Book of Boy Trouble Vol. 2

Edited by Robert Kirby and David Kelly
108 pages, color
Published by Green Candy Press

What can I say? I was a fan of the old Boy Trouble comic book anthologies in the day, and now that they’ve moved to big, handsome graphic novels? I’m still all in favor of Boy Trouble. There’s something about editors Robert Kirby and David Kelly’s sensibilities when it comes to choosing stories that always makes these books fun; there’s a wide range of styles and approaches here, from innocent and chaste to naughty and sexual, and all combinations in-between. The only common theme? Strong storytelling involving gay characters. Beyond that, the sky’s the limit.

Howard Cruse’s “Then There Was Claude” opens the book, and it’s almost as if Cruse throws down the gauntlet for everyone else to dare and pick up. It’s a story that’s just one page long, but Cruse is able to bring across so much characterization and story in such a short amount of space that it’s a reminder why Cruse is such a master of the medium. Fortunately for readers, Cruse’s selection is hardly the only excellent story in the anthology. Todd Brower and Steve MacIsaac’s “Ex Communication” works on so many levels that it’s another great selection. Brower and MacIsaac tell a story that could only be accomplished in this fashion through comics, using overlapping word balloons and narration boxes to tell the story of an ex-couple meeting back up, and showing us how what’s said and what each of them are thinking are very different things indeed. The script is really smart right from the very first pace, with our view of how each of the men are already of conflicting minds on how this should go, and MacIsaac’s art is sharp, drawing excellent portraits of the two men in this story. It’s definitely the other really high point of the book, and for it and Cruse’s stories alone I feel like you’d have gotten your money’s worth.

Mind you, there are a lot of other good stories here. Kelly’s “Genderfication” is short and sweet, and something that I think straight and gay readers alike can certainly identify with; add in Kelly’s cute art and it’s a nice little glimpse into Kelly’s life. It’s certainly a contrast to Andy Hartzell’s “Incineration Point” and its strange, science-fiction-tinged story that makes you question what is real and what is imaginary. The story is intriguing (and while the longest piece in the book, it uses all of its pages well and I can’t imagine trying to cut it down to anything shorter) and Hartzell’s art is good, but I have to give special notice to how Hartzell ends “Incineration Point” without neatly wrapping everything up. It’s a brave move, but in the end I like where he leaves everything. So much of the end is up to the reader to decide for themselves, and it made me appreciate “Incineration Point”‘s journey that much more.

Tim Fish’s “The Voodoo You Do So Well” feels like it could have just as easily fit into his Cavalcade of Boys or Young Bottoms in Love compliations, and that’s a good thing. It’s a great twist on the traditional boy-meets-boy relationship beginning, and it’s ably assisted by Fish’s utterly charming art; he’s probably one of my favorite artists in the book and it makes me want to dig out all of Fish’s other books so I can re-read them again. Equally charming is Craig Bostick’s “Whiskey and a Haircut,” which like so many of Bostick’s other stories over the years is able to take running a series of errands into something sweet and collar-looseningly hot, while never progressing beyond a kiss or two. It’s a rare talent to be able to evoke such emotions in a matter of seconds, but I for one am not complaining. Equally sweet is Brett Hopkins’s “Secrets and Revelations.” There’s nothing plot-wise that particularly stands out, but a combination of Hopkins’s innocent writing style and soft, gentle art makes the end product very heartwarming and pleasing; proof that so often it doesn’t matter so much what kind of story you’re telling, but rather how you choose to tell it that makes it a winner or not.

There’s very little actual sexually explicit material here, but one exception is Justin Hall’s “Evil Bear Man” with its story of an escort hired to help enact a client’s superhero fantasy in the ever-living flesh. Hall never makes it feel dirty or uncomfortable, though, and it’s why I think he’s so well suited to tackle this kind of material. Even when things hit their lowest for the characters, it’s over bad-smelling cologne or pieces of outfits getting caught on each other, and that’s the sort of attitude that makes this story succeed for the reader. You’ll laugh with the characters, never at them.

I’m so glad to see another Book of Boy Trouble anthology from Green Candy Press; as great as the last volume was (half-reprints, half-new) having an entirely new book of comics makes me quite happy indeed. With so many good, solid stories in Boy Trouble Volume 2, it already makes me eager at the thought of a Volume 3. Please? Pretty please? Until then, though, definitely check this anthology out, you won’t regret it.

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