Release Date: August 7, 2013
The anthology Komacon has a notable concept: it pairs six established Western writers (including Rick Veitch, Colleen Doran, and Joe Keatinge) with six young South Korean illustrators. The result is a fairly standard anthology with the typical strengths and weaknesses of the format. The six stories within these 83 pages tend to feel both a little familiar and a little unfinished.
The first entry, Veitch and In-Hyuk Lee’s “Ragno-Jak”, feels more like a prologue to a longer work. This hilariously vulgar talking-animal strip is the most purely enjoyable thing here. Lee’s wonderfully painted art creates an arch-fantasy world that could be found in any issue of Heavy Metal, but Veitch’s defiantly juvenile stoner humor turns the whole thing into a big, gleeful send-up of stock fantasy anthology clichés. When the story ends you’ll want to flip straight to an as-yet-nonexistent “Ragno-Jak” full-length.
“Fire Dog,” a far more serious affair from Doran and Hae Mi Jang, offers a respectful take on a Korean myth. Jang’s detailed black-and-white art is surprisingly accomplished for an artist in her mid twenties; her style combines manga elements with a European art comic sensibility. She names Katsuhiro Otomo and Moebius as her favorite artists, and that intersection is evident in both her figures and layouts. Doran’s script displays a keen sensitivity for the Eastern material. It feels like a fully-formed work, exactly as long as it needs to be, and thus the highlight of the anthology.
“Smoker” features striking art from the promising Jun-Hyuk Choi. He has a firm handle on the angular abstraction you’d expect from a self-professed Sienkiewicz fan, and the black, grey, and red palette contrasts nicely against the elaborate (and sometimes confusing) layouts. Choi has a bright future.
The artwork is consistently the best thing about Komacon, but the other artists aren’t as assured as the three mentioned above. The stories are largely nondescript retreads of stock fantasy and sci-fi scenarios, without the mythic grandeur of Doran’s “Fire Dog” or Veitch’s irreverent attitude. The second half of Komacon is a nice-looking but middling anthology, like a random old issue of Epic Illustrated with a less-traditional art team.