Review: The Theory Volume 1 (TPub Comics)

This new anthology from TPub comics, (publisher of Turncoat, Theatrics and Twisted Dark) is the latest collection from their ‘Twisted’ series. Originally known as Twisted Sci-fi, The Theory sees writer Neil Gibson explore an eclectic series of concepts that are out of this world, along with plenty that are a bit more close to home. But will your enjoyment be theoretical or a bit more practical!

Publisher: tPub Comics
Writer: Neil Gibson
Artist: Various
Price: £18 from tPub online store


Following a similar pattern to Twisted Dark and Twisted Light, The Theory is collection of short stories that on first impression seem unique, but in the long run all tie together thanks to recurring characters and themes. While Twisted Dark focused on the darker, more horrific side of things, The Theory is much more of a classic sci-fi collection (albeit with a bit of Gibson’s trademark dark humour and ideas thrown in to keep the long term TPub fans happy!)

The Theory is held together by two main threads and characters. The first sees space archaeologist Jennifer investigate a number of planets in order to find a ’legacy planet’ and secure her reputation in her field. This works as an interesting narrative device, which sees her discover lost artefacts that recount to her tales of planets with warring mechs, and hyper evolved lizard creatures. It works as an interesting way to frame the stories, and give Gibson a set up to tell stories about a variety of subjects from climate change to moral quandaries about genetic alteration. In later chapters we also learn more about her back story and what drives her – but we’ll keep that spoiler free for now.

The Theory of everything

The second thread focuses on time traveller Jemm-R who is attempting to rebalance the universe in order to prevent the human race from destroying itself in the future. There are shades of Dr Who or 12 Monkeys in this strand, as Jemm-R appears in a number of stories which you think might not have anything to do with either storyline (not to mention a really interesting introductory story), and it’s a nice way to reward repeat reads by going back through to find where her influence is felt.

 

The artwork in The Theory is from an eclectic roster or creatives, but they all have a reasonably similar feels to their art. The styles are all quite conventional, and feel quite 2000AD in their clean linework and strong, stylish colours. It’s very unfussy and unfaddy, but has a real slickness and polish to it that fits well with the science fiction theme. The relative continuity of style also gives the book a more coherent feel, and is a nice alternative to the really eclectic roster of artists on Twisted Dark or other indie anthologies.

The idea of a book that is a hybrid of anthology and long form story is definitely a really interesting one, and helps give this collection an original angle which stops it from just being another collection of indie sci-fi stories. The stories are long enough that you get a real sense of the world Gibson is creating in each one, as they aren’t quick 8 page twist in the tale stories, they are much meatier.

By connecting the stories together, albeit loosely, it gives the stories a purpose and a focus, however on the flip side, it does lack that stand out story that you usually get in an anthology, where the editor has picked out something a bit left field (either visually or narratively) to stop things from being too formulaic. The closest we see in The Theory is probably Pandora, which is more like the kind of Tales of The Unexpected stories we are used to in Twisted Dark.

In a similar way, the ordering of the stories also feels a little out of place, with the stories leaping from one idea to the next. But this could just be because it doesn’t adhere to how you would normally expect a long form comic to read, and we are attempting to apply a logic to it that it doesn’t have or need. If just read as an anthology, the way it keeps you second guessing how the stories connect is one of it’s biggest pros.

The Theory is another out of this world collection from tPub comics. A mixture of smart, scary and through-provoking sci-fi stories, that thread together in most unexpected ways. As with most of tPub’s output, Gibson’s enthusiasm for telling a great yarn is the book’s biggest strength and this is another fantastic collection from one of the indie scenes most inventive publishers.

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