3 out of 5
The publication continues as a quarterly, in sort of an oversized, prestige format edition.
The first issue of (actually the second volume of) Meanwhile… felt a little scattershot with its contents, but it gained a great sense of momentum over the course of its four issues. For better or worse, the rejiggering of the format seems to have set us back to that initial sensibility, and it’s very possible that with the expanded page count, that will be the status quo going forward. However, I have faith in publisher John Anderson’s selection process, such that the contents will always be interesting in some regard, even if a tad too varied to sync up for a single reading experience.
In issue five we have:
The rather disappointing ending to Tomiko Rabbit’s floating girl tale, ten minutes. This was always a bit ramshackle, based around an intriguing seed idea of a gravity-reversed girl being the source of proper gravity for the (world? Town?), but it was kept sort of low key. The last chapter goes all in, though, with the girl trying to escape and a mid-air rescue that makes no logical sense even within the internal logic of the story.
Strangehaven continues with a very plot-thready, sprawling chapter. The ‘Haven world seems understated by design, but this entry lacked any punctuation, just a lot of connecting elements.
Hine and Stratford’s Bad, Bad Place adds some clarity to what was worryingly seeming like a too-open-ended haunted house tale. And it gets pretty downright devious with a couple details, which is great.
Some cute shorts from Laura Trinder and Gregory Mackay, the former hinging on a fun visual and the latter its humorously skewed explanation of Manhattan. Neither strip feels like it has much point, though.
Konstantin Komardin does a sex / tech mash-up that, conceptually, reminds me of Dave Cooper’s sweaty sexscapes, but Komarsun’s style is very loose and angular, like a less jagged Teddy Kristiansen. The tale isn’t bad; it’s like something you would’ve caught on Liquid Television back in the day. Kathryn Briggs gives us a short collage-y piece about the immigration process; it’s informative and effective, with a good sense of aligning its style with its intent. Sarah Gordon’s twisted Queen Rat tale is quite good, and goes darker than the initial pages would’ve had me assume, though the text layout feels a bit overdramatic and I look forward to her loose style sharpening up a bit in future works. (…Just a trend I’ve noticed with sketchy artists.)
Like the first issue, we have some short-listed contest winners. Matt Dooley’s Judas Iscarior piece is humorless but, like the shorts, feels without a focus. Nick Burton’s My Holiday of Death has a very formalized style and pace; it’s like a newspaper strip, for the goods and bads that suggests. Alan Dunne’s Collage, recounting a childhood memory (of the in-story character, though who knows if its sourced from reality) is the standout for me, with a proper sense of purpose that requires its pages to express.
It’s a lot of content. And, as mentioned, I wouldn’t be surprised if my middle-of-the-road feelings are achieved by further issues in this format, but it still comes across as a really lovingly put together anthology that showcases a lot of strong talent. And I’m happy to continue to support that.