Comics: Shock: Hardcover Anthology Collection - Reviewed

Rachel reviews Shock

Aftershock comics released its very first anthology collection book, Shock, on April 11th and what a wild ride it was. For being their first anthology style graphic novel, Aftershock certainly landed some big names when it came to the talent contributing to this book, whether it be writer, artist, colorist or letterer. When I received a copy of Shock, and upon reading the first story, I mistakenly assumed that it was a completely horror themed anthology. Though I certainly love my horror anthologies, I was actually really pleasantly surprised to see the great mixture of tales told in this book, from humorous features, shocking stories, sci-fi themed pieces to even one or two that reduced me to tears with how heartbreakingly emotional they were.

The anthology begins with a story entitled Witch Work, written by Neil Gaiman, which weaves a tragic narrative of love, loss, death and grief. Beginning an anthology with a story written by Gaiman is an incredibly smart marketing tactic, as, quite frankly, the man can do no wrong. Everything he does is simply amazing and once you as a reader start with that story you are completely hooked. There are a total of 21 stories, all contributed to by different writers and artists, which truly showcases the talent we are lucky to have access to in the current industry. Although it is clear that Aftershock thoroughly vetted this team and truly I could find positive things to say about each piece, there are a few really stand out pieces to me. The seventh story in this volume, entitled Dumb Bitch, was exceptionally powerful and poignant in its theme that dealt with domestic violence. Very much still a fictional piece with supernatural aspects at play, it appropriately conveyed the terror and feeling of defeat and being trapped in such a relationship and then the revealing the peace and light at the end of the tunnel in a way that was both moving and empowering. I would also be remiss in not mentioning the story which follows the above mentioned piece, The Last Dance with You, as it actually left me a bit of an emotional mess. A story that follows a young woman on her wedding day as she listens to a voicemail from her now deceased father just moments before he died, this story is bound to pull on your heartstrings and bring a tear to your eye. Within this anthology, I found that there are plenty of stories that will leave you in a state of confusion at the end, and I honestly really appreciate that fact. I think reading a well written story that ends on a note where you are left wanting more is an excellent tactic to draw new readers to your work and almost every story therein does this.

It is difficult to discuss the art of an anthology book when each of the stories is drawn by a different artist. That said, overall, the talent that went into making this book was exceptional. No two stories look at all similar and there is such a variety in the stylistic choices that were taken that makes this book as visually interesting as it is written. Once again, I must mention the very first story, because not only was the story itself wonderful, the art done by Michael Zulli was absolutely chilling. Done entirely in grayscale, the heavy shading and intense line work contribute to the overall melancholy feel of the piece and allowed this to be my absolute favorite story in the series. The journalistic approach that Szyman Kudranski brought to the art of Escape from the Lost World is one that also caught my attention. Once again, another story drawn in black and white, this particular series has a mixture of what almost seems to be photographic media with a starkly different approach to the less heavy feel of the characters. It was extremely visually interesting and the combination was unlike any I have seen before. I think my absolute favorite artist contribution had to be done by Michael Gaydos with Dead City, a story he is entirely responsible for when it comes to writing, art, colors and letters. The story is short, simplistic and has very little dialogue but the art is breathtaking. It has the overall look and feel of a chalk drawing, surreal and whimsical in one way, yet the subject matter dark and dismal; I simply couldn’t look away. I could really go on forever about the amount of artistic talent exhibited in Shock, but unfortunately time will not permit this.

Summing up an anthology such as Shock, one with a wide array of writers and artists, can be really difficult as there are so many things to discuss and so much subject matter to choose from. Though I was able to highlight some of the most memorable and impressive moments within this graphic novel, at least in my opinion, I must say that alone does not do this anthology justice. Different writing styles, genres and artistic talent make this particular piece so special, not only from extremely recognizable industry veterans, but those who you may be less familiar with. Shock is a fantastic Anthology that I highly recommend and I definitely look forward to more of this style of series from Aftershock.

-Rachel Rutherford