‘FutureQuake 16 brings you another 10 tales from the finest small press talents around. See strips from creators including: AD Smith, Ben Michael Byrne, Tony McVeigh, Bruno Stahl, Karl Stock, Chris Fenoglio, Russell Norris, David Frankum, Mark Skonar, Iain Laurie, Mike Morgan, Joe Ward, Richmond Clements, Nick Dyer, Steven Denton, Tom Proudfoot, Paul McCallan, Mike Lynch, Dave Hailwood & Stu Giddings. All wrapped in a cover by Lee Carter.’
Written by: Various
Art by: Various
Publisher: Futurequake Press
Released: Printed October 2010, digital release August 9th 2017
Futurequake is an anthology series, but I hadn’t actually read any of it yet. I really should have – look at that cover! It’s full of short standalone stories, not ongoing ones a la Fresh Romance, which means any volume can be picked up and read on its own. My first taste here looked to be sci-fi/time travel themed, and I love me some time-travel shenanigans.
As with any anthology volume, the art is varied. Not as much here as in others though; except for the last story (Richmond Clements/Nick Dyer/Steven Denton’s Killer Mek) the artwork is some variation of plain black and white line, some with greyscale. Unfortunately though, this meant that unless there was something very different about someone’s style, each one tended to blur into one another. This was technically a good thing because it meant no single artwork contributor stood out as bad – every artist involved here is good, and you can bet the sci-fi theme means there was a lot of awesome settings and visual world-building. The lack of colour and reliance on line for the most part also lent itself to some good detailing on the settings, costumes, and creatures; a long shot of a Mars colony was probably my favourite. As you can guess there’s also a lot of stark light and shadow used, which is a good atmospheric device for any situation but risks being overused when so many others in the one volume use it too (and don’t forget one instance of a good old ‘coughing means serious illness’ trope). The great thing about sci-fi comics is there’s no effects budget to stick to so it can be filled with any amazing thing you’re willing to draw, though that ‘willing to draw’ bit is the stickler when there’s a lot of it. However, the short story format meant that each artist didn’t have to worry about extended background work and there are sights such as bustling space ports, ancient funerary rites, and more.
The stories and art both are firmly adult for the whole FutureQuake series, and this one was no exception. Nudity and especially violence and gore are par for the course, as if you couldn’t tell from that awesome cover art I pointed out before (cover artist Lee Carter has done work for 2000 AD before, which is probably no surprise). I’m really glad I picked up this volume because when it comes to stories, there’s nothing like time travel for setting up twist endings and callbacks. While it seems the volumes aren’t as closely themed as I’d thought at first glance, there were several time ones here at least. Grim, funny, sad, and obvious endings were here, and being able to set them up within a few pages is good writing. I’m wondering if the writers and artists were all sourced from similar sorts of places or programs though (FutureQuake Press also publishes 2000AD fanzines which explains a lot), because unfortunately the stories had the similar problem to the artwork of each one being more or less good but running together; a wider range of sources usually results in very different stories in anthologies like this, rather than that tendency I mentioned before for stories to blur into one another unless they manage to be different enough to stand out. With few exceptions, each story was good, but not long after reading, only Mark Cagnacci/Iain Laurie’s Old Grief stood out in my mind for its distinct style and sad conclusion, with secondary favourite Dave Hailwood/Stu Giddings’ A Better Place the next to come to mind if I think about it (thanks to it’s excellent comedic sensibilities) and the rest straggling along after, which wasn’t a great realisation for something where each individual story was fine, and I feel bad for saying it because there were great stories in there. The end result wasn’t greater than the sum of it’s parts, though I think it really could have been with some more noticeable variation in both art and storytelling styles. I feel like I might be critiquing it a little harshly on that point though; with 10 stories fit into 46 pages they can go by a little fast to be processed properly.
The publishers have been making back issues available digitally on Comixology over the past twelve months (which is how I landed some review copies) while it’s still currently being published in print and digitally two or three times a year, so there’s plenty of past volumes to catch up on. I think FutureQuake is a great investment for seeing some of the UK’s coolest comic writers and artists do adult short stories – so short they’re pretty much micro-fiction, so there’s plenty packed into each volume while only being about twice the length of a standard comic issue and even cheaper too. Go through the lot or pick whichever volumes suit your fancy; each one is roughly themed, but they’re all sci-fi (hence the ‘Future’ bit of the title) so you can’t lose. This volume made me kind of think ‘Dr Who via George Miller’ so if that’s your thing go and get one.
Thanks to Comixology.com for providing this issue of ‘FutureQuake Vol. 16’ for review.