring to these pages; however, you need to get extremely lucky to get a singular vision rivaling this kind of quality from a writer and artist team. Island #2 is filling a much-needed niche by being a beacon for talented sequential artists who want to tell their own stories.
The big publishers crank out plenty of assembly line comics with different writers, artists, colorists, letterers, flatters, hype-men, pit crews, pool boys--ok, sorry, but we fucking get it. Comics don't have to be a collaborative medium, and Island #2 is a great reminder of the potential for real cartoonists to tell exciting, original stories on a highly visible platform.