Womanthology: Space #1
Written by Bonnie Burton, Sandy King Carpenter, Alison Ross, Ming Doyle
Story by Alison Ross and Stephanie Hans
Art by Jessica Hickman, Tanja Wooten, Stephanie Hans, Ming Doyle
Letters by Rachel Deering
Colors by Jordie Bellaire
Strips by Stacie Ponder
Release Date: September 19, 2012
Cover Price: $3.99
Well, this is what happens when a comic Kickstarter project makes a hundred grand. Back in August of last year artist Renae De Liz (IDW’s The Last Unicorn) put out her proposed Womanthology book, featuring a wide array of female writers and artists. Working off the theme of Heroic, it managed to make over four times its goal of $25,000, sending the message that there’s a strong demand for more venues where women can showcase their work in the field. IDW got the message loud and clear.
The sequel, Womanthology: Space, features stories about filling empty rooms with furniture and accutrements.
Wow, what a terrible joke… sorry – it’s a smorgasbord of rockets, alien planets, and journeys to the stars. Jumping from sub-genre to sub-genre (space drama to space parody to space horror, etc.) and art styles, this first issue shares a playfulness akin to your average Heavy Metal, with, naturally, the testosterone notched down a bit. Editor Mariah Huehner has curated a book showcasing women doing so much of what really talented men do well in comics.
So what’s in this book? Let’s start with Dead Again and Scaling Heaven. I won’t mince words – while both stories suffer from stopping just as they’re gaining narrative momentum, there is nothing short of stunning art on these pages. Stephanie Hans on Scaling Heaven does layouts that are as charming as they are captivating, while the charcoal colors Tanja Wooten brings to Dead Again do much of the heavy lifting that brings a sense of sadness and dread in this haunted Space Station story.
The big draw to this issue for me was illustrator Ming Doyle (best known for the terrific – and also space-oriented – webcomics The Loneliest Astronaughts and Boldly Gone) who delivers a delightful spoof on late 70s/early 80s Marvel Comics in The Adventures of Princess Plutonia. With a weird color palette and bat-shit insane character designs, this story packs such a punch that it wasn’t until my second or third reading that it dawned on me that this was only two pages long.
Which brings us to Waiting For Mr. Roboto and Space Girls, the bookends to the five stories in this inaugural issue and the two that fit the anthology format the best. Why? Because they bring a delightful Sunday-newspaper-comic-strip-esque dumb humor to the book. With wonderfully cheesy bait and switch jokes about gigantic kittens and being attracted to robots, the gags sit on the page like they’re waiting for drum snares to hit off in the distance.
I love a good anthology book (and, really, there haven’t been enough of them in the last ten years). I love their stop and go qualities and, sure, they may be prejudiced towards the silly because sometimes more dramatic work feels like a good first act instead of a stand alone piece. That almost doesn’t even matter because like MTV when it was good, or Robot Chicken, the closer you can get to that feeling of flipping-through-channels format the better the track you’re on. The big qualm I have is that I don’t really enjoy serialized anthologies like this. Just as I begin to get into that TV grazing mindset the whole thing is over. It’s like taking your plate to an All You Can Eat Buffet, but only once and then you’re cut off. For a good anthology read I suspect it’ll be best to wait for the entire five issue collection.