3 out of 5
I like this idea, and it’s well produced and with an impressive array of talent at the helm: a classic album given a song-by-song interpretation into comic book format.
Now, I don’t actually like Anthrax all that much, and haven’t listened to Among the Living with any real attentiveness, so whether or not these stories actually support the music or its themes…? I mean, where it’s quoting lyrics, it seems simple enough, and “simple” might also be a good catch-all for the general ‘people are destructive sheep’ concepts that our ten stories deal with, but if there’s intended to be some larger narrative here, well, I can’t speak to that, and it’s not apparent. These are, instead, ten standalone-ish stories, with that “-ish” added only because some pretty much just paint images to go along with presumed lyrics, and then some craft an added tale around whichever track. Neither of those variations are phoned in, though, and the mix of the two gives the book a nice sense of variety.
That said, “variety,” while it does equate to entertainment, does not necessarily equal these being “good” stories. Grant Morrison tries too hard to come up with something off the grid on ‘Indians’ and it ends up, unfortunately, being one of the more boring stories; Freddie Williams II’s art and Andrew Dalhouse’s colors are lush and luxurious, but the tale is just too indirect for the visuals to land on anything striking. Another “trying too hard” variant is Rob Zombie, whose Erik Rodriguez painted Imitation of Life is just, like, a slew of half-amusing rags on celebrities, and it gets tiresome after a few cluttered panels. Elsewhere, some writers stick more to the script but try to inject some further commentary or menace in there and it comes across a little flat – Gerard / Mikey Way’s Caught In a Mosh; Brian Azzarello’s A.D.I. / Horror Of It All (though Dave Johnson’s duotone art on the latter is lovely). The rest of the offerings, to me, hit the right notes, so to speak, just kind of embracing Anthrax being Anthrax – see opener Among the Living from Brian Posehn, with awesome, loose, notebook-style art from from Scott Koblish and colorist Aladdin Collar, or Corey Taylor’s perfect tale of murder with an artsy blood-soaking from Maan House on A Skeleton in the Closet – and then you have something like Rick Remender’s / Joe Trohman’s Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.), which is probably the kind of crass, Tales From the Crypt stuff that was expected for the book, but works exactly because it’s the only actual example of its type. And Scott Ian getting to write his Dredd tale for I Am The Law is a kick – some kinda full circle business. Dredd’s voice comes across a little too cliched, but it’s a great “elseworlds” Dredd story.
Padding out the presentation is an intro by Joey Belladonna, some pinups and cover variants, and some Not-Man (Anthrax’s “mascot”) related designs / stories from Greg Nicotero and Jimmy Palmiotti, respectively. There’s a table of contents with full creator credits… but no page numbers, which is generally a minor demerit in my book. (Because what good is a TOC if I can’t use it as an accurate way to flip to a desired story…)
Is anything in here necessarily a “classic” on par with the album? No, it’s all fairly average; if this was just some random anthology, you’d be getting a lot of cool art and a fun read, but nothing mind-blowing. However, Z2 put together a solid feeling, professional book, and there really is a good, synchronized vibe going on – despite there being different styles of stories attempted, I never got the impression that anyone was just here for a paycheck, or wasn’t an appreciator of the music. I “felt” the fandom, despite not being a fan myself, which made it a quality read.