Writer Chris Sides brings us a mix of tales in the first volume of Dark Matter which was initially released through Redshift Press but now resides in the back catalogue of the comic book creator collective, Close 2 Immortality.
It’s packed with nine short comics that range from 2-8 pages in length and cover more topics than you can shake a stick at but like most collections/anthologies it lives or dies based on the quality & pacing.
TG92ZQ==(LOVE) with Chris Travell on art.
The first title alone had me wondering “WTF?” but Chris lays things out quickly with a story of a chance meeting in a bar that leads to an abused wife finding solace in the arms of another man. Ultimately a tale of love but the bittersweet twist at the end is a slick move that helps set the tone for the rest of the book. Travell’s art has an ultra-realistic vibe to it that helps capture the energy of the situation as the air of longing between the couple lingers on the pages just as well as the weight of the authorities bears down on them.
COLD CALLER with Dean Sanford on art.
Salesman Jack is pushed to the edge as the economic decline forces his company to start cutting loose anyone not hitting their targets but desperation takes him from the phone lines to the doorsteps as he pushes his offers to the extreme. A harsh reality of the kind of desperation the world finds itself in and Dean’s art has a refreshing focus on facial expressions which helps tell the story just as much as the narrative/dialogue do.
OUT OF TIME with art by Simon Bennett Hayes
Magician Kristian Kane continues his latest ‘Deflection Tour’ where his rise to fame soon becomes far more than a well thought out illusion. His “skills” become questionable as his success has come at a cost that few know about…..and his inability to pay or lack of interest in settling up means karma comes a-knockin. His time is up but he has time to do one last trick. Paying your dues or suffering the consequences is the jist here and it’s a quirky way to convey that method with magic as the focus. Chris leans on the narrative in this story but it’s a slick way to get the history behind Jack to the fore and Simon’s art punctuates that with a highly detailed approach.
THE CARETAKER with art by Freja Steele
A school accident unfolds as a caretaker revisits the school he works at but that’s not the full story as the twist to this plot hits in the last two panels. Edgy and slick build-up but this is probably my least favourite from the collection and I can’t quite put my finger on why that is. It feels slightly disjointed in places but Freja’s art builds up well as the story is unveiled.
BLACK EARTH with Mahmut Dervish on art
A bleak “Where the Wind Blows” hybrid from Chris as a man & wife work out an existence amid a world obliterated by a nuclear winter and while their belief that survival in the aftermath is key, the cracks appear as the story progresses. The authorities they rely on drift away and the central couple are left to almost fade away until the end. Dark and equally bleak artwork from Mahmut embraces the story and adds weight to the finality of the situation the world is in. Grim but glorious.
RUN with art by Simon Bennett Hayes
A couple coming to terms with loss sees a darker story than I first expected as it explorers the time after losing a child. A husband & wife reach a logger-heads moment as their battle to come to terms brings a new, uncharted world for them to be lost in. The darkness from the shadows seeps into them though and takes hold as the bleak gives way to the disturbing and we’re left with a powerful if somewhat uncontrollable situation to wrestle with. Simon’s are is grim in places which helps capture the difficult times between the main couple but that eases into a suitable dark place which only one of them is aware of. Great twist again.
SOME WORDS OF ADVICE with art by Ashley Hewerdine
Probably the most cartoony of the stories in the group we see a seemingly chance encounter on the London tube prove to be a much more significant event in the life of Richard as a visit from the future aims to change the course of his life……unfortunately the quest for a positive direction is less than forthcoming. The situation explained now and the changes impact the future in a bigger way than expected and the fallout becomes very, very real. Ashley’s art is a bit too cartoony for me here and it doesn’t really fit in with the other stories on offer on that front but the “dark” theme is a saving grace here.
DEPARTURE with art by Freja Steele
This 2-pager is the shortest in the set but the sci-fi story of time travel brings with it consequences that are merely hinted at but that in itself is more than enough to bring another quality story into the mix. Freja’s art here is key to making this a success and it’s one of the most impressive in the volume.
PASSENGER with Chris Travell on art.
An urge to help a stranger takes control in this story as a quest to do good brings with it its own problems but it’s a powerful end to the Dark Matter set as justice from beyond the grave creeps into real life. A firm focus on the “Police” takes a unique turn as the story becomes a reality and it’s an interesting ride through to the conclusion. Travell’s art adds an impressive hint of reality to it and helps close out the book in much the same we as it began.
Chris Sides pulls together a team of impressive artists and while we may get one or two that don’t really feel like they blend in with the vibe of the stories there’s still alot to be said for his ability to pace a short story in a way that impresses. That in itself is a solid foundation for a good anthology but the quality of artist is what raises this to another level. In the end the whole collection becomes a phoenix from the flames as it hits levels that solo titles would struggle to sustain. Gruesome in places and certainly Dark in-line with the title, it ends up being an intriguing mix of stories that are whole stories in places and an interesting beginning in others…..so it ends up being a brilliant introduction to writer & artists.