2 out of 5
While known for the Alan Moore short ‘Tygers,’ which had several bits and bobs later picked up by DC for its 10s-era Blackest Night / Brightest Day event (much to Moore’s expressed chagrin), the Annual in which that story appears has three other shorts. …Which aren’t that great.
‘Escapist Entertainment’ from Steve Englehart and Bill Willingham features a rather forced attempt at cleverness from Englehart, and loose, unformed art from Willingham. The purpose seems more to set up Sinestro for reappearing in the GL books than anything, which ironically relies on a similar type of storytelling that’s employed in ‘Tygers,’ – Sinestro tells some tales while in space prison to effect his escape – though the similarities are just at a high level: Englehart is much less poetic than Moore, and the whole thing (structure, art) is very clunky.
Mindy Newell and George Freeman tell us the origin of Penn Maricc as a ring-bearer, who I’m guessing was also going to be a concern in the GL books at the type, and who also gets a pretty slipshod offering. Newell sets up a scenario where the roughshod Penn gets to prove himself as a good man, but the story moves in unconvincing fits, and Freeman’s art has this European-looseness to it that doesn’t quite fit the tone of the story. There’s some joy from Penn’s hard-edged nature, though it’s a personality type you’ve seen a million times before.
The most grating entry comes from Paul Kupperberg and Trevor Von Eeden. It’s a very interesting concept – an aging GL losing his faculties – but boy is that concept written and visualized in an incredibly fractured manner. Von Eeden’s wild paneling sets a pace that doesn’t match the story’s tone – which should be more of a fly-on-the-wall observation piece – and he employs wild zoomouts that obscure whatever the hell we’re supposed to be looking at. Kupperberg doesn’t clearly divide, for the reader, between when the GL is aware of things, and when his memory is slipping, making him come across as almost humorously incompetent instead of a curiosity.
And: ‘Tygers,’ from Moore, with brilliantly grotesque, alien art from O’Neill. This is the best story in here, for sure, and it’s peppered with Moore’s blink-and-you-miss-it imaginings – which were rife for being expanded on by a keen writer, so I don’t blame DC for jumping on them later – but without awareness of Moore’s clout, or the legacy of the ideas, it reads as a good Future Shock type timey-wimey tale. Abin Sur visits a forbidden sector, and meets a trapped alien who allows him to ask three questions. One of Sur’s questions is, essentially, how will he die? And then knowing the answer, he does everything he can to avoid that, which, in tried and true Future Shock / Twilight Zone fashion, is what does him in anyway. (And which allowed Moore to justify a logic gap in GL lore at the same time.) Out of everything in this annual, Tygers absolutely tops the book in creativity (even if, given my above spot reviews, that’s not saying much), and O’Neill’s angular and vile creations are beautiful.