Review: Stray Lines issue 2

Originally posted on Irish Comic News (13/Apr/2017)

Stray Lines

Featuring comics by Sarah BowieAlan DunneKatherine FoyleGus HughesDebbie JenkinsonPaddy Lynch and Elida Maiques.

I recently managed to get my mitts on a copy of issue two of the Stray Lines anthology. Something I meant to do sooner since it was released in the tail-end of 2016. I’d already the first issue so I had some idea of what to expect. It’s an anthology that gives the reader a selection of quality stories told in a variety of art styles.

First story in the anthology is ‘A Perfect Trust’ by Alan Dunne.It tells the story of a priest who is a medic in the trenches of World War I. It’s a beautifully realised comic. The line and colour art is of a style that I enjoy looking at on the page, even with some of the more grotesque panels that you would expect in a war story. It was one of those times when you get to the end and think ‘Aww. That’s all’. It was just such a treat to read that I just wanted it to keep going and going with the story of the priest.

Sarah Bowie gives a story of school trip to France in ‘Paris 1994‘. This story had me smiling (and nodding to familiar scenarios) that happened during the trip. Bowie has a great ability to give a sense of the characters in a very short sequence of panels. Although it’s not entirely right to describe them as panels. The pages create the sense of panels with the layout of lettering and art without there being any panel borders. It’s a clever effect that gives a sense
of the the story just flowing along, almost  like you were scanning along a film reel.

‘Citestage’ by Gus Hughes was a really interesting comic. The art looks like it could have been produced by charcoal or pencil. It’s used really well on some of the panels to make the art look like it’s a faded black and white photograph. I’ve read the comic a couple of times and it changes every time I read it. Each page has art at the top and bottom of the page with text filling the gutters between the artwork. Sometimes I read it as if the panels and gutters are telling two different stories in parallel. Others it’s as if it’s all details of the same story. It just kept drawing me back to re-read the story to try and get an answer to which way it should be read. It remains elusive, and I like the comic all the more for it.,

Next up we have ‘War Inside’ by Elida Maiques. This is quite a creative stripped down comic. The first page is almost entirely composed of empty panels. It’s quite a bold open to the comic. But definitely worked for me as they was no way I wouldn’t see how the comic  unfolded. In addition to the  empty panels the comic also features text only panels, abstract  imagery only panels and a a combination of both. It’s a comic that really invites to examine the panels individually and in some cases as part of piece that spreads over multiple panels. It shows a confidence and understanding of the medium. I’m certainly to see what the next comic Maiques produces is like.

‘Don’t get stuck’ by Paddy Lynch is a wonderful sci-fi short. Every page is a nine panel grid without gutters, yet not once was it difficult to discern one panel for the other. The small colour palette is used really well to make the objects and people stand out well in the comic. Readability might have been hindered if it had been a black and white comic but the colours really make the art stand out. It’s also another comic that had me wondering ‘and then what happens?’.

‘King of the Cold’ by Katherine Foyle really felt as if there was a lot more happening beneath the surface of the story. It essentially is a short about a man and his daughter stopping for ice cream during winter but the more I re-read the more I’m convinced it’s not the whole story.  The first three panels really gave me that vibe. The art is wonderful with some well drawn characters and props. I really really want more of this from Foyle.

Debbie Jenkinson provides the finale to the anthology with ‘The Comfort Inn’. A man sits alone in his room at the inn while posting on a messageboard discussion. He’s drafting a response to someone who has posted about their fantasy about being ill and how that would change the relationships with their family/friends. The response he’s working on is an attempt to show that it’s not that weird a fantasy. Which he tries to prove by the response he is typing up. I really like how the story wraps up as it kinda proves the response to be fantasy by his actions in the last panel. Most of the art is black and white with the exception of the fantasy sequence in the middle which has some colours applied to it. A good use of colour to highlight the sequence is something different from the rest of the comic.

Stray Lines is great anthology for people wanting to check some comics with a more indie sensibility to it. The comic is  available via the Stray Lines website for €7 to Ireland and UK (€8 for the rest of the world). With over 50 pages of comics, how could you not pick up a copy?

Link to Stray Lines website.

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