Three #2

Written by Sina Evil, Jennifer Camper, Michael Fahy, Craig Bostick, and David Kelly
Art by Jon Macy, Jennifer Camper, Michael Fahy, Craig Bostick, and David Kelly
32 pages, color
Published by Rob Kirby Comics

One of my favorite anthologies from last year was Three #1, so having a second issue in 2011 was definitely reason to celebrate. After the first issue’s strong debut (and with Eric Orner’s "Weekends Abroad" garnering an Ignatz nomination as well as inclusion in Best American Comics 2011, as well as a second Ignatz nomination for the entire anthology), I’ll admit I was slightly worried that the second issue might not be able to keep up the high level of quality. What I got, though, was three new short stories that each provided something very different from one another, but all of which kept my attention from start to finish.

First up is Sina Evil and Jon Macy’s "Dragon," which details a fan meeting a comic artist whose works he enjoys, and the relationship then quickly moving forward into an attempted hookup. Evil’s story works well in no small part because her protagonist’s attraction to the comic artist comes across so real; you can see how he desperately wants to do more than just be a fan of the artist, even as the artist sends out some slightly mixed messages to the fan. Neither one of them make terribly "good" decisions in the story, and while the narrator admits in a sidelong manner that one of his is truly a bad choice (in the form of a flashforward to a friend telling him off), I found myself appreciating the lack of authorial judgment present in the story. Both of them get, at least for a moment, what they want, and Evil makes us understand what’s going through their heads and brings that yearning to life.

Macy’s art is intriguing, switching between realistic and cartoonish from panel to panel. At times the artist is little more than an idealized body; the barest of lines used to sketch the outlines for his pecs, abs, and bulge in his underwear, a couple of dots for eyes and two quick lines for nose and mouth. Other times the artist is drawn with much more detail, with long, delicate eyelashes and a smoldering look in his eyes and smile that could melt steel. Likewise, the fan switches from fully realized to a slight caricature that looks a little silly, almost as if the fan’s perception of himself is shifting from one moment to the next. It’s a sexy and gripping story, one that speaks to the power of desire and the seductions we let play out upon ourselves. It’s a strong opening for Three #2.

Next up is "Help Wanted" from Jennifer Camper and Michael Fahy, in which the pair alternate providing a horizontal comic strip (usually but not always three panels), each trading off to the other for a fun "now what?" moment. I’ve enjoyed both Camper and Fahy’s contributions to Boy Trouble, so it’s a nice surprise to see them work together here. The five pages of "Help Wanted" are slightly silly and goofy, but after the seriousness of "Dragon" it’s nice to have a little whimsy. Camper and Fahy do a good job of swapping back and forth, and while the story is mostly humorous they still get in a bit of drama to boot. Sure, some of the twists are a little far-fetched (like the last big revelation in particular, which not only feels out of the blue but also slightly doesn’t quite work in terms of the timing of the story) but considering the cartoon jam nature of "Help Wanted" it’s hard to worry too much. Even in the silliness I found myself liking the relationship between Leo and Raoul, and Fahy’s rough-hewn style and Camper’s softer edges end up being a pleasant combination. And with the most upbeat ending in Three #2, it’s a perfect story to take the middle slot of the anthology.

Craig Bostick and David Kelly, two of my favorite Boy Trouble contributors in years past, wrap up this issue of Three with "Nothin’ But Trouble." Like Camper and Fahy, the pair swap telling the story, but here they each take two pages at a time to tell "Nothin’ But Trouble" from alternating viewpoints of the two main characters. Bostick handles Jimmy West, a country singer who falls head over heels for a young man called Butch that turns out to be a hustler. Kelly takes Butch’s perspective in the story, and the two provide sharp contrasts in what first looks to be a love story and ends up being a one-sided crush. Bostick’s pages are drawn with his trademark clean lines, an idealistic portrayal of Butch (who is a James Dean level adonis), innocent and masculine at the same time, unable to do any wrong.

By way of comparison, Kelly’s art feels like we’re getting the slightly more realistic rendition of "Nothin’ But Trouble." Butch seems a tiny bit more real, occasionally looking bored in his interactions with Jimmy. As we switch back and forth between the two viewpoints, it’s hard to keep from getting a little uncomfortable at the gulf between how Jimmy and Butch perceive their encounter as well as the fallout. Jimmy is clearly not ready for such a brutal awakening into Butch’s nature, and their subsequent encounter ends up that much more painful as we see their less-than-picture-perfect reuniting. And while I like both artists’ pages a great deal, extra special attention has to go to Bostick, whose lines have always reminded me of Los Bros Hernandez on Love & Rockets; any new comic by Bostick is reason to celebrate, but this collaboration with Kelly is fantastic.

Three #2 fulfilled all of my expectations and then some; it’s rare enough to find a single issue of an anthology with three strong stories, it’s that much more of a pleasure to get a second issue that also hits it out of the park. Editor Robert Kirby is steering the Three ship down strong waters, and whenever another issue of Three is published, I will absolutely reading it, no questions asked. Three and Papercutter are my two favorite anthologies being published these days, and if you aren’t reading either, you need to fix that pronto. Highly recommended.

1 comment to Three #2