Reads is a very entertaining small-press anthology from England made up of four short stories of varying lengths, styles, approaches and subject matter. That diversity makes the book entertaining and fun, with no story being either too long or too short.
The first story, "Hilary Harper in Revenge of the Dinosaurs," is a fun and cheeky mystic romp set in Sydenham, England. Crazy Professor Richard Owen is trying to use his mystic powers to revive some dinosaurs trapped in that park. Hilary Harper, mystic warrior, has to stop Owen. This is an enjoyable story, with some light and clever wordplay that makes it a quick and entertaining read. I really enjoyed how the story started in the middle of the action, without the need to fill readers in on the backstory. Ricky Miller does a nice job of filling in the details as the story flows along, without the need to spell everything out for us. Meanwhile Steven Horry's art is surprisingly slick for a small-press book, nicely open and with a good sense of facial expressions.
After the fairly slick art of "Revenge of the Dinosaurs", the next story, "Bad Times Ahead" is kind of a shock. This is a much more amateurish-looking story about a man killed in his workplace by a spear. There may be a mystic conspiracy behind everything that happens here, but the unrefined art style is a bit off-putting and the odd way it switches from portrait to landscape display was very strange. I wanted to like this story but it just didn't grab me.
"Suburban Dreamer" is a four-page meditation on escape with fairly slick art and a nicely meditative ending. The sweet ending really redeems this story for me — it gives this story a nice poetic conclusion.
The last story in the book, "Metroland," had me scratching my head at first read but then grew on me with subsequent readings. It's the story of a spoiled rich kid who is in a rock band and whose father is going to buy him a club to play in. The art in this story was also a bit off-putting — a bit too full of gray shading and a lack of people and characters appearing in space — but that was also what I found attractive about the story. Much of the story is about gallivanting around town looking at venues, and I was really intrigued by the way that real history weaves around the fiction in this story, a bit reminiscent of the trip through London in From Hell.
For more information on Reads, check out Avery Hill Publishing.