Friday, April 27, 2012

Popgun Volume 3

Edited by Mark Andrew Smith and DJ Kirkbride

There's something very satisfying about opening up and diving into a comics anthology like the Popgun series, even before reading any of the stories in it.  I think a lot has to do with the beautiful design and the weight of the book, which clocks in at slightly over 450 glossy pages.  The book is a work of art on its own, and is something to be celebrated.

Unfortunately, I can't say the same for all of the stories in this third volume.  Like when I read the fourth, I find that the variety of audiences to whom the creators are presenting their work makes this a very scattered book to read.  I have nothing against all ages comics (well, I don't really like reading them, but I'm happy they exist), but I don't understand how a cute-sy, kid-oriented story about picking apples can be in the same book as a story about a traveling fighter (named the Bastard) who fights a giant rooster in a story so replete with cock jokes that they are just about the only dialogue in the story.  You would never give this book to a child, and so I wonder if the kid-oriented stories ever get enjoyed the way they are meant to.

In any book this size, and with such a variety of creators represented (76, according to the back cover), there is bound to be stories that resonate, and others that sink.  I particularly enjoyed the early appearance of the Skullkickers by Jim Zubkavich and Chris Stevens, which show an earlier version of our heroes, before the dwarf actually became a dwarf (unless Stevens's perspective was just way off).  There is also an early version of Nathan Edmondson and Christian Ward's Olympus, which ended up being very different from what is shown in this story.

I also enjoyed stories by Alberto Mielgo, Michael Dialynas, Peter Berting, Connor Williamson, Jason Ibarra (working with Zubkavich, who apparently does no wrong), Mark Andrew Smith and Johann Leroux, Amanda Becker and Janet Kim, Ray Fawkes and Justin Randall (whose art looks a lot like Brett Weldele's), Paul Grist, Danilo Beyruth, and Derek Yu.

My two favourite stories were 'Nudging Buddy' by Ron Turner, and 'Ever Upward' by Tonci Zonjic.  The Turner story is a noir-ish tale about three friends who have fallen into crime while on vacation in Greece.  It has a nice pace and a surprising ending.  Zonjic's story is a tribute to Joe Kittinger, the first man to break the speed of sound.

This book covers a number of genres, and really does have something for just about anyone.  I wish there was a little more balance in the selection of stories, and some of them really are dumb, but overall this is a very successful project.

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