Publisher: Planet Jimbot Writer: Jim Alexander Artist(s): Jon Haward, Glenn Fleming & Paulina Vassileva Editor: Elinor Winter Release Date: 5th May, 2015
Perhaps more than any other chapter in Planet Jimbot’s Amazing & Fantastic Tales anthology series, this final issue relies heavily on the reader having experienced the previous four. While there has been a distinctly ‘pick up and read’ vibe to some of the preceding chapters, four of the five stories here are continuations of existing storylines, making it all but essential that the reader has dipped into the first four issues – which, to be honest, is no bad thing, given how bloody great they are.
It’s also worth mentioning that this issue also feels a little less varied than some of the previous offerings, with ‘KROOM!’ and ‘The Last Posse’ each pulling double-duty in order to tie up their respective stories. A minor criticism perhaps, but a decision that makes this finale feel a lot less like an all-you-can-eat buffet and lot more like a set menu.
Anyway, to the stories themselves – this issue opens and closes with part five and six of ‘KROOM!’, a sci-fi series I’ve been somewhat critical of in my previous reviews due to the brevity of each chunk of the story. More than any other strip in the anthology, KROOM! has noticeably suffered from the lack of page count afforded to each chapter, but now – with the entirety of the story finally made available – my previous assessment that it would read a hell of a lot better as one continuous, flowing story turned out to be pretty much spot-on.
Alexander’s measured eloquence is on full display here as he subtly teases at the developing relationship between Kroom and Ellie, with Glenn Fleming’s subtle, pastel-shaded artwork preventing things from ever becoming too bleak along the way. Alexander also manages to wrap things up here with a poignant, surprisingly emotional conclusion, giving a satisfying sense of closure to such a fast-paced – and ultimately brief – story. It’s still not flawless, but it’s definitely a story that benefits from being able to read it all at once.
The middle section of this issue is given to ‘Facts of Life’, a self-contained story with some truly gorgeous artwork from Jon Haward that introduces us to a young man whose mother decided to use their pet goldfish to help explain the facts of life to him. Okay, so as I’m writing that line I’m starting to realise what an odd premise this truly is, but please bear with me because this story works on a number of different levels, dealing with the crippling self-doubt of first love and the often complicated bond between parent and child. An impressive example of Alexander’s ability to tell an entire story over just a few pages, this is an uplifting, sweet and – as I said before – gorgeous looking diversion from the ongoing stories which bookend the issue.
Finally, providing the prose section of Planet Jimbot’s unconventional-yet-weirdly-enjoyable anthology approach, Alexander treats us to parts five and six of ‘The Last Posse’ as his Western/Horror mash-up reaches its frenetic – and, once again, surprisingly emotional – conclusion. While prose stories in a quote-unquote ‘comics anthology’ may initially feel a little jarring, the quality of the writing throughout the course of this series has been consistently high, and Alexander’s clear affection for the source material infuses this particular story with a little something extra. As our Western icon ‘all-star team’ reaches the end of their journey, Alexander slows things down just a little to focus on each of the characters – and throws in some emotional heft for good measure alongside his already-established gift for natural sounding dialogue and fluid, expressive violence.
Throughout the course of this anthology, Alexander has frequently handed the reigns over to other writers, giving them a wonderful outlet for their creativity. From John McShane’s ‘Flat Champagne’ and ‘Paradise Lost’ in issues two and three to Luke Cooper’s ‘Don’t Read This’ in issue four, Amazing & Fantastic Tales has served as a beautifully varied showcase for some of the most exciting home-grown talents on the scene today. Here however, it’s very much Alexander taking control of his baby as he sticks the landing with confidence – and do you know what? It works.
Covering a diverse selection of genres, themes, styles and formats over its five issue run, Amazing & Fantastic Tales most definitely lives up to its title with an unconventional blend of one-shots, ongoing stories, sequential art and prose writing that’s like nothing else on the shelves right now. Highly recommended, and a perfect microcosm of exactly what the Planet Jimbot team has to offer.
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