It struck me as I was typing out the list of creators that this is really an anthology filled with work by obscure creators. That’s generally true of most issues of Negative Burn, but many of them have work by people like Brian Bolland and Evan Dorkin. In this issue, there are no creators with big mainstream reputations. That may or may not be a good thing in terms of the comic – I’ll get to that lower down in this review – but it has to make me wonder how the sales are on this comic. For $5.99, readers generally get interesting stories in most issues, work that’s more experimental, or different, or from the heart than other comics. An open-minded reader will always find something he or she likes in the 7 or so stories in each issue, and editor Joe Pruett has a nice eye for good stories.
But who actually buys this comic? In this era where Previews is hundreds of pages long and worthy comics are ignored by all but the most diligent readers, where does a comic like Negative Burn get its sales?
I guess my point is that we’d better enjoy this comic while we can. I’ve reviewed Negative Burn in the past and have always enjoyed it. Each issue has good comics by people like Ron Kasman and Shane White; who knows where these creators will go if this comic goes away?
As for this issue, there were two pieces that really stood out for me. “Night Time” by Michael Cho is the story of a group of kids who go wandering around in the dark after a party. It’s more a fragment than a real story, just a short incident that seems to have larger meaning in the life of the character. I found Cho’s shadowy artwork to be wonderful here. Cho’s command of his blacks gives the story a feeling of depth, and his stately first-person narration gives the story a kind of poetic quality. I really hope this is just a fragment from a larger story, because if this is a teaser for a longer graphic novel, it will be something to look for.
My other favorite this issue is “Aces” by C. Willow Wilson, Shannon Eric Denton and Curtis Square-Briggs. It’s the story of a group of British World War I flying aces and their complex lives and stories. The characters seem to have a nice feeling of complexity to them, but for me the thing that makes the comic special is the artwork by Square-Briggs. Maybe it’s because I’ve been reading a lot of Enemy Ace comics lately, but I have a weakness for comics with illustrations of biplanes and triplanes and the world of the 1910s. The story’s pretty fun, too.
As usual, Ron Kasman is in this issue, but this issue’s story isn’t as charming as some of his others. “Grow Up!” is a kind of funny rant at the hardcore comics fan, giving comics fans silly hints on how to live in your parents’ basement and make money delivering handbills door to door. It’s a cute story but not great. “Berserker” by Grecian and Rossmo has a clever story and ugly artwork, a malady that “Volatagg: Barbarian Cop” by White and Kovacic shares.
As with every issue of this magazine, your mileage may vary in terms of what you like most. Every issue of Negative Burn I’ve read has at least one story that makes it worth picking up. Hopefully enough readers will agree with me so that this comic can continue for a long time.