By Oliver Gerlach
Tales of the Fractured Mind is an anthology comic, which is rare enough. Beyond that, though, it’s a project about mental health, a topic radically underdiscussed in both general life and comics. Even more unusually, this is a large anthology by a single creative team; this is two people discussing a range of mental health issues over the course of 68 pages. I have to admit, my initial excitement at finding a comic discussing a topic I care about greatly was very much tempered on seeing that it was all by the same two people. I generally believe that serious topics, when treated in anthology form like this, benefit from the widest range of voices and perspectives possible. So, could this work?
Well, it certainly works on some levels. Just not all of them. Kalnins’ art is often spectacular, with a really vibrant and striking cover image for each story. His colouring in particular is impressive, bringing a completely different (and always perfectly suited) colour palette to each of the seven stories in this anthology. It’s a bit of a shame that he doesn’t really try to vary his linework very much between stories, although there are some with a beautifully oppressive heavy inking style. The design of the book as a whole is also very strong; the interstitial pages have a striking red and white design with simple, bold title lettering that really makes an impact. For the most part, this is a very nice-looking book.
The lettering rather lets down the rest of the design, however; despite some very nice font choices in some of the caption boxes, most of the dialogue is delivered in a rather out-of-place bold font. It’s just too big and bold, and subtler choices with some variety between stories would have given far more impact to the individual stories. The arrangement of the words is also a problem, with short words frequently escaping to form lines of their own, breaking the flow and making the lettering look rushed and lazy.
McCance’s writing is clearly coming from a very heartfelt, genuine place. The afterword indicates that perhaps this collection came together more by creative chance than from any desperate need to get these stories out there, though, and this only confirms what I’d increasingly suspected over the course of the book. There are several very nicely done individual stories in here that would have fitted very well as part of a larger, more varied anthology, but ultimately this feels like a book that doesn’t have very much to say. Each individual story is good, but this would have benefitted vastly from being opened up to more creators. 68 pages is a perfectly reasonable length, but it could have been a larger book with more voices in it. As it is, it doesn’t have very much impact and feels more like an anthology to raise awareness of McCance and Kalnins than one to raise awareness of mental health.
This feeling is compounded by the “bonus story” at the back of the book, which seems to be entirely unrelated to the rest of the book apart from sharing a creative team. That’s a shame, and it cheapens the rest of the work by its inclusion, despite being a perfectly good story separated from the rest of the book. It’s a great shame that this book has been assembled the way it has, because Kalnins’ art is spectacular and each of these stories has a lot of value on its own. I genuinely wish McCance and Kalnins all the best in their comics careers, because they’re both good at what they do. The problem here is in how they’ve chosen to do this. Every element of this book (aside from the very poor lettering) is good, and I’d be pleased to see any part of it appear in another collection, but it really doesn’t work as an anthology publication on its own.
Tales of the Fractured Mind
Writers: Roddy McCance
Artists: Rolands Kalnins
Publisher: Self-published (via Kickstarter)