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‘Black Crown Omnibus, Vol. 1’ (review)

Written by Rob Davis, Will Potter,
Carl Puttnam, Peter Milligan,
Tini Howard, David Barnett, Leah Moore

Illustrated by Philip Bond, Rob Davis,
Tess Fowler, Gilbert Hernandez,
Martin Simmonds, Dilraj Mann
Edited by Shelly Bond

Published by IDW Publishing

 

I guess I’m just not hip enough for the Black Crown Omnibus.

I was intrigued because I had enjoyed some pretty weird stuff from writer Pete Milligan back in the ‘80s and ‘90s and his was the most recognizable name to me amongst the many creators of this anthological project.

To be honest, if Milligan’s name hadn’t caught my eye, nothing else about the package would have.

Neither the front or back covers give any real indication as to what this project is all about.

Flipping through the book shows a disparate grouping of art styles from the deceptively simplistic to the ultra-slick. But what the heck is it all about? Couldn’t tell you based on any available pre-reading info given.

Editor/curator Shelly Bond is the showrunner here, and the setting of the book’s widely varying stories is an unusual neighborhood where each business or building has been clearly defined and every one of them has its own stories and secrets. It’s a complex but clever idea.

The book is filled with backstory and behind the scenes info, before and after the various comics stories and even sometimes, as in the old “Pop-up Videos” of the 1980s, IN the middle of the stories themselves.

The bottom line with any anthology, though, is how are the individual tales? And the problem with most anthologies is that the answer is generally, “It’s a mixed bag.” And that’s what we have here.

To me, the best section by far is the first one, Tales of the Black Crown Pub, by Rob Davis. Set in a pub one can only find after getting lost, we meet in short order a number of unique characters, very few of whom turn out to be what they initially seem. Over the next 35 pages, everything is coming together nicely when it all just stops and we move on down the street to Milligan’s disappointing Kid Lobotomy section. This is followed by a well-drawn but also disappointing segment entitled Rich and Strange.

Next up, we have another good segment, Assasinistas, by Tini Howard and Gilbert Hernandez. The story about long-retired elite female assassins being drawn back in is well-written and—of course—well-drawn, but again incomplete, as this volume is planned as the first of many.

A few more stories follow, along with a lot more extras as well (including League of Extraordinary Gentlemen-style fake ads), but my interest waned quickly.

The thing is, there’s no way I can say this isn’t good stuff. Some very talented professionals, both veterans and neophytes, have clearly poured their hearts into Shelly Bond’s overall vision here, and this volume is well-designed and has many extras I can only assume are exclusive to the Omnibus.

It’s just that I personally didn’t like most of it. I was never the hippest guy in the room anyway. Definitely not hip enough to recommend the Black Crown Omnibus. If you’re hipper, your mileage may vary.

 

 

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