Ed. Brandon Graham and Emma Rios
Robin Bougie, Brandon Graham, Will Kirkby, Ludroe, Emma Rios, Simon Roy, and Miguel Alberto Woodward
August 19, 2015
Island is a new comic magazine edited by Brandon Graham and Emma Rios. The magazine includes prose, illustration, done-in-one, and serialized comics. We reviewed Island #1 here. Few of us were completely satisfied with the first issue, identifying structural and pacing problems, but Kat, Ardo, and I had a more positive response to this second issue.
Island #2 includes work from Will Kirkby, Ludroe (part two of “Dagger Proof Mummy”), Simon Roy (part one of “Habitat”), Emma Rios (part two of “I.D.”), Miguel Alberto Woodward (an essay reflecting Rios’s comic and neuroscience), and Robin Bougie (an illustrated essay).
What was your overall impression of Island #2? What’s changed since #1?
Ardo Omer: I thought it was good. I enjoyed this issue more, but I wasn’t completely sold on the magazine as a whole yet. Part two of the Simon Roy’s “Habitat” will probably bring me back to Island #3.
Kat Overland: This issue has a stand-alone comic! Will Kirkby’s piece was gorgeous, something I’ll definitely revisit more than once. I read this one digitally, and I have to say, I think I would have enjoyed it more if I read a physical copy of it as I’m sure the production was sumptuous again.
Megan Purdy: Kirkby’s piece was arresting. What a way to open the issue! First you knock us out with that gorgeous Emma Rios cover, then you launch into a series of illustrations: people fleeing, giant creatures roaming the earth, overgrown future cities gone to seed, and map motif suggesting “new world” and “new stories of this world,” all without plot or character. Gorgeous piece.
After Kirkby, we get part two of “Dagger Proof Mummy,” which was far from my favourite part of issue 1. In this issue, though, the comic comes together. It’s less a series of ideas—mummies, talking cats, ninjas, and skateboarding—and more a coherent world. It helps that we get some backstory, and we also get a leisurely middle portion where the characters take a break and let us get to know them. This is a good comic to follow up Kirkby’s piece. It’s utterly different in tone, but it’s still “new world” and “new stories of this world.” It’s urban fantasy, but sillier and less numinous. The transition is better and more interesting. The issue as a whole is like this, just possessed of a greater sense of ease and polish.
Also, Kat, I agree—I wish I’d picked up a physical copy of Island #2. Rios’s work in particular benefits from the depth that physical paper adds.
One of the things we talked about a lot in relation to #1 was balance. Do you think the reading experience improved with this issue? (For example, was it a more enjoyable read? A faster one? A slower one?)
Ardo: Definitely more enjoyable. I liked the mini silent comic at the beginning by Will Kirkby and the photography near the end, which broke it up a little more. I personally would have moved the Kirkby piece between Ludroe and Simon Roy’s pieces.
Kat: The pacing of this issue feels better—having two stand-alone pieces plus photographs helped everything flow better. Reading digitally, the only thing I would have really liked added to this issue is title pages for all the stories (I really liked the one for “ID”), but can understand why not all artists would be into that.
Megan: Title pages! Or tiny title cards! My now persistent complaint about Island is that it’s not easy to find the titles of these comics. They’re often buried in the first or second page, along with the illustrator’s names. It’s annoying, and to be frank, casual readers won’t hunt for it; they’ll just move on to the next comic. Who did that killer ninja mummy comic? Who knows.
Which pieces really stood out to you, for good or ill?
Ardo: I really loved the Kirkby mini visually. I just wanted to stare at it all day. Emma Rios’s cover of Island #2 was stunning. In terms of story, I really liked Simon Roy’s best. I wasn’t into Ludroe’s piece last issue, so I obviously wasn’t a fan of part two. I thought Emma Rios’s two-part story was top heavy, with part one containing most of the plot, leaving part two feeling okay, but not as interesting as part one.
Kat: I enjoyed the Simon Roy piece immensely, and think its length was perfect, though waiting until #5 for the next part might make it hard to follow. Emma Rios’ “ID” has finally grabbed me, with its impressive technobabble and the essay from Miguel Alberte Woodward, MD on how a brain transplant would work in real life. That’s the kind of shit I want from a magazine, all the backmatter spliced into the story. I found the conclusion of Ludroe’s “Dagger Proof Mummy” to be really sweet, as well.
Megan: Simon Roy’s “Habitat” is so good, people. So good. It’s another future world, this one seemingly set on a ring world where the denizens have long since lost any sense of where they come from or how the technology of the ring world functions. The cityscapes of the ring world are overgrown and have been adapted to a new society divided into scavenger-citizens and autocratic ship’s-blood. Roy’s lead is a citizen made good, a young man who’s made his way into the security force that now seems to spend its time forcing citizen’s into line and preying on them. Of course, he discovers an artifact from their technological past. Of course, he sets into motion events that will destabilize the existing power structure. Of course he does. But “Habitat” has so many wonderful details packed into its scant pages that it’s not a by-rote fallen society story. Also, it’s gorgeous. But most everything in Island is.
Like Kat, I also finally connected with Emma Rios’s “ID.” While I enjoyed it in Island #1, I couldn’t get a handle on the characters or setting. It was hectic; there was too much to absorb. In this part, though, the potential brain transplantees finally make their decision and as a result, it’s more introspective. I think Ardo’s right that’ it’s a top heavy comic, but does it matter? It didn’t bug me, being serialized. The top-heaviness wasn’t shoved in my face. This was a nice deep breath after the chaos of part one.
Will you be back for #3?
Ardo: Sure. I’m invested in Simon Roy’s piece, which will have part two in Island #3, and the magazine seems to be improving slightly, so I’m interested to see what it does next.
Kat: I’m hooked enough on Roy’s and Rios’ stories that I’ll probably keep checking them out, and this issue gave me hope for some shorter pieces in the future.
Megan: Yes. Yesssss. Habitaaaaat.