Panels of 8, A Review of the Steampunk Graphic Anthology
Created by DoctorQ on 5/3/2011 11:08:08 PM

 Doctor Q reviews "8: A Steampunk Anthology" by the illopond Creative Collective.  

Anyone who knows me knows my deep love for comics. If pressed to choose between music and comics… I don’t think I could. So, when news came to me that “8: A Steampunk Anthology” debuted at WonderCon recently, I made sure to secure a copy to review.
The folks of illopond Creative Collective are a consortium of independent artists who have collaborated together for both an anthology of children’s comics, as well as this project; and by the looks of their site, they are already hard at work bringing us collections of independent work from all walks of the comics world. Their premise is simple, they reach out to the artists in their collective with just the announcement of the theme and the rules, which in this case was an eight page story using the steampunk genre, and the artists have full creative freedom from there to submit what they wish.
The opening story, “Tamerlane Waller and the Tentative Temporal Timestealer” was a mix between Sherlock Holmes, Mouse Guard, and a dash of Secret of Nimh. The creator, Carsten Bradley, showed us a world of anthropomorphic animals in London but, but truth be told, I found the sketch-like style of the line art in sharp contrast to the polished colors and lettering leaving me feel a sharp inconsistency from page to page, even panel to panel in some places.
The next tale, “Decisive Moments: Tales of the Great Steam War” by Warren Belfield was an excellent war story told from the first person. Illustrated in a sepia-toned fashion, the detail of the art shone through, and the simplicity of the story made it almost like a war fable.  I thoroughly enjoyed this tale and found it hard to believe it was only eight pages long.
Zach Bosteel’s “Thorough Bred” story, however, was the low point for me personally. The characters were cliché, the panel progression choppy in sections, and the overall art was just unimpressive.
“For the Public Good” by Samuel Edwin Kirkman Jr., was easily my favorite. It is rich in its illustrations and complex in its narrative texture. It acts as a prelude story to a rich world of Kirkman’s imagination, one that is currently in production called GREW. I look forward to reading this story once it’s finished and it was a gem in this anthology.
Paul Caggegi’s “Data Point,” on the other hand, seemed to stretch the steampunk theme the furthest. I am not opposed to steampunk in space, but even for me the premise seemed a bit far-fetched and the main crux of the action lay with the dialogue, making me wonder if the method to tell this story may have been better suited to literature than graphic novel.
“StarJunkers” by Clint Sutton was equally far-fetched for theme, and its purely digital and brightly colored style reminded me of a children’s book. Which is not bad per se, but I just didn’t care for any aspect of this story, from its naïve look to its predictable conclusion.
And, while the next story is no doubt child-like and whimsical, “Pest Control” by Mark Harmon was amazing. So simple a premise, but spot on for theme, execution, and amusement. Easily tied with my favorite of the anthology, and to think this eight page story was Mark’s first comic. I could easily see this premise and story as an ongoing webcomic at the very least, if not a feature graphic novel in its own right. Simply put, it was fun and I’d love to read more of it. It had Octocrabs, a Were-beaver, and more gadgets packed into eight pages than you can name, what’s not to love?
The closing story, Lee Wiley’s “Exodus,” was just disappointing. Nothing about it made sense from a story perspective, and the art was not engaging enough to compensate for that fact. I think there was too much story trying to cram itself into eight pages, and the editing of it left more questions than answers as to what was going on.
All in all, I really enjoyed this anthology. And while I may be a bit overcritical of a few of the stories, I applaud illiopond’s efforts immensely in this project. In a world largely dominated by large publishing companies, with the only alternative laying in a long-running webcomic series or self-publishing for pennies, the concept of this collective as a way for artists to put out short stories together as a theme, but yet still remain true to their own works is brilliant to see and I support it whole-heartedly.
If you would like to acquire your very own copy of “8: A Steampunk Anthology” in print, go to IndyPlanet or for a digital PDF of the individual comic tales for you e-readers out there, visit and explore The Illustrated Section to support these artists in their continued work.
Oh, and if my article isn't enough to interest you, have a gander at their trailer for the anthology on YouTube.
Doctor Q is the Media Editor for Steampunk Chronicle. He fancies himself an acoustic arranger of music, Senior Director or Arts & Entertainment for AnachroCon and founder of the Artifice Club.
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