I review a lot of anthologies, not because they are regularly worth reviewing, but because they are easy to pick up for review. Every week a new batch of books come in to be picked through, and more often than not it's dozens of titles well into their runs without easy points of entry to the story. Anthologies give you quick stories and usually at least a few pieces with nice art to comment on. The only hard part about reviewing the average anthology is the reviews tend to write the same. This one is no different. Forget the nice cover art and the faux artsy title, Tragic Tales is pretty run-of-the-mill indie self-published horror. None of the stories are awful mind you, but I've read them before. Horror is hard, original horror is harder, but with the sheer number of horror anthologies out there it seems people are really convinced they have what it takes to be the Cryptkeeper's understudy. The reason it's a popular genre for underpublished artists in any medium is because horror often has dramatically easy elements: extreme violence, madness, exaggerated emotional states, guilt, gooey red bits. While none of the stories contained here are painful to read, they don't have a drop of dread among them. I don't even feel the need to break the stories down individually as I might usually, not one stood out as something I hadn't read many times before from a library of anthologies before it.
So why review at all? Well, because while the scripts are all forgettable, the art on this book is pretty good all the way through. Self-published good I should add, I'm not hunting any of these artists down after the fact to read more, but there wasn't one stinker in the bunch. "Tupper" by Diego Simone had a nice shadowy toon-influenced style that was vaguely reminiscent of a more grounded restrained Johnen Vasquez. "The Guided Cage" by Gareth Sleightholme had some really nice gore illustration, with a couple entertainingly over-the-top panels of carnage that served as some of the most memorable art in the book. Alisdair Wood's "Grimoire" had a bad habit of not including backgrounds (a real problem in a black and white book where you don't have color to suggest more for you), but had some nice gritty character work and supernatural imagery. The art couldn't distract away from how little the script had to offer, but it was nice to see an anthology so uniformly professional in appearance.
Despite its attempt to give itself an image of being interesting and unusual ('horrore' is apparently obsolete Italian, 'horror' itself is Latin) with a pretty cover and a throwaway dedication to Prince and Bowie, there's really nothing here to earn the image the cover gives you. Blame E.C. Comics for making being a horror comic creator some sort of mark of being a rebel, not letting that square Wertham keep them down. But we have libraries of this stuff now. Enough to fill days worth of reading. Maybe if the people who wrote for anthologies actually read a handful of them they'd see the patterns and try writing something other than slasher stories with 'surprise' gender reversal killers at the end. It's not revolutionary if its not scary. It's not rebellious if it can't even be interesting.
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