Tuesday, July 07, 2009


Cover for FTL #2, art by John Charles

I enjoy anthologies immensely. Collections of short stories, poetry, or graphic fiction are exciting and satisfying. The reader's curve of expectation, of rising tension, is resolved by the end of each tale, and he or she can move on to the next experience.

Of course, how good the anthology is depends on how rewarding the individual stories turn out to be. Was the reader hooked right away, did he or she want to read more, were there surprises, new ideas, interesting twists and turns? Was the conclusion, the finale of the story, emotionally and/or intellectually satisfying? Was the reader left with a hunger for more?

I'm happy to say, that the second issue of Oran Utan Comics new anthology series FTL (Faster Than Light), contains five stories that answer the above questions with a resounding YES!

From the opening introduction, featuring editor in chief Ian Sharman a la Stan Lee, or maybe the Crypt Keeper, welcoming us to his "strange new world," to the closing panel featuring "the Schoolgirl Squad" , FTL #2 delivers.

The first piece is a nice variation on the mad scientist theme, called "Morgan McFee and the End of Tomorrow." Written by Ian Sharman, with art by Melissa Hudson, the story is deceptively simple, hiding some deep real-world truths behind stereotypical comic book action and adventure.

The second tale is Part 1 of a serial called "The Secret Cross." It is written by Steven Saunders and Stephen Lindsey, with pencils by Dominic Vivona. The opening panel takes us back to World War I, to the trenches of Flanders in 1914. The art is historically accurate and evocative, capturing a mood and projecting a sense of threat that follows the action.

The third story is a sharp little piece called "One Last Ballad" by Itai Rosenbaum, with pencils by Gary Heany, inks by Matt Santorelli and gray tones by Nick Dismas.

The fourth entry is an unusual and unique short called "Karachun," by Trey Wickwire, with pencils by Olli Hihnala. This is based on Slavic folktales, ancient beliefs once practiced by the pagan Slavs and still secretly whispered about to this day. It is a welcome change to the usual Celtic and Druid lore found so readily in fantasy, science fiction, and horror these days. The panels look like wood-cuts, and the art is entirely appropriate for the subject.

The fifth presentation is back to the more traditional super hero style, or more like, "Kill Bill" meets "The New Mutants." Written by Ian Sharman, with art by Donnie Punzalen, this is a simply fun. Replete with the usual cheesecake butt shots and crotch shots, even bodice-ripping, the art is Western realistic but the action is actually reminiscent of classic Japanese manga. While this reviewer could use less of the gratuitous sexual poses, I'm well aware that my assessment above is nothing less than a come-hither to potential male readers.

FTL #2 is equal to and in some ways exceeds FTL #1. Both are great reads, and all creators involved should be very proud of their contributions. Moreover, in this era where the big two -- Marvel and DC -- seem to rule the graphic fiction world, it is highly inspirational and gratifying to see an Indy company like Oran Utan Comics producing such sophisticated and enjoyable comic books as ALPHA GODS and FTL.

I highly recommend this anthology series, and this is coming from someone who is a hopeless fangirl of Marvel mutants and super heroes. Sometimes it takes an extra shake of the tree to make us look outside the little treehouse we've been living in!

Reviewed by Rivka Jacobs