Produced by Australian publisher Gestalt (Waldo’s Hawaiian Holiday, Character Sketches), Flinch is a digest sized anthology, and a good one at that. Inside its 120 black and white pages is a wild assortment of eerie, strange and occasionally disturbing tales. I mean, look at that cover by Shaun Tan – a giant rabbit! Freaky.
The first story is by far my favourite. It’s a great mood setter for the remainder of the book. Bobby. N’s tale, entitled Withheld follows middle-aged prisoner, Jim on his last day in the clink after 30 years inside for a murder he didn’t commit. Having lived half his existence behind bars he’s dejected about his release and the friends he’ll leave behind. The last few pages give the scenes before it a real emotional kick. The artist deserves praise for his panel layouts – dark and angular when in prison and light and welcoming when outdoors. Jim is set up as a quiet and gentle man with such restraint. It’s not wordy and is a superb example of the use of space to build tension.
Also scattered throughout these tales that, “question the darkness within us all,” are simple, yet clever one page pieces by acclaimed artist Shaun Tan that capture a theme such as innocence or knowledge.
The majority of these creators are Australian and really run with the theme behind this collection. Some, like Mel Tregonning in Night, Justin Randall and Chris Bones in Speak of the Devil and James Barclay and Chris Bolton in Twain play with the concept of light battling darkness to unique effect, while Anton McKay’s The Ride Home throws out a Hitchcockian story of suburban horror involving a DJ’s youthful secret.
Other standouts would be Tom Taylor’s work in 96, 000m with artist Tom Bonin. It’s only 6 pages, and opens with two men in a submersible craft on a deep sea mission. The ending is bold and made me laugh because it came from nowhere and really works. Taylor’s other story, with his Star Wars: Invasion collaborator Colin Wilson is a sci-fi tale called White Dove III. Like Bobby. N, Taylor expands a simple premise in to a powerful story.
Like any anthology, not every story is a winner. Demon Street Ghost Trap and The Snare just didn’t do it for me and seemed overly wordy. However, each story also brings a fresh artistic approach and every style imaginable is contained within Flinch’s pages.
Flinch is available now and when I see the varied talent on display here, I gotta say, it makes me proud to be an Aussie. For previews and creator commentaries, visit the official site or see the trailer below.