Flux is the first release, hopefully of many, from the new UK arm of What the Flux Comics, based in the US.
It’s a collection of four new stories. It falls nicely in-between the A-list celebrity led, mainstream baiting of Mark Miller’s Clint and the many small press anthologies that are out there. With the backing of What The Flux International, the UK releaser will have access to decent distribution and marketing that small press creators don’t. They are using relatively unknown writers and artists and bringing us new and original stories. That alone is reason enough to support it.
All the good intentions in the world won’t count for a thing if they don’t deliver a decent product. So, the big question is – is it any good? The answer, for the most part, is a resounding yes. As with any collection of stories, it’s a hard task to be consistently excellent. As the old adage says, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.
First off is the excellent cover, boding well for what is to come inside. Bold and bright, its striking lines took me back to my teenage purchases of Heavy Metal. As a statement of intent for Issue One, it certainly does the job. If you see this amongst the comics on the rack then you’re going to look, it does a fine job of enticing you in.
You get a decent amount of bang for your buck too, with four separate stories spread over 52 pages. It means each story gets a decent amount of time to tell their tales. All looking good then ,as we move on to story number one, Faithless written by Dominik Diamond and drawn by David Tomei.
Not a good opening. In fact Flux falls flat on its face with a boring and predictable opener. Tomei’s fine, gritty artwork is not at fault here, it’s just that he’s given so little of interest to work with. Dull and overindulgent, Diamond’s script could have got us to where he wants to take us in less than half the time. That would have left more than enough time to come up with something interesting to say.
The story of a man who has delusions of being crucified, it’s not entirely without potential, but instead of taking us straight to the heart of the story, we get a check list of clichés instead. Down at heel hero, not very bright hard man chasing him for cash, mysterious stranger spouting platitudes (and a vehicle for plot exposition) it all ends up with some government involvement and the faint whiff of desperately trying to be controversial. An inauspicious opener.
Thankfully, as we move on, the quality moves up by quite a few notches.
Tusk, chapter one: Retired Addiction, written and drawn by James Boulton, is a tale of a lone commando being dropped into deepest Chechnya back in 1984. With the setting being back in the eighties and our titular hero bearing more than a passing resemblance to John Rambo, this could have gone horribly wrong, but it doesn’t. This is the Rambo of the First Blood, not it’s jingoistic sequels.
Yes, Tusk does his job and kills, but it’s not without conscience. He is aware of what he is doing and why. There is a palpable sense of his weariness and his desire for all of this to end. Boulton’s own art is excellent here. Using big, bold panels, short on background, he concentrates on what is important to move the story on. The art is as focused on the job in hand as Tusk is himself.
Tusk’s mission, of course, isn’t all that it seems, and ends a bit of a cliffhanger. That’s not the only reason you will want to read more of this strip though.
Flux continues redeeming itself for the disappointing opening as we move onto the pick of the bunch in Foreign Matter written by Martin John and drawn by German Ponce. An unashamedly traditional superhero story, it’s frantic and action packed pretty much right from the outset.
After a brief look at the front page of a newspaper, we’re taken right into the heart of the battle. A crowd flee in panic, under attack, and our heroes are there to save the day. We’re introduced to the characters as they fight. It’s a nice, efficient opening. Being right in there beside them, it’s almost the comic equivalent of Black Hawk Down. The pace never drops even when we leave the square under siege to find out some background on the villain and how he came to be here. It’s hardly the most original take on how evil was released onto the world, but when it’s done this well, then that hardly matters. Sometimes it’s not the story that you’re telling that matters, but how you’re telling it. And they’re telling it well here.
The artwork here is excellent. Action, destruction, heroic heroes and demonic foes all wonderfully rendered. The script provides an interesting and entertaining take on familiar themes. Foreign Matter is the jewel in the crown of Flux’s first issue and is most definitely the one to watch. If it continues the way it started, no anthology will be able to hold it, it fully deserves its own comic.
Inevitably, given what it has to follow, Flux eases off a little for the final title, Teregrin. Written and illustrated by Ed Qunby, it is completely different to what has come before. A mediaeval romp which suffers a little from very unfortunate timing, being released at almost the same time as the upcoming film Your Highness, with which it shares a setting and a similar sense of humour. It’s a pity, as Quinby’s story and art are fine pieces of work, and deserve better than the inevitable comparisons.
Teregrin, the hero of the tale finds himself in the employ of a king who believes that he is bedevilled by a young village boy. How Teregrin gets there, by misadventure mainly, and how he plans to get out of it all is humorously written and nicely plotted with a hint of darkness too. You won’t find any belly laughs here, but you will smile and it’s a nice way to end a comic, with a smile on your face.
A decent debut then for the new comic. Kudos for providing four very different stories to tell. Two and three quarters out of four isn’t a bad score at all and, of course, the jury is still out on all of the contributions. It’s still early days indeed.