Bomb Scares (#1) – Various

4 out of 5

I resisted digital comics for a long time, being a fan of physical, but the main benefit of switching some things over – besides allowing me to assess my collection in terms of what I really wanted to keep, and wasn’t just hoarding – was also getting exposed to how much content there is that doesn’t get a physical printing. This can admittedly be intimidating, because there’s certainly not as much barrier to entry to getting a digital copy of something out there, meaning any given week there seem to be 100 new creators on any given platform, like Comixology, but just in the same way you might develop criteria that encourages you to pick up a random book on a shelf for a flipthrough, I found the same to be true for the digital racks: I can browse through the “other” section (non-DC / non-Image / etc. stuff) and see some covers that look good, and check a preview to see if I want more.

Anthology titles are an even more compressed way of checking this stuff out: for a budget price, you’ll get an (generally) oversized collection of indie writers and artists for your purview. Now, not to automatically assume that such indie-types aren’t producing quality material – everyone has to start somewhere, and some creators purposefully stay in the DIY realms – but yeah, it’s also something of a different approach when going to this stuff, as (for me, at least) you’re kinda checking things out in terms of who it might be cool to keep watching, as opposed to expecting to have your mind blown. …And then on occasion, you do have your mind blown.

Bomb Scares, on that axis, tickles the upper tier of rankings. A horror-themed anthology, just a flipthrough makes it clear that you’re dealing with a more polished crew, here: while some aspects which demark it as one of the indie club are still apparent – a general “flatness” with some of the art; overly cinematic paneling which disrupts the storytelling; struggles to communicate more complex actions – glances at the dialogue and the way pacing seems affected suggest a more tempered or psychological or clever take on horror than a lot of similar collections offer. There aren’t a lot of forced, Tales From the Crypt, last-panel twists, or the excess gore people often feel the need to insert to substitute for emotional impact. Similarly, the narration – in general – isn’t as ham-fisted and gritted up as, again, is often the case. So there’s patience applied in the writing and visuals that takes more polish to produce. It might not be a surprise, then, to see some recognizable names in here – Lew Stringer, for example – alongside some creators who would go on to pop up in 2000 AD. But even for those who might still remain unknown to a larger-ish population, the content generally achieves the aforementioned higher marks. Certainly there’s credit due to main editor Paul H Burch, then, for keeping everyone on target with the horror theme – whether comedic or more obtuse or direct, all of the strips feel like-minded in their somewhat outre approaches – and curating stuff that meets a baseline of quality.

While not everything here does hit that mark of adding a creator-to-follow to your list, it’s all very much above average for the indie digital landscape, and despite the flaws it has – some vague conclusions, some structural hiccups – Bomb Scares can also be said to meet or top plenty of mainline-produced horror anthologies as well.