While we don’t often review books from Image Comics on here, 24 Panels is more than just your average anthology. Complied by Wicked and Divine creator Kieron Gillen, Steve Thompson and Rhona Martin, with proceeds going to survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire (especially those with PTSD), it features an all star roster of creators like Gillen himself, Al Ewing, Caspar Wjingaard, Dan Watters, and some chap called Alan Moore, alongside some of the best of the UK small press thanks to an open submissions policy.
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $16.99 from the Image Comics Digital Store
What makes 24 Panels even more interesting, beyond the good cause and great creator line-up, is that the stories are limited to 24 panels – hence the name! While this may seem quite proscriptive, ultimately it’s all about how the creators choose to use these limits. For example those with a very tight style like Erika Price see their story compressed into a couple of pages, while those like Dilraj Mann who have a more expansive style have more room to play with. While each style suits the respective story, it also makes the whole book feel much more eclectic as a result. (As is always the case with creatives, if you give them a challenge they really step up to the plate!)
The stories are a mixed bunch, both thematically and in terms of style. The over arching themes are hope, community, positivity and positivity, rather than focusing on the horror of Grenfell itself. This means we get everything from, thought pieces like Gillen and Sean Azzopardi’s opener, through to nostalgic childhood tales like Mike Garley’s excellent The Fort or Trevor Boyd’s Fruit Punch. There’s room for light humour such as Paul Cornell and Rachael Smith’s The Gleaming Green which is all about Paul’s love of cricket, and even sci fi such as Emmet O’Cuana and Jefferson Sadzinski’s Abrek about a space monkey. There’s even room for a bit of supernatural horror with Laurie Penny and Gavin Mitchell’s Human Child and a bit of rural magic in Leigh Alexander and Tom Humberstone’s Heath Magic, which may at first seem out of place for this kind of book, but this diversity is one of 24 Panels’ greatest strengths.
With so many strong entries it’s difficult to pick a true stand out, but Alex de Campi, Ro Stein and Ted Brandt’s They Say has to be a contender with it’s innovative use a pair of double page spreads featuring a block of flats as cutaways and the story being told throughout the residents of the building.
While this was our stand out, perhaps the most talked about before publication was Alan Moore’s poem If Einstein’s Right which savages Boris (aka Bullingdon Boy), Theresa May (the Vicar’s Daughter) and the government while juxtaposing it with the real people of Grenfell. One of only a few to directly address the politics of Grenfell, it’s thoughtful and poignant piece that is brought to life with beautiful artwork from Melinda Debbie. It’s the kind of articulate response you could only get from someone like Moore and is a real jewel in the book’s crown.
While others like Dan Watters’ Scratchcards or Sara Kenney’s Amyg Dala do look at the politics, it’s not as direct as Moore, as they choose to look at the affect on the people on the street or the aftermath, while Ram V’s Silhouette Titans goes so far as to look at the legacy of skyscrapers from the near future in a wonderfully dreamy slice of near future sci-fi. While it is important that the subject of Grenfell is mentioned, in a lot of ways 24 Panels is a better book for not confronting the issues too hard as it makes it a much more readable comic for potential casual readers as a result. Balancing worthiness with quality story telling is no easy task, but the team manage it very well here.
With it’s mix of compelling narratives, innovative story-telling and some sumptuous and truly wondrous art 24 Panels is a book that is as thought provoking and passionate as it is readable and even enjoyable. A worthy tribute to the survivors of such a horrific tragedy, 24 Panels is a book and cause that is very much deserving of your support.