Four Letter Worlds (2005)

This new anthology explores four big concepts: love, hate, fear and fate. Within each of the four concepts there are four short pieces. "Spin", "Lust", "Funk" and "Bear" make up the section on "Love", for instance. Each story is eight pages long, though some feel longer than eight pages and some feel shorter. All stories are done by a different writer/artist or creative teams.

So with sixteen different pieces by some 27 different creators, your opinion of the best stories in this collection will most likely vary from mine. My favorite story in this book is "True" by Jamie Rich and Andi Watson. I’m a sucker for Watson’s art; his style is just so unique, light and fun that I find it hard to resist. And that charming style provides a nice counterweight to Rich’s "liar’s poker" confessional story. I love the shifting perspective in this story, the feel that the events of the tale seem true while leaving the reader pondering what is real and what isn’t. It’s an interesting take on the confessional comics that were all the rage
several years ago, and makes me eager to check out more of Rich’s work.

Another favorite of mine is "Loud" by Jay Faerber and Steve Rolston, a cute little story about a guy whose neighbor’s noise drives him slowly crazy. It’s not a deep story, but "Loud" is well told and funny. "Fell" by Steve Leiber is another standout. It’s the story of Wendy Fischer, a professional spelunker who has to save a man who gets trapped under a rock after falling into a cave. Leiber gives us a good feel for Wendy’s professionalism and intelligence, while also giving us a fun look at her love life. I wanted to get to know that character better, so I hope Leiber will bring her back sometime.

If there’s a theme in the stories I enjoyed it’s that they are smaller stories, more human than the vast majority of comics on the market. The creators really seem to be having fun crafting stories that fit outside of their normal work, and their passion shows through.

There were some stories I didn’t like. "Hype" by Antony Johnston and Mike Hawthorne just didn’t work on any level for me, and I thought the very cartoony art style worked against the story. And "Loss" by Amber Benson and Jamie McKelvie really didn’t come together as a story for me. But for every story I didn’t enjoy, there were others that I liked very much.

The standard warning applies to this book: your mileage may vary. But in my opinion editor Eric Stephenson has put together a very nice collection of stories


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