Anthology titles in comics have a pretty checkered history. EC Comics were, and indeed, still are the benchmark but companies like DC Comcs did some good stuff in titles like House of Mystery, Unexpected and the original Strange Sports Stories. The problem is that in American comics as opposed to British comics, the sports strip isn’t exactly successful, or even any good so this new four issue miniseries from Vertigo Comics is a patchy, but welcome attempt to bring the sports strip back and make it work. Having Gilbert Hernandez do a strip is as good as you can get.
Hernandez’s story is about a bunch of kids that are playing football (the real version, not that crap American version), burst their ball and then have their ball nicked by bullies. However a strange ball arrives from the sky…
This is one of Hernandez’s great little short stories about a mysterious alien ball that lures boys and has them abducted by Martians.
Even though the reader can see whats coming, even though the punchline is obvious, there’s a lovely tone and touch on display here from Hernandez that perfectly captures kids playing not to mention he throws in a nice little bit at the end that tops it off perfectly. It’s a great start to the issue.
The next strip by Amy Chu and Tana Ford looks nice and is decent enough as a short story but it’s a 2000AD Future Shock that doesn’t outstay it’s welcome, but doesn’t stay in the memory either.
The third story by Lauren Beukes, Dale Halvorson and Christopher Mitten has traces of the DNA of Death Game 1999 in it, and it’s gloriously gory fun in the EC tradition.
The last story by Ivan Brando and Amei Zhao is a tale of the end of the world and the last baseball game.
It’s melancholic in tone and that sticks out against the other three stories being either light in tone, or having their tongue very firmly in cheek, but it’s good for a short story and helped by some beautiful art that carries the story well.
Strange Sports Stories #1 is a patchy affair. No story though is terrible, though the Hernandez story is superb making everything after it an exceptionally hard act to follow. As an anthology it’s a good attempt to cover as much ground as possible and I hope the other three issues maintain this sort of quality because frankly DC/Vertigo don’t publish much that’s at all good, so this is a welcome addition to their titles.