It’s a cliche that bears repeating but anthologies are the lifeblood of indie comics, bringing new talent to a wider audience in an eclectic setting. But often it is difficult for editors to maintain consistency of quality or bring in big names to contribute to their fledgling collection. But this is where the team from the Broken Frontier Anthology are trying to rewrite the rules and break down the frontiers of indie publishing by paying them creators up front, but will these big names deliver or just leave the reader broken?
Publisher: Broken Frontier/A Wave Blue World
Price: £13.99 from ComiXology
What sets the Broken Frontier Anthology apart from other indie anthologies, is not so much in the pages, but their business model. Backed up by a successful website, they chose to crowd source this anthology up front, allowing them to pay the creators before a panel was even drawn. As well as being a great deal for creators, this also allowed them to secure exclusive work from writers like Greg Pak Joshua Hale Fialkov and Fred van Lente – which in turn allowed them to get more backers for their Kickstarter – which is a win-win for all involved. As well as having great new stories from exciting creators, it also means there are no filler stories from the editors’ mates buddy from art school as they desperately try and fill up the pages, and instead all 27 stories are out of the top drawer and so it reads more like a sampler for a major publisher’s upcoming solicitations rather than an indie anthology.
As you would hope, the big names don’t disappoint in Broken Frontier Anthology. Greg Pak’s Phantom Limb Ghostpuncher about an ex cop and his demonic talking cat who loses an arm only for it to become a supernatural replacement already feels like it could be an ongoing series from DC. While Joshua Hale Fialkov’s melancholic tale The Trip about a father telling his daughter how her late mother died is genuinely heart-breaking and almost makes you forget that it is set in a futuristic sci-fi world . Cullen Bunn and Nathan Fox’s neon-infused, skateboarding, sword-wielding, monster hunter is packed full of high energy, while Fred van Lente and Allison Sampson’s The Beard is just plain mental (but equally unforgettable).
However what makes indie anthologies so great is reading new stories from creators you’ve never heard of. Perhaps our favourite of the whole book was Robert Samelin’s haunting The Wave about a motorcycle riding survivor in an unmentioned desert in an unspecified time period. Told without dialogue but featuring beautiful detailed artwork of wide vistas that have a breath taking sense of scale it has a timeless quality to it and is utterly stunning to look at in every panel. And being able to stand out in a crowd of creators like this, is quite an achievement!
Then of course there’s stories from genres you might normally never try, like Phil Hester and Daniel Warrn Johnson’s Plunder about viking treasure hunters, Justin Zimmerman and Mike Lawrence’s The Flyer which is like a world war 1 kids adventure, or Sean Wang’s Kaiju monster meet conquistadoes in Here There Be Monsters, or what about Tyler Chin-Tanner and Toby Cypress’ The Wall about a veteran sword-wielding adventururer that looks like it has been rendered through an Instagram filter whilst on some very strong hallucinogenics.
Although there’s no obvious common theme to the stories in the BF Anthology, the creators were all given the open brief of ‘broken frontiers’ and so there is a lot of science fiction like Adam Egypt Mortimer and Jeff McComsky’s Death Signal, Terran Omega from PJ Holden and Scott Ferguson, or INJ Culbard’s Last Dance at Omega Point to name but a few. As well as quite a bit of time travel, like Frederick Hautain and Facundo Percio’s It’s About Time and Jamie Coe’s No Regrets. But there are also several stories about love and loss which clearly sees creators take the idea of something broken into a much more poignant direction with many using a broken narrative and cyclical story-telling to help to get their story across.
Although it isn’t obvious, this loose sense of connection helps the whole thing feel more like a coherent collection and as if it has been properly collated rather than just being a collection of stories the editor could get together at short notice. However, as is always the case in indie anthologies there are still a few curve balls, like Edie OP’s The Legend of Dyson Holmes which is about a little girl and her cat told in watercolours or Carla Berocal’s Purgatory which reads like a neo-expressionist arthouse superhero story. And then of course there is indie superstar Box Brown’s 30 Years Of Service which is just plain bizarre and you soon realise that there isn’t actually as much of a pattern as you first thought, and that is part of the appeal.
Weighing in at an epic 300+ pages, there are so many great stories in here, that we are sure we will have missed out some which could end up being your personal favourite. However it is a reflection of the quality of the Broken Frontier Anthology that when you go back and re-read it, you notice different stories each time and get more and more out of the book with each reading. Although it isn’t cheap, with each story having between 10 and 12 pages to make their mark, there is an incredibly high hit rate in terms of quality and there really is something for everyone. So if you like your indie anthologies then give the Broken Frontier Anthology a try as it truly sets a new benchmark for quality in the world of indie anthologies!
Author: Alex Thomas
Alex Thomas is the Editor and founder of PIpedream Comics. He grew up reading comics in the 90s, so even though he loves all things indie and small press, he is easily distracted by a hologram cover.