Review: Power-ups: Villified

Blurb about the anthology to give you a flavour of what to expect:

POWER-UPS: Vilified is the first comic anthology presented by the Comic Book Hour community. Each of its sixteen self-contained stories was inspired by the same writing prompt: “I am not what they think I am”. Some are funny. Some are sad. Some will make you think. All of them a testament to the power of collaborative storytelling.

This collection sees creators from all over the world exploring multiple genres from horror and fantasy to superheroes and legal dramas. Whatever your preference, there truly is something to cater for everyone’s tastes. Whether you are a long-time reader or new to the form, POWER-UPS: Vilified is the perfect place to discover the next generation of up-and-coming independent comic creators.

The grassroots revolution is here. Join Comic Book Hour and be part of it.

I’m going to break this up by each story in the anthology, well, because I feel like it!

Truth be told, there’s a lot of great input for a lot of people and I want to cover as much as a I can. So grab an energy drink, this is gonna be a long one!

1. Whispers (line art by Gian Carol B Bernal. Colour art by Angela Zhang. Words by G.S Faulk)

Whispers is an excellent choice to open the anthology. The artwork hits you instantly, it just looks that good. Line art, colours and flow of panels show strong ability and a keen understanding of what works with regard to the story.  The story itself is a ghost story where the monster isn’t the one you think it is (which is in keeping with the theme of the anthology). I know I started out feeling sorry for some of the characters in the opening page only for the story turn on its head halfway through. An impressive four page short.

2. Ahogar (Co-written by Sidney Maris Hargrave and Rowan Hartford. Line art by Sidney Maris Hargrave. Colour art by Rowan Harford)

I really liked how this story played out. It opens on a small coastal town and quickly sets the scene for a pretty terrifying scenario for the locals. But the woman who is the focal character of the story steps beyond her fear of the tales she grew up with to change how see shes things. The woman is the narrator of the story with no dialogue for any characters. The turning point is done with completely silent panels which I thought worked well. I liked the line art and the choice of colour palette for the story. One small thing I would complain about was the first page. I was three-quarters of the way down page one (reading on a tablet) be I spotted the opening text of the story. A small thing but the page would work better if the text was shifted to the top and the art pushed down so the reader is immediately drawn to the opening captions. But enjoyable tale other than that.

3. Bullies & Saviors (Line art by Nicolo Arcuti. Letters by Albert Creswell. Written by Robert Wolinsky)

As someone with two brothers, this story particularly resonated with me. It shows how brothers can at times swing wildly between two polar extremes in the relationship with each other. Much of the comic is focused around fighting with artist really capturing the energy that goes with that. There’s also a sequence at the bottom of the third page where you can really sense what the younger brother is going through. It’s a nice change of pace from the preceding two strips.

4. My My Tenshi Life: Vile (Art and lettering by Luzco Lumaga. Written and edited by T.R Racki)

My My Tenshi Life: Vile is a teaser for an ongoing webcomic at MyMyTenshiLife.com. The art is a treat to look at, particularly the colours. To be entirely honest, my mind was changed somewhat on the story when I spotted the “The story continues” on the last panel. As a story on its own, it didn’t work for me. But knowing that it’s part of a bigger narrative it could actually work depending on the relevance of the short to the larger story. And I really hope that anyone that does read this story would check out the webcomic as looks really good artwise (haven’t had a chance to delve into the story itself). That being said, the short was meant to get people checking out the webcomic and damn if didn’t work on me. Good job, MMTL:V team!

5. Smuggler’s Run (Art by Massimo Sabadin. Written by Erik Bitmanis)

The title of this short tells you pretty much exactly what this story is going to be like. The ending of this one really worked for me. It’s the slightest of changes to how the story was playing out but makes for a much more satisfying ending over just playing the story out in the ending the reader expected. The art is pretty well done for most of the comic, though there was one panel where the choice of camera really made the art look flat. It didn’t take away from the story but it was a blip on an otherwise good standard of visual storytelling.

6. Lex Iniusta (Line art by Mary Anne Mackey. Colour art by Ellie Wright. Lettering by Julie Gravelle. Written by Gary Moloney)

This strip is a legal-comedy short ( and a bit more but it don’t want to spoil some of the jokes in the story). Both the story and the artwork really bring out the comedy of the story. Be it the dialogue or how a panel is done. The reveal of the defendant being a personal favourite. A small detail in the panel just gives it that little extra it needed. This strip could have run for longer, it was just that enjoyable. It had a sense of humour that just hit my giggle-button. (And nice to see Wright and Moloney representing the Irish scene in the anthology).

7. The Monster (Line art by Mharz. Colour art by Micah Weltsch. Written and lettered by Jenn Arledge)

A good short where who is the monster is all a matter of perspective. It’s also a good example of the art putting in small details on the characters so the comic doesn’t have to spell every little out in text form for the reader. Dialogue and captions are enough to tell the story without swamping the artwork. Line art has some nice camera choices on the action. The colours make the characters and background easily determined for the reader. A good comic from a team working well together that could easily be a teaser for a longer story.

