4 out of 5
I will rudely describe myself as being “suckered” into buying this: firstly, no one’s forcing me to buy anything, and secondly, just because I only happen to be interested in only a couple of Skybound books doesn’t mean that EIC Sean Mackiewicz was trying to pull a fast one on me or anything – Skybound X, as an anthology, runs the gamut of the imprint, so it’s fair play. However, my phrasing is important in the sense that it should shade my rating, which, even though is high, may be higher if you already love all of the pre-existing titles’ contents. Setting aside that potential fandom, I’m trying to assess the value and effectiveness of the anthology based on how well the book “satisfies” my generalized parameters for comics of this type – bang for buck; and does the series / issue achieve or express what I’d identify as its goal or theme?
As for simple pages-for-dollars metrics, given that this is an oversized prestige with extras at only a dollar more than most books’ cover prices – 4.99 – yes, it’s definitely a good deal. Factor in how well I’d say the book is designed (Andres Juarez, Carina Taylor) and laid out – clear demarcations between strips; an intro from Mackiewicz each ish describing the contents; a table of MF’ing contents; intro pages for each strips and credits for each strips; relevant ads for all the featured books… plus the aforementioned extra, generally a behind-the-scenes for one of the titles… I mean