Anthology tales are usually a hit and miss affair. Creators have the danger of trying different styles, or dusting out a random story from the bottom of their desk drawer. These may work, but that’s not always the case. Unfortunately brevity is not something a lot of current writers are skilled in, whereas their web-comic cousins are skilled indeed at using less than 22 pages to tell an enchanting story.
Saying all that, the new one-shot Pulp Tales, from BOOM! Studios thankfully works. Of course, just like any comic grab bag, you don’t know exactly what you’re going to get and the short tales contained within have to cross as many genres as possible, so readers will find at least one story they adore. This issue comes with two covers, from Ben Templesmith and Josh Medors (Fused, 30 Days of Night.) The latter version is a slightly higher price, but that’s a good thing, as this is a benefit book for Medors who was recently diagnosed with cancer, and ALL proceeds will go to supporting him and his family.
The first tale, Bluejacket is written by 76’s B.Clay Moore and Seth Peck, with art by Chris Samnee. It shows a paranormal team as they fight a werejaguar and welcome Dr. Nicole Shaw to their ranks, as the first woman in Bluejacket’s 75 year history. It combines elements of The X-Files and Doc Savage, with a pinch of Hellboy’s B.P.R.D thrown in for good measure. And it all works. The team consists of the requesite strongman, nerd, adventurer and Dr. Shaw, the token female. Not a panel is wasted creating a glimpse of this world, and it reeks (in a good way) of good old fashioned heroism, when baddies were beaten with fists and dames were kissed hard on the lips.
Joshua Fialkov (the madcap P.U.N.K.S) with glorious old-school art by Andy B, craft an obvious Lone Ranger homage with their story about Newt Lawman and Running Bear as they make a stand against some angry Apaches. The standout here is the art. Reminiscent of Mike Allred, it’s all grand gestures in technicolour. I’d love top see more of this guy.
The Crescent Flame by Kody Chamberlain (also from P.U.N.K.S) is set in New Orleans in 1952. A young man by the name of Harry managed to capture a photo of The Crescent Flame’s latest heroic act and now has to face the consequences. More like an illustrated prose piece told in third person, in the style of an old radio serial, it’s a nice departure from the rest of the more traditional stories before it. Rendered in blue for exteriors, and red for the dark room scenes, it’s also an effective showcase of moody colouring.
Tony Fleecs tells the story of overweight gumshoe Crash Winters in typical pulp fashion. On the trail of deceased movie star Susan Stevens he fumbles his way to a secret and a cute cliffhanger, in the most cartoony fashion in the book.
Limbo’s Assassin follows brutal enforcer Carl Henderson and is the most pulp-ish story here. A prose piece with black and white illustrations by Sarah Wilkinson, there is also a mysterious (though not for long) girl, lots of shooting goons and blood loss. All this means its tailor made for fans of Sin City, but with a supernatural twist. Some may be tempted to skip through all the text, but stick with it. It’s worth it.
Each one of these tales is presented like a random selection from a world that’s been established for some time, but that’s not a distraction. They all have enough charm and diversity to be entertaining in the few pages they’re allowed. Pulp Tales is also a great example of the numerous writing and art styles inherent in today’s indie stars. Each creator brings an approach blatantly differently from the others, yet they also lovingly play with the conventions of classic pulp and superhero tales. Be entertained and maybe discover a new fave creator and you’ll feel good at the same time by supporting a young artist in a time of need. The 24 pager goes on sale on October 8.