Vertigo, Howard Chaykin, Shutter

Spotlight On 'Vertigo Quarterly SFX: Bang!'

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Vertigo, Howard Chaykin, Shutter
SFX: Bang! Cover, image via Vertigo Comics

With our Vertigo spotlight this week, we take a look at one of Vertigo’s quarterly anthologies, which offers several different art styles and genres, but the one thing they have in common is quality.

You can also check out our reviews of every comic from DC this week at GeekMom.

Vertigo Quarterly SFX: Bang!  

Ray: These themed anthologies have been coming out of Vertigo for a few years now, first themed around genres and now around things like colors and sounds. I’ve always found them to be a mixed bag, appreciating the spotlight they give to rookie creators but liking some stories a lot more than others.

Corrina: This is my experience as well, but sometimes that one story I like more than the others more than makes the price of the book worthwhile.

Ray: This issue–focusing on the sound effect “Bang!”–is one of the strongest outings in this series, delivering high-quality work in a lot of genres and introducing us to some fascinating new voices (as well as featuring work from two top creators at the moment).

Corrina: Agreed! There is scary, heartwarning, odd, and fascinating. It’s a great mix and, while I didn’t love every story, there were no duds either.

Page from Ekoh, the opening story in SFX: Bang!
Page from Ekoh, the opening story in SFX: Bang! by Nathan Fox and Lee Loughridge, image via Vertigo Comics.

Ray: The opening story, “Ekoh” by Nathan Fox and Lee Loughridge, is an intense futuristic chase thriller that’s a bit unclear at first but ends in a satisfying way. “Monkey See,” by Jonathan Case and Leila Del Duca of Shutter fame, is a bizarre old Hollywood noir thriller set in the mansion of a widowed starlet–with a bizarre twist ending involving a trained Orangutan that made me laugh out loud.

Corrina: I loved this one, with it’s callback to both Sunset Boulevard and Double Indemnity. Someone is a noir fan with a serious sense of humor.

Ray: “Not With a Bang” by Cavan Scott and Nimit Malavia is a fascinating and dark futuristic musing on suicide in a world where it’s possible to donate your entire body via a mind-transfer, but I disliked the cruel twist ending that seemed designed to punish an innocent person who wanted to end his life in the most charitable way possible.

Corrina: I first thought that would be a suicide story and it was, but with the twist. I liked the twist ending but it felt less like an ending for me rather than a beginning. What if this happened? Would the person stuck inside the mind eventually want to live and try to take over? Or would the dominant personality try to get rid of him and thus right back? This short seemed the tip of the iceberg.

Ray: “Mary,” by Jordie Bellaire and Declan Shalvey, is a creepy and compelling ghost story with some great visuals, the most straightforward of the installments.

Corrina: Loved the art on the ghost story, though, as you say, it plays out in the way many haunted ghost stories play out.

Ray: “Da Bangz,” by Howard Chaykin and Jed Dougherty, is a change of pace, a tale involving a rock band in the ’50s that deals with massive upheaval when one member goes to Europe and comes back with a new… haircut? The dialogue is a little relentlessly crude, but it’s a fun, light read.

Corrina: This one was written by a comics veteran who’s probably earned the title of all-time great but it felt paper thin. I suspect it was their homage to something that was personal to one of the creators.

Ray: “Message from Yonder” by Samantha Shannon and Marco Rudy is an interesting, creepy noir story that struggles with coherence. The visuals jump off the page, but it’s a bit hard to follow the story.

Corrina: Experimental, indie-sensibility but interesting.

Ray: “Bang for your Buck” by Emma Needell, Ale Garza, and Dan Green is a creepy tale set in a circus freak show, as a new act with a twisted price to pay lures two corrupt circus owners into his web.

Corrina: About the only issue I had with that is that I couldn’t quite understand the ending–the visual was too murky for my taste, but it’s definitely the creepiest in the book.

Ray: My favorite installment of the lot was “Beat for the Gods” by K. Perkins and Travis Moore, a quiet story about a middle-aged man in a small town struggling to support his gay son and overcome his own lingering prejudices. Touching stuff.

Corrina: We must both be saps, because this one was my favorite as well. It just made me feel good.

Ray: The book ends with “Little Bang” by Christian Ward of Image’s Ody-C, a visually brilliant if a bit confusing tale of struggling to find meaning in grief. The stories in this book are a lot more ambitious than most anthology tales, and the quality is overall very high. Anyone who wants to get a look at what could be some up-and-coming comic talent, check this out.

Corrina: Absolutely! As I said, most anthologies vary in quality but this time, the bar was set at “very good to excellent.” Nice job overall by the editorial staff on picking these stories. I appreciate that, while these anthologies don’t sell well, they offer talented creators a chance to get their stuff in front of audiences and perhaps lead them to longer tales and better things.

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