Review: Anomaly / Writer: Skip Brittenham / Art: Brian Haberlin / Publisher: Anomaly Productions / Release Date: November 22nd
What we have here is an ambitious first release from a new company, Anomaly Productions. And when we say ambitious, we're talking about a whopping, Jane's Fighting Ships-size, 300-pages-plus, full colour graphic novel sturdily bound in hardcovers, with a dust jacket, and presented in an attractive box, the whole package weighing nearly two pounds. It's a lot to take in, especially as there's actually even more to it than meets the eye (but back to that later).
Written by Skip Brittenham (of Pixar and DreamWorks) and comic book artist Brian Haberlin (Witchblade, Spawn), with art by Haberlin and Gierrod Van Dyke, Anomaly is essentially a good, old fashioned, Avatar-meets-John Carter sf/fantasy story, but envisioned and executed on a massive scale. It's the future, and the Earth is controlled by a tyrannical big business called the Conglomerate, which aggressively colonizes other planets for their natural resources. Not everyone agrees with this way of doing things, though, especially rich girl Samantha, who embarks on a peaceful mission to a distant planet without a name. Sent to babysit her and the rest of the diplomatic team is Jon, a soldier recently reinstated after being the fall guy for a bloody incident on another world.
Unfortunately, all does not go to plan. A virulent type of mould gobbles up their equipment, and they soon find themselves captured by the People, one of many intelligent bipedal species that populate the planet's surface. Their arrival also draws the unwelcome attention of Erebos, leader of the Muties, demonic creatures that threaten the other species with extinction. But here's an idea – maybe everyone should band together against this common foe? Hmm, if only they had a ringleader. Sounds like a job for a fast-talking Earthling!
Alright, the storyline isn't very original, but the script has a Hollywood-style slickness and the characters are all fleshed out in a lively, engaging way. Similarly, the fantasy design goes down a familiar route, with Muties who look like WWF wrestlers with antlers, and multiple borrowings from Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy (the People are noticeably elvish and one species, the Gigantus, bears a marked resemblance to a cave troll). But this is more than compensated for by artwork of extraordinary, painterly complexity, culminating in some incredible panoramic double-page spreads as events career towards their warlike conclusion.
On top of that, Anomaly has a whole other dimension. If you own a tablet, you can download an app which will enable you to experience 3D Augmented Reality pop-ups, voiceovers by well-known actors and a wealth of interactive material, with further updates in the future – an impressive way of bringing extra longevity to what is already a very substantial and worthwhile offering.