Out of Picture 2

By Andrea Blasich, Nash Dunnigan, David Gordon, Michael Knapp, Sang Jun Lee, Kyle MacNaughton, Peter Nguyen, Vincent Nguyen, Jake Parker, Benoit le Pennec, Willie Real, Jason Sadler, Daisuke Tsutsumi, and Lizette Vega
240 pages, color
Published by Villard Books

One of the many great things that the Flight anthologies have done, it seems, is bring the modern comic anthology back to life. Every time you turn around, there seems to be a new anthology hitting shelves. One of the more recent works is Out of Picture, an anthology series from the artists of Blue Sky Studios. Out of Picture 2, the second volume of work in the series, is a beautiful, oversized volume that has one of the best production values of a comics anthology I’ve seen in a while. But do the stories themselves match up to the attention lavished into the book?

The more I read of Out of Picture 2, the more I was reminded of the text from one of the cover flaps, noting that Out of Picture was meant to, "represent a safe haven for stories and visions that have yet to be realized." It’s meant to be a positive note, one of inspiration, but I can’t help but feel that it’s actually the other way around. Here, the majority of these stories are (as promised) not fully realized. There’s a lot of good ideas here, but the overwhelming theme of Out of Picture 2 seemed to be beautiful art and a story that doesn’t live up to the promise of the visuals.

That’s not to say that all of the stories suffer from this, though. Jake Parker’s "The Antler Boy" is the crown jewel of the book, telling the story of a little boy who is blessed or cursed (depending on how you look at it) by a witch and has antlers grow out of his entire body. It’s a cute and slightly predictable story about how things aren’t always how we see them, but it’s told really well. The story moves at a good pace, never lingering too long or moving too quickly past any point, and it ends on just the right note. Parker’s sepia-toned art also gives "The Antler Boy" just that right look, bringing to mind old newsreels and silent movies as the story jumps into a past that includes witches and gigantic rampaging monsters. With its soft, slightly-out-of-focus look that Parker has cultivated for the story, it’s hard to not love this story.

Willie Real’s "Plane Food" is also a nice entry into Out of Picture 2, as a young boy on a cross-country flight looks out the window and finds a fisherman sitting on the wing of the airplane, trying to hook a gigantic sky fish. Real’s art reminds me a bit of Michel Gagné’s works, with a graceful line drawing larger-than-life, amazing and fantastical creatures. Real isn’t afraid to use lots of white space on the page in "Plane Food" to bring the mid-air scenes across to the reader. The lack of clutter is just what the art needed, the expansive sky making the figures on the page look that much more amazing and beautiful. The story runs a little longer than it really needed to, but it’s still ultimately a success, another story addition to the book.

Even when the story isn’t quite up to par, there is a lot of really beautiful art in Out of Picture 2. Lizette Vega’s "Crawdaddy" and its story of three alligators chasing after a series of bigger and better crayfish looks like it was an unused short in Disney’s Fantasia movies. Her gators are drawn wonderfully, just that right mix of anthropomorphism and realism that you can’t help but laugh at them as their eyes keep fixing on a new, even-more-delicious feast just ahead. Kyle MacNaughton’s "Part 1" is as unfinished as its name implies, but the visuals of monks riding on polar bears across the arctic tundra is gorgeous, using painted blues and whites in a way that will burn itself onto your retinas (in a good way). And last but not least, Jason Sadler’s "Sub Plotter" (which bizarrely I think would work better as a short film than as a print story) has panels that look like they are individual animation cels, each one crisp and sharp and rendered so well I could almost hear a proposed soundtrack playing in the background at all the crucial moments.

Of more interest to me, for the most part, was the development gallery at the back of Out of Picture 2, with lots of early designs and sketches from the artists. Here, unconstrained by plot or script, their ideas feel much more open and exciting. I almost wish the book had just gone directly to this, because it’s here that I think their talent shines at its best. The stories in Out of Picture 2 for the most part felt like they needed another draft or two. The art, though, is already more than up to par. Reading Out of Picture 2 may be a slightly unsatisfying experience, but gazing at its art was ultimately worth my time.

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