Saturday, 26 September 2015

Review: FUBAR, By the sword.

Release date: 23/9/15
Publisher : Alterna Comics

This week I found myself in the privileged position of reviewing this visceral offering of a collection of stories surrounding the again-walkers, hungry ghosts and the hordes of the undead. 

Now as this is the first review that I have posted on the page, allow me a moment to provide you with a little background information. As with many enthusiasts of comics, my passion began at a young age. It began with Spider-Man, Batman, Hulk, Superman and the X-Men to name a few, really my main focus was on 'the big two' namely Marvel and DC. However in the past 15 years as I have grown and matured (after a fashion) so has my passion become more erudite and diverse. My interest over the last few years has burgeoned into something much wider and more rounded, expanding into creator owned works and indie publishers. This expansion and discovery has allows me to enjoy comics much more and led me to uncover works that I wouldn't previously looked twice at, to my own chagrin. I'm glad that I didn't stay pigeonholed to the aforementioned publishers and books like 'by the sword' reaffirm that joy. 

Now like I've said I'm new to this, my interest in Alterna Comics is relatively recent and so this book is my first experience of the FUBAR world. However this didn't hinder my enjoyment as you aren't expected to know the intricate ins and outs of what's come before, this is a collection of 28 stand alone stories to be devoured and enjoyed. From your initial view of the beautiful cover, by Leonardo Pietro, it's clear that you're in for some hack 'n' slash action, which is no bad thing. There are so many contributors to this work that it wouldn't be prudent of me, or enjoyable for you, if I just listed them all now, instead you should honour them by getting your copy now and seeing their names with your own comic fueled reading devices we call eyes. If relevant though, I will mention creators.
As is the case with the collections opening story 'The Draugr' (story and art by Matt Smith) which is an undead take on the Beowulf legend. For me it's a good story to begin with as it pretty much sets up the pace and tone of what to expect. The art is moody and dark, befitting of a collection about undead ghouls and the story jumps quickly into the action. 
In line with this, there are a few stories which seem to be interpretations of classic legends, stories and archetypes, Don Quixote, The Millers tale and a Trojan Horse to name a few. Some would accuse the collection of relying on subverting these tales but I think they work well and each tale has its own tone and twist to make them interesting varied. There are also zombie pastiches of certain situations, such as the strongest warrior decides the victor and this is given a nice twist too to help keep the excitement flowing.

There are also a lot of stories that are heavily influenced by far eastern culture, these stories echo themes of love, honour and sacrifice, of nobility among the undead menace. In fact one of my favourite pieces 'The Grove' (story by Benjamin Truman, art and letters by Peebo Mondia) reads like a classic whodunnit mystery with elements of the Far East and zombies entwined, however I do think that a lot of the stories use this far eastern, samurai warrior motif a little too frequently. Don't get me wrong they're great stories and it doesn't put me off to the point where I wouldn't read them, because I would again and again, but a little more variety wouldn't of hurt the overall feel of the book. I would of liked to see one or two more Norse inspired stories, Hell even one or two Kung fu hand to hand combat stories would of given this Far East theme a little extra spice. What I did like about this theme is the variety in art, a different artist was used for almost each story and it's nice to see how each envisions the setting and we get some stunningly detailed panels and splash pages because of this, it's clear that they enjoyed working on this book. This invariably leads to some cracking panels of brains being eaten, limbs being hacked off and eyeballs popping. This enjoyment comes out in the writing too, each writer is writing a gory story and absolutely loving doing it, which makes the dialogue flow, easy to read and helps the panels move generally seamlessly.

Inevitably, as with any compilation or collection of stories, there are some comparatively weaker works. There is the odd tale in which the pace of the story is a little awkward and I think this is largely due to the size of the length of the stories, it is difficult to fit everything you want to convey into a few pages sometimes and the writing does suffer on occasion because of this. However I think these weaker stories are only salient because they're rubbing shoulders with well crafted companions and, if you were to take them away and read them as a separate entity, this shortcomings would be much less noticeable. So it's really only a minor drawback. 

I'll give mention to the artwork on the title pages for the stories now, which is underrated but gives you a glimpse into what to expect on the next few pages. I think they work well, not only as a set up to a story, but to who's tale you'll be engaging in. However sometimes the structure of the panels is a little too rigid in the story telling, sticking to standard layouts. It would of been nice to see some of the action sequences breaking out the panels and through the gutters, but it doesn't impinge on the storytelling overall. At the back the pin up artwork is really impressive too and you can't help but feel a slight bitter pang of jealousy knowing that anything you try to draw, just won't be quite as good. 

So, in summary this was a really enjoyable read. The stories are broken down in separate entities nicely and it's easier to dip into the book, but then oh so difficult to put down. Just one more story you will find yourself saying, until you suddenly find yourself on the last page. As said there are some stronger stories in the mix that not only entertain you, but offer moments for introspection and reflection on different subjects. Then you're greeted with a gore fest to bring you back down to earth. The artwork throughout is pretty consistent, appropriate to the story and tone and there are some truly amazing pages and panels. The writing, apart from the odd slip up is solid and creates believable characters in a few short pages, which is no mean feat. 

So if we were being archaic and attributing points out of 10, then I would give this title a solid 8. It's fun, it's enjoyable and you do find it difficult to put down. So if you're after some good zombie action, or looking for something a bit different to your standard comics then get to your local comic shop or nip on over to comixology and give 'FUBAR by the sword' a try. I know this has inspired to see what else the FUBAR world, and indeed Alterna Comics have to offer.

No comments:

Post a Comment