Comics Features

REVIEW: Reads, Vol. 2, Issue #1

Written by Mark Russell

The fun thing about reviewing and reading anthology comics is that you never know what you’ll find inside. And I was pleasantly surprised by the content of Avery Hill Publishing’s first issue of Reads Volume #2. I have not read the first volume, so I cannot provide any views on that. The issue consists of four very different but enjoyable stories. The comic was created by Tim Bird, Luke Halsall, EdieOP, Owen D. Pomery, and Ricky Miller. This review will go over each anthology story one at a time and then concluding thoughts on the whole comic.

Now aside from the fourth story, the other three all have an historical element to them. Let’s start with “The Bullpen, Part One”, created by Hashall and Bird. The comic focuses on the early day of what would become the Silver Age of Comic Books. I admit I know next to nothing about this time aside from the success of Marvel, so I have no idea if these characters are based upon actual people or represent them. The story begins with company executive Larry informing writer Jack that their comics are failing due to cutbacks and falling buys due to the creation of the Comics Code via the papers of Fredric Wertham (who nearly destroyed the industry with the suppressing rules of the code). To combat this, Larry sets Jack and artist Bill to make something new that is non-crime, non-horror, non-cape wearing heroes, but patriotic. Thus, the two come up with a new story breaking comic conventions called “The Nucleus”, though when it comes to who created the idea, Jack paves the way for a possible dark tone in later parts.

All in all, The Bullpen is a very enjoyable story and there are high chances the next part will be entertaining and engaging. The story has a slow burn as the comic’s editor Ricky Miller describes it, taking its time to focus on the characters and progress of what will lead to the beginning of the comic industry’s Silver Age without rushing to get through it. I like the art style too. Reflecting the type of art used in the 1950s’ comics, and reminds me of the style used for Archie Comics.

Next is a chapter of “The Megatherium Club”, an ongoing series also produced by Avery Hill, by Pomery. The club itself actually existed, being a group of scientists who worked in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. They were named after the giant sloth species Megatherium. What an interesting choice of inspiration. Their job was to classify new species at the museum, though they seemed to waste most of their time getting drunk and messing around. This seems to be reflected in the story when palaeontologist Othniel Charles Marsh visits the museum to present his newest dinosaur discovery against his rival Edward Drinker Cope. However, several of the club’s members appear to be immature, snooty jerks who want nothing more than to ruin Marsh’s reputation that leads to pull a prank, which ends up backfiring on them in a pretty hilarious way.

The art style is unique and I like the characters, who are based on real people, all physically stand out from each other. However, it took me a few reads to really understand what was going on and I didn’t understand why the scientists hated Marsh. Cope and Marsh were reported to have a very respectable rivalry, though I suppose since this is fictional, some liberties can be taken. On the other hand, the last few pages are quite entertaining and the prankster-like tricks of the sleazy scientists are funny to read, particularly at the great punchline at the end of the comic. My most curious thought is why the scientists save Marsh were speaking like they were from modern day, with Cope saying “What gives?” at one point. It was a little surreal and off putting.

The most entertaining, or at least from my perspective as a lover of film, is “Hitchcock & Film”, by Miller and Bird. It is essentially a history lesson on the development of the film industry, with the prelude to a shift of focus on Alfred Hitchcock. The opening is presented by Hitchcock himself as if it was the start of one of his “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” series, and continues to be presented as a documentary before introducing Hitchcock’s own history and relationship with the movies. Using the same art style as The Bullpen, the comic is very engaging for someone who loves films and I am a great admirer of Mr. Hitchcock despite having only seen a couple of his films. Tim Bird is a very talented artist and definitely adds to the comic’s positives.

The fourth story is a fascinating entry. The story is “The Story of Lucius Jellybean”, by EdieOP, is about the birth and life of Lucius Jellybean, created from a petri dish containing a virus and a dissolved slug; creating an adorable white blobby creature that seems to want to do nothing more than be affectionate and happy. Too bad the story shows Lucius is actually a dangerous virus that can cause skin rashes, spreads germs, and triggers illnesses. There is some fun dark humour, showing how the character is cute while causing some hazardous scenarios, and you can’t help but like the little guy despite the harshness of his existence.

Perhaps the most fun part about the story is that it has been drawn and coloured like a six-year old was the brains behind it all. It is very striking, colourful and very funny. It gives the impression that if a child wrote this, they didn’t understand the dangers Lucius presents and characterizes the virus as an innocent bystander in all things. This is EdieOP’s first contribution to Reads, and the story shows her sense of humour and a clever mixture of innocence but blatant danger as well. Very entertaining.

In conclusion, Reads is a pretty decent and fun anthology comic and I’d recommend giving it a read, along with future and past issues of the series.

Do you enjoy comics that focus on actual or historical events? Do you like anthology comics? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!

About the author

Mark Russell