Recently there was a thread on the silverbulletcomicbooks.com message board discussing review clichés: the phrases that seem to pop up again and again in reviews. One phrase we missed was the term “mixed bag” when applied to anthology comics. In much the same way that artwork influenced by Bruce Timm is often called cartoony, so too are most anthology comics “mixed bags.”
But really, how can they not be? Take Negative Burn #2 as an example. This anthology comic is all over the place, from an impressionistic piece about life in Eastern Europe, to the mystical adventures of Thomas Edison, to a non-fiction piece on the Roman Legions, to the latest adventures of Milk & Cheese, dairy products on a rampage. There’s nothing that connects these pieces into a larger whole, and that’s by Editor Joe Pruett’s design. He sees Negative Burn as a place where all kinds of stories can exist next to each other. And that’s the very definition of what readers will see as a mixed bag.
So let’s divide the stories up into the Good, the Bad and the Mediocre.
Danijel Zezelj’s “Vanja and Vanja” is a mysterious piece that seems to have something to do with the nature of personality in totalitarian Eastern European societies. The artwork is astonishingly detailed and intense, and seems to represent in graphics form how difficult it is to have a unique personality in a country where individualism is mistrusted.
Shane White adapts the Jessica Staley short story “Bog Man,” a story where the central plot between a sister and her co-dependent brother seems to shift from page to page. Is the brother a murderer? Is the sister sick? Nothing is explained and little is revealed. I found the story intriguing, and White’s art is clever and clear.
“Edison’s Light” by Dove McHargue is beautifully drawn but never really amounts to anything. The last page, especially, is cryptic and weird rather than interesting.
Willy Franz and Sam Glanzman’s “The Eagle” is a wordy but still intriguing look at the Roman Legionnaires. I enjoyed reading something about this very different subject, but found the captions and word balloons hard to figure out.
“Fatty” by Malcolm Bourne and Al Davison is an interesting look at eating disorders, but it never really resolves itself in the end.
So: Negative Burn #2 is, you guessed it, a mixed bag.