I rather liked issue 1 of this smart new anthology, spinning out of the Tiny Dancing arts mag when the comics got too plentiful to fit.
And looking back on it now, with issue 2 in hand, some of that enjoyment came from the tightness, and substantial nature of it – 48 pages and just 4 different strips. That’s what marks it out amongst an ever growing set of smart looking anthology works with as many contributors as there are pages, that and having a series of strips with interesting hooks and some new to me artists to enjoy.
Issue 2 of Reads sadly loses some of that uniqueness. Instead of 4 long strips, we have 6 of various length, and a few pages less as well. And it affects my enjoyment just enough for the inital glister to tarnish just a little. Too much of the comic seemed inconsequential, and those that were deliberately slight lacked the poetic beauty I felt they were aiming for. So after the enjoyment of issue 1, this felt like a come-down, the comic equivalent of the difficult second album perhaps?
Sadly no Hilary Harper this time round, even though Miller and Horry deliver a page of the gentlemen adventurer with strangley Pertwee-esque demenour as an introduction/contents page. We do get a full episode of Metroland though.
(Metroland by Ricky Miller)
I wasn’t sure of this one initially, but a little thinking about it, a little reading of prior episodes in Tiny Dancing, meant the restart I’d read in Reads #1 worked, delivering enough mystery and story to grab me. But having done that really quite well there, Miller decides to go the other way here, giving us the full backstory via a quick summary page, and then ten pages of what feels like an interlude.
Don’t get me wrong, given what’s gone before, it’s definitely interesting, building towards I know not what, but it just feels like Miller hasn’t got his pacing quite right, and so early on it’s a touch out of place to read something so interlude-y already.
And in a way, that’s the feeling that comes across throughout the rest of the comic. Too much of the material in the rest of the stories feels bitty, inconsequential, and lacking the solid grounding of the meaty tales in Reads #1.
The Knowledge by Tim Bird looks rather gorgeous sure, but it’s lightweight, which suited his drifting tale of issue 1, but comes off as empty here. Far better is the three page The House by Marjory Wallace, which does the same sort of lyrical, dreamy feel that Bird did in issue 1, this time full of a child’s memories of a strange house in a field. Neat looking art as well, at least most way through, gets a touch ropey at the end.
(The Knowledge by Tim Bird)
(The House by MJ Wallace)
The 5-page Bad Times Ahead takes the initial setup of issue 1 and does little more than recap before dropping a new twist on the final page, and that just felt far too insubstantial.
Insubstantial appears to be my word of the day.
Cloudriders by Claire J.C. Stewart begins here, but it’s sadly not really for me. It’s got that sort of half-manga sketchy look that doesn’t appeal too much, and the story of a youngster beginning his tuition in the ways of cloud-riding just takes a little too long too say not enough. Paul Rainey rounds out the issue with his ever improving artwork on Wednesday, a father and son tale with a difference, and this simple yet effective 4-pager sees this issue to a close. But not before Rebecca Strickson shows just how good she is once more – her cover last time was a treat, and her pinup of Ricky, Jess, and Ruffles the time travelling Beagle from Metroland is beautiful. Would love to see her tackle a full strip.
So sadly it’s a case of “okay, but issue 2 is no issue 1“. There’s still talent here, and still good ideas, just that this issue there wasn’t the solidity, the interest, the entertainment value I got from that first issue. Maybe issue 3 will prove to be a return to form?