Saturday, March 13, 2010

Review - Tomorrow Stories Volume 1

Tomorrow Stories Volume 1
Written by Alan Moore; Art by Kevin Nowlan, Rick Veitch, Jim Baikie, Melinda Gebbe, and Hilary Barta
2000 Eisner Winner for Best Anthology
2000 Eisner Winner for Best Writer
2000 Eisner Winner for Best Penciler/Inker for Kevin Nowlan

Tomorrow Stories is an ironic title. Moore's anthology is not science fiction but going even further than that most of it's contents are rooted in the pulp traditions some of them predating the popularity of comic book superheroes. These are yesterday's stories and they are an interesting anthology.

Easily the best of the series in the anthology is Greyshirt. Moore and Veitch set out to do an Eisner homage and succeed brilliantly. Naturally Moore has no trouble writing stories with a pulp flavor that hinge on some irony; it's Veitch's artwork that takes it over the top. He replicates Eisner's flare for integrating multiple layers of imagery into a single story. The best of these features four parallel stories that are layered in floors of an apartment building and decades; each floor is it's own story and time frame and at the same time each of them comment on each other. The Greyshirt stories are visually exciting and well told. The only downside is that it made me more interested in getting more of Eisner's Spirit than it did in making me want to continue reading about Moore and Veitch's version.

Cobweb comes from the tradition of cheesecake in the pulps. She's a sultry vixen and her stories emphasize that. These are the least thematically consistent in Tomorrow Stories. There's an adventure story, two prose pieces, a few pages of science fiction, a historical, and a noir themed story done in the style of children's comics. These stories tend toward the entertaining but not exceptional. While Melinda Gebbie's illustrations keep up with the myriad of tonal shifts the lack of a theme beyond sleazy stories.

Jack B. Quick is comedic Tom Swift; a boy whose superscience inventions cause trouble in the farming community he lives in. I found these to be a lot of fun as Jack butters cats to work on antigravity or builds an FTL motorcycle so that the town cop can pull over speeding photons. Moore doing science jokes is much funnier than his attempt at satire. Kevin Nowlan's Eisner winning art is astounding; I liked Veitch's better but Nowlan manages to take some strange phenomena and make it understandable.

The First American is Moore's attempt at satire in the style of the Zucker brothers and are the stories that just fell flat for me. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that the humor is often ten years out of date; a Ken Lay parody doesn't carry as much weight in 2010 as it did in 1999. The occasional funny gag isn't worth pushing through the ten weak ones to get there. The First American is also the only one of these stories that isn't in a pulp style and that makes it a discordant note in the anthology. Jim Baikie's artwork is hyperactive enough to convey the concepts; the problem here is completely on Moore's shoulders.

There's also a brief five page story a superhero parody called Splash Brannigan that Hilary Barta provides the artwork for. Presumably there will be more stories about this character in a second volume so I'll withhold judgment on it for now.

On the whole I liked enough of Tomorrow Stories to recommend it but I wasn't enthusiastic about it. The only stories that I'd have no hesitation on is Grayshirt and twenty-five percent of an anthology isn't a strong selling point. Fortunately I also liked Cobweb and Jack B. Quick as well which made the whole package worth my time.