Review: Predators / Written by: Various / Illustrated by: Various / Published by: Accent UK / Release Date: Out Now
Predators is the most recent of Accent UK’s annual anthologies and it should come as no surprise that you get a massive amount of comics for your money in this themed collection containing contributions from writers and artists at all different stages in their careers. I found that many of the contributors took the theme dishearteningly literally, but when Predators is good it is dazzling and a complete validation of the format.
Featuring a staggering 35 stories Predators is a hefty black-and-white book featuring a wide array of creative teams. The standout best story in the anthology is A Good Day, written by Steve White and illustrated by James McKay, in which a weakened dinosaur struggles for survival during the dry season. Beset by parasites and adversaries, this powerful creature battles for survival and fights to assert his relevance in a completely ruthless world. The confident illustrations are entirely pencilled without inks and are nothing less than breathtaking, hinting at the potential of this creative team to create a graphic novel like nothing that you’ve ever experienced. Other stories like Always Chased by Martin Fisher and Javier O. Reyes are less triumphantly successful, standing out for the original plot and distinctive visuals but never quite reaching the potential of the sci-fi premise. Just Like You by Lee Robson and Bryan Coyle is almost-great, with an assured and clean line-work that would be the envy of most working artists and an excellent idea for a serial killer addressing the reader that doesn’t have the emotional hook that it would need to have stood out as the best strip in the anthology. I’d suggest that the author reads Hubert Selby Jr’s The Demon to get a feel for the kind of character motivation that would really give this short strip the legs to support a series or graphic novel.
The Evil One by Kev Mullins takes a predictable tour through the food chain but begins with an inspiring account of a caribou’s struggle to survive, an element that could easily have supported the full strip. The Drill by Morgan Pielli and Jon-Mikel Gates is an absolutely pitch-perfect account of a group of schoolchildren hiding from a kaiju battle and is probably the strip that most appealed to my warped sensibilities. And We’ll Lick The Platter Clean by Natalie Sandells features a great play on an old poem and some incredibly accomplished pencils but suffers by comparison to a dearth of similar material. There’s a Z-Girl & the 4 Tigers strip by Jeff Marsick and Kirk Manley that’s clearly the work of a team ready to sell their comics to a wide audience, boasting a style that would fit well at 2000 AD and a subject reminiscent of DC’s Frankenstein, Agent of SHADE series. The final strip, Skin Deep by Mo Ali and Andy Bloor is probably the one to get most excited about, because the story is great, Bloor’s at the height of his game and the two have plans to collaborate again on something big in 2012.
Overall the anthology starts slowly and takes time to pick up steam. There are a lot of strips included of questionable value and I would hypothetically rather pay less for a leaner book of a higher quality, but Accent UK have given first starts to so many big figures in the UK comics industry that you can hardly blame them for adopting a generous stance towards first-time contributors. When subject and creative team complement one another there are some terrific strips and occasionally the predator-angle leads to moments that hint at a completely new kind of comic. Whatever qualms I might have about the weaker strips are more than compensated for by the good and perhaps it says most about Predators when I confess that my first thoughts after reading the book were “I want to be in the next one”.