I'm always a little apprehensive when I read a comic that's based on source material that I've never read or consumed. As someone who's never seen an episode of Buffy (I know, it's sacrilege!) I've avoided that section of the Whedonverse. For that matter, I'm just now jumping into the world of Ender's Game and its various sequels and permutations now that I've finally read the first novel in the series (highly recommended, by the way!).
So I was a bit apprehensive about reading a new indie book, Tales of the Forgotten, which professes to be "based on characters from the novel Fallen Heroes by Barry Nugent", a book which I've not only never read but which I've never even heard of. I was concerned that I'd be lost and confused as I worked my way through these four stories. And while I didn't catch every reference in the book, I was surprised that I was able to appreciate these four stories on their own terms.
"Historia", the first tale included in this book, is a bit of a CSI type procedural featuring the outspoken and arrogant detective Kathryn Monroe. I enjoyed the character of Monroe at the heart of the story, but this 24-pager rambles and shambles a bit, and the twists in the plot, by Richmond Clements, are impossible for the reader to figure out if we're playing along with Det. Monroe – we simply don't have enough clues to make the plot twists make much sense. The twist at the very end is intriguing, though, and hints at deeper conspiracies. Alex Moore's art is a bit awkward and unpolished at this point but it shows promise – Moore draws faces well and enjoys playing with camera angles to give real variety to this very talky story.
"Stolen" is the second tale in this collection. It tells the story of Ben Ashodi, aka The Hand, and reads like the 8th issue of a comic you've never read. I generally enjoy stories that start in media res, but Corey Brotherton scripted this comic as if I would have knowledge that I just didn't have. I began the story confused and was pretty confused throughout the story, as not enough background was explained to me to make the events in this story feel dramatic or important. Cormac Hughes's artwork didn't help much, either. His approach to layouts is occasionally interesting, but his figure work appears flat. Both the writer and artist are clearly working to improve their skills, and it's easy to see potential in both men's work.
Third we get "Fight or Flight", also written by Corey Brotherton and this time illustrated by Jorge Oliveira. This was my favorite story in the anthology, especially because Oliveira's art, while loose, shows a really thoughtful and empathetic approach to his characters. He does a fine job of depicting main character Victoria Sullivan as a thoroughly broken woman fighting for redemption – she really does appear to be tortured by her past and to be fighting to regain her soul. The story here is brief but it's compelling. I'd love to read more about Victoria.
Lastly we get "The Immaculate Abortion of Dina Leigh" by writer Cy Dethan and artist Valia Kapadai. This is a spooky-ass story of organ transplants and body multlation, rendered in a sickly earth-toned flatness by Kapadai. This story really got under my skin and creeped me the fuck out – definitely what the creators had in mind for me. As the story unfolds and the conspiracy at its heart begins to be told, the story lurches to its impressive conclusion, all darkness and shadows and powers out of our control.
It turns out I didn't need to know anything about the world that Barry Nugent created in order to enjoy this book – though I'm sure that more knowledge would have helped me understand things a bit more. This book stood on its own well enough, with a couple of stories that were really interesting and intriguing.
For more about this book, look here.