As the blurb for this new comic from Avatar Press won’t let us forget, the anthology comic is something readers in the US at least seem to be contemptuous of. In Europe we’re used to such things thanks to the likes of 2000AD and Heavy Metal, but in America in the modern era it’s fell by the wayside hence why Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill decided to bring back the concept with Cinema Purgatorio; an attempt to do something different with the format.
From the off this feels different, almost grubby as Moore and O’Neill set up the idea of one of those filthy little cinemas that used to infect the UK decades ago that’s show anything from horror films, to porn, to melodramas, basically anything. In this case it’s a worrying pastiche of old silent comedies.
Moore and O’Neill start this as a zany silent film but it quickly becomes something more real and grimmer while still keeping the conventions of silent comedy.It’s a horribly effective and disturbing story that works to set the tone, and having the stories as part of a cinematic programme dispenses with having a Crypt Keeper or Tharg type character introducing the stories.
Next up is Garth Ennis and Raulo Caceres Code Pru. A story about a paramedic, not someone you see as a leading character in comics, but this is a paramedic in a world where vampires are real…
As an establishing episode it’s pretty good, but this isn’t any more than just setting up the concept that vampires are real, people know about it and Pru’s not one of them.
The third story is Kieron Gillen and Ignacio Calero’s Modded. This is a post-apocalyptic science fiction tale set on a ravaged Earth and I’ve seen this concept more times than I’ve taken a piss in my life, This though is something a wee bit different that feels like a post apocalyptic version of Pokemon with a touch of Final Fantasy.
So far it feels very British and very 2000AD in places, especially Gillen’s story, but Max Brooks and Michael Dipascale’s A More Perfect Union gives a chance for a more American voice to be heard in this crowd of noisy Brits.
Set during the Battle of Gettysburg, A More Perfect Union is a historical tale that stands out as there’s nothing seemingly supernatural in this but there’s something interesting about the story as the historical war comic is a nearly extinct species.
It’s back to a more SF/horror tale with Christos Gage and Gabriel Andrande’s The Vast. A kind of Pacific Rim story of giant monsters and the people trying to stop them. It’s the thinnest story in terms of plot, but it’s fun stuff, even if it’s been done over and over before.
Cinema Purgatorio is a nice revamp of the anthology format. It doesn’t especially change anything here as it’s really taking the idea of the old British weekly comics as it’s inspiration but the entire thing is enjoyable, not to mention, interesting enough to read on to see where the various creators take these stories. The stand out stories are Moore’s Gillen’s and Brooks. Ennis’s story is fine but feels like he wrote it on automatic, and Gage’s is OK, but it’s nothing really special.
This isn’t a cheap comic however don’t let the cover price put you off. There’s some excellent stuff in here and it’s also nice to see artists that can draw and not just that, draw in black and white. Too many mainstream comic artists don’t seem to have grasped these basic talents.
So good first issue. Certainly interesting enough to pick up the next couple of issues. I’d give it a try if I were you….