Amazing Forest #1
“Tank” Art by Julien Dufour (http://julien-dufour.tumblr.com/)
“Wolf Mother” Art by Matt Rota
“Ronnie the Robot” Art by Melody Often (@melodyoften)
“Bird Watcher” Art by Yumi Sakugawa (@yumisakugawa)
Review by Joey Braccino
…Tales for the bold. Ideas for the strange. Wicked concepts that stir the minds of those with darkness in their hearts. A modern anthology that lends itself to a time when stories were short and ugly…
That’s the mission statement for Erick Freitas and Ulises Farinas Amazing Forest. If it sounds a little Twilight Zone-y or Are You Afraid of the Dark?-esque (yo, #tbt), it totally should, because the succinct, effective, evocative stories on display in Amazing Forest are exactly what a good anthology comic should look like. Intriguing writing, compelling twists, stellar artwork—Amazing Forest has got it all.
Taken individually, each story in the anthology feels totally disparate. We open with “Tank,” a sci-fi post-apocalyptic narrative illustrated by French-Canadian artist Julien Dufour. In it, a group of survivors eke out a meager existence in a giant tank while battling the Slimes, a shape-shifting alien race that can morph into the people closest to your memories. “Wolf Mother” follows, with art by Matt Rota, which is set in a semi-Medieval winterscape with werewolves. Though heavily foreshadowed and a classic misdirection, the twist at the end still hits hard—a testament to the power of the artwork and the clarity of the script for just over 5 pages.
The final two stories are even wilder. “Ronnie the Robot,” illustrated by Melody Often, takes place in a rural-punk future (think Looper) and focuses on a widowed wife who may or may not have found her husband… in a robot. While you could argue a sci-fi angle through all of these stories to some degree, the final story, “Bird Watcher” (art by Yumi Sakugawa), is a surreal experiment in identity and genre. Told in a sort of meta-documentarian tenor, we observe a Bird Watcher in his “natural habitat” as he attempts to find an owl that looks strangely familiar.
Tales for the bold and ideas for the strange indeed. The stories in Amazing Forest are brief—no more than 5 or 7 pages each—and yet the efficiency of narrative and the unique visual style make for some of the most engaging comics storytelling I’ve read in years. Erick Freitas and Ulises Farinas bring a dynamic and pioneering sentimentality to their work, resulting in a sense of possibility and experimentation unlike anything else.
With all that awesomeness in mind, I do have to explain my only gripe with Amazing Forest #1. This strange and wonderful anthology was actually released by Monkeybrain Comics digitally in 2013. This week, IDW is releasing the comic in hard copy with slightly a new design for the credits page and new covers. There is no other new or original content that I can glean from my research. Given what I can only assume to be the rise in distribution and publishing costs, IDW has tagged Amazing Forest #1 at $3.99. IDW Publishing is also releasing the book digitally for $3.99 as well. The original Monkeybrain digital release from 2013? $0.99. And that will still be available, even as the IDW book is released. I find that peculiar. “Wicked concepts to stir the mind,” I suppose. The choice is yours.
BUY, but there’s a very serious catch (see above). Look, Amazing Forest is a wonderful exercise in anthology storytelling—each story may on its own as a tiny bit of surrealism or sci-fi or melodrama or slice-of-life, but they all come together to make a stunning, evocative whole. Erick Freitas and Ulises Farinas and their cadre of amazing artist make Amazing Forest a must-read comic book.