Review time! with ‘Broken Frontier’

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“When the dawn is come we will stand strong where we belong”

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A while ago, I backed the Broken Frontier Kickstarter, partly because editor Tyler Chin-Tanner is a cool dude and partly because the talent associated with the anthology was a-MAH-zing. I don’t back a ton of Kickstarters, mainly because I just don’t have the money, but I was glad I backed this one, because the anthology (which is published by A Wave Blue World) is pretty damned cool. I’ve had it for a while, but of course, I’m far behind on reviewing things, so I hope Tyler forgives me for my tardiness!

Greg Pak, Tom Raney, Gina Going, and Simon Bowland
Greg Pak, Tom Raney, Gina Going, and Simon Bowland

Broken Frontier is an extremely cool book, as Chin-Tanner and fellow editor Frederik Hautain and their staff roped in some amazing talent – Greg Pak and Tom Raney give us the first story in the collection, for instance. There’s a general sci-fi bent to the book (the title is explained in one of the stories, but it’s a good one to describe the book itself), but several genres are represented. Pak’s and Raney’s, “Phantom Limb Ghostpuncher” (which is colored by Gina Going and lettered by Simon Bowland), is the only one that reads like a pitch for an ongoing comic, as a Philadelphia police officer who lost his right arm during a dramatic rescue discovers that he has – wait for it – a phantom limb with which he – wait for it – punches ghosts. It’s a pretty cool premise, and I’d certainly read a story about our hero!

Phil Hester, Daniel Warren Johnson, and Doug Garbark
Phil Hester, Daniel Warren Johnson, and Doug Garbark

The other stories take on a supernatural or sci-fi aesthetic, as we get a story about a woman who can “read” spirits and uses them to solve crimes, a terrifying story about greed and how it destroys communities, an Alaskan ranger who heads into mysterious mountains that surround her town and discovers what their dark secret is, an Algerian superhero in World War II, a tale of a selfish loser who finds a glove that lets him time-travel, another time-travel story in which a man dedicates his life to building a machine so he can go back in time to save his wife, only to discover that maybe he should rethink his priorities, an ironic story about Spanish explorers landing in the New World, another ironic story about an astronaut suffering the effects of a horrifying virus, a story about dimensional-hopping Nazis and the superheroes who try to stop them, and many, many more. Almost every story features amazing artwork too. Salgood Sam gives us a beautifully drawn meditation on life, for instance. PJ Holden’s oddball cartooning makes his and Scott Ferguson’s alien superhero story pop off the page. Alison Sampson’s lush, sensual line work makes Fred van Lente’s story of a woman who grows a beard both perversely funny and deeply sexual. Robert Sammelin’s wordless story about a biker in a post-apocalyptic desert is hauntingly beautiful, which makes the ending all the more tragic. Toby Cypress does nice work on one Chin-Tanner story, as his scratchy lines and exaggerated figures work well in a quasi-Mad Max setting.

Fred van Lente, Alison Sampson, Jason Wordie, and Thomas Mauer
Fred van Lente, Alison Sampson, Jason Wordie, and Thomas Mauer

There’s only one story I didn’t really like (I’m not going to tell you which one, because this is a positive review, dang it, and one small story in a collection this good shouldn’t dampen your enthusiasm for it!), but the rest are good-to-brilliant. “Stranger Than Fiction,” by Chin-Tanner, gives us Dee Hendrix, a famous mystery writer who solves real-life mysteries by communing with spirits. It’s a neat talent, and the story isn’t too surprising, but it works well. Aysegül Sinav provides dreamy, hypnotic art and glowing colors for the dead to contrast with the earthier colors of the living. Cullen Bunn’s “Dark Dark World” is a bit slight, but Nathan Fox brings his customary crazed energy to it, which makes it a lot more fun. Phil Hester writes “Plunder,” in which Vikings come across a temple guarded by a lone Indian, who warns them of the contents inside. They don’t heed his words, of course, and the booty they claim makes them crazed with greed. Daniel Warren Johnson’s and Doug Garbark’s art and colors are amazing, as their violence is terrific and the final image of the story is terrifying. The painted artwork of Varga Tomi (it reminds me of J.K. Woodward, for what that’s worth) gives Marguerite Bennett’s story of the Alaskan ranger an ancient, haunting feel, which is fitting for what she discovers in the mountains that appear suddenly around her town. David Hine’s very weird and very disturbing story of a writer who lives in a tenement where a horrible crime appears to have been committed is spooky enough, but Mark Stafford’s eerie and askew art makes the world even stranger and more disturbing. Steve Orlando’s “The Wreck of the Vesalius” is a bit too short given the subject matter (astronauts discover a giant floating body and decide to explore it), but it’s still pretty good, and Yaroslav Astapeev’s artwork is just the right amount of creepy. Karrie Fransman uses photographs of herself and blends them with silly animation to create a very bizarre and upsetting tale.

David Hine and Mark Stafford
David Hine and Mark Stafford

Anthologies can be a hard sell, I know, even though personally, I dig ’em. It’s hard to get so much talent together, even for DC and Dark Horse, so the fact that Chin-Tanner and Hautain were able to is very impressive, and the creators delivered. The book is 40 dollars, but it’s just shy of 300 pages of comics, and again, for me, there’s only one semi-clunker in the bunch (it’s not even that bad, just not as good as the others). As I am a shameless whore for Amazon, you can get it there (we’d like to make a little bit of money from this blog, which is why you can find the link below), but you can probably get it other places, too, if you want to make me cry. However you get it, you really should check it out – it’s very keen.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

6 Comments

  1. Simon

    Interesting.

    That “Phantom Limb Ghostpuncher” sample reminded me Jodo & Arno’s classic ALEF-THAU (NSFW sample). Though this seems more akin to certain Top Cow series?

    The Alison Sampson sample could make Žeželj and Baudoin proud. I wonder if Brian Wood may try to grab her? For a story, I mean.

    Er, won’t this be made available through Previews?

    P.S.: Maybe caption the pics to more explicitely link them to creators?

    P.P.S.: METAL MACHINE MUSIC is so much warmer at 33 RPM!

      1. Simon

        Thanks for the captions! (I suspected the last illo could be the Hine story, but I don’t have your keen eye and memory for artists.)

        Well, I’ve long stopped paying attention to Niles, but maybe he’s put on some weight? I’ll have to look at the reviews of that Sampson mini and ponder its trade!

        (But how on Earth do you know, and remember, all that stuff about all these people? I’d be unable to tell what most of my fav creators are planning for next, and when I do, most of it would come from looking into a file.)

        1. Greg Burgas

          Simon: Yeah, Niles is more miss than hit for me these days, too. He has some very good ideas, but the execution is often lacking.

          As for remembering things … well, I do talk to people at cons, where Sampson told me about her new project, but I also do check out their web sites from time to time! 🙂

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