8. Comet (Art by Kevin Pass. Written by Josh Keeling)

The standout part of this comic is how creatively the main character narrates the story. Not only is it a distinctive way to present the narration but it’s also a clever way to mark the passage of time. The use of different media instantly gives an approximate time of human history that the narrator is mentioning. And the artwork to present these visuals is equally impressive. All you need to do is look at the third page to see exactly what I’m talking about. Interesting short that, like other strips, left me wanting a longer story.

9. The Classics (Line art by Samm Judge. Colour art by Jeff Edis. Written by Mike Lynch)

The Classics is comedic spin on classic monster horrors. A trio of old-school movie horrors are annoyed that the citizens of their city are no longer scared of them while they are terrified of the monsters currently besieging the city. Each of the monsters use their unique abilities to tackle the new generation of monsters. The strip is going straight for the laughs with fun artwork that compliments the story.

10. Cognitive Dissonance (Line art by Cristian Baldi. Colour art by Kayla Swain. Written by Nicholas Poonamallee)

This strip follows Max, a smart student who seems to have little consideration for how he may disrespect his fellow students. The strip has some great looking line and colour art. It was fun to see the two different aspects of Max playing out in the story, the side he shows at school and with his girlfriend which is quite different to how he behaves when they aren’t around. All of which leads to Max having difficulty keeping a grasp on who the true Max is.

11. #1 Overlord (Art and letters by Scott Malin. Written by Julian Dominguez)

#1 Overlord is a sci-fi comedy following the attempt of would-be galactic tyrant, Devil Eyes, as he attempts to put himself at the top of Our Universe magazines “Most Popular Galactic Tyrant” poll. The strip delivers some good laughs with the crew of Devil Eyes ship doing their best to help their boss on his mission. The art is fun and has some good visuals that helps underscore some of the gags. The colours are nice and bright which gives this comic an upbeat feel.

12. I See You (Art by Eilidh Price. Written by Jonathan Ward)

This is a beautiful looking strip. The focus of the story is a lion that is delivered to a safari and how the other animals react to is arrival. I’ll be honest and say I never saw the ending coming. It’s a strange story (in a really good way) and I’ve re-read it a couple of time to try and decipher it. It’s a real stand-out strip for both the story and the art style.

13. The Teramyth (Art by Melissa Capriglione. Written by Jerreau Driessen)

The Teramyth is a short that is a creation myth (there was a clue in the title). The character design for the deities and the colours were the high points on this story. That said I did enjoy this spin on the creation myth which does lend itself to a larger story for the focal character. Particularly when you get to the last panels.

14. Color Line (Art by Ricardo Enguita. Colours and letters by Jess Drake. Written by Zackary Rupp )

Color Line breaks from most of the other stories and offers up an American historical strip. The captions give the reader the historical context for the story that is playing out in the panels. The particular part of American history that is the subject of the strip isn’t something I’m that familiar with so it was an interesting read on both the information level and for the story itself. A well illustrated story that shows real life can be just as horrifying as fiction.

15. The Gowrow (Panel art by Edgardo Granel-Ruiz. Words and Backgrounds by Robert L.Eoff)

The Gowrow is the tale of a young boy who ignores his grandmothers warning and goes in search of a monster in the woods called The Gowrow. The opening of the story does well in building up the myth of the Gowrow before we’re introduced to the lead character. Some nice artwork on a photograph to give it that old age look, as well as some good work on the last page. The ending did seem a bit abrupt. I actually expected another page to this strip. I liked the myth that was built up in the story and wanted to better understand what exactly was happening in the last panel.

16. Obsessed (Art by Michelle Stanford. Words by Jamie Me. Co-lettered by Jonathan Carter)

This bonus comic is the closer for the anthology. It’s a strip that visualises the struggle many creators have with the creative output. The internal voices attempting to pull the creators focus from the work they’re trying to complete. A good looking comic that does well with the symbolism that’s peppered throughout the strip. It’s a good choice for the closer as some of the contributors to the anthology probably had to battle their inner voices to get the work done.

And that’s the lot with regard to the strips that make up the anthology. I like this type of anthology because it gets a new generation of creatives into teams to complete a comic for inclusion in an anthology. The collection has a great standard throughout with varying takes on the theme. You’ve got sci-fi, horror and comedy as well as combinations of those genres. The collection is €3.99 on Gumroad which is a steal since you’re getting 100 pages of comics. And if that isn’t enough, you’re also supporting the early adventures of the next generation of comic creators!

You can buy a digital copy of the anthology over on Gumroad.

About contributor.
Comic-loving bookworm. Scribbler of words and images.
Not Irish international soccer player.
Can be found on Twitter @Stephen_C_Ward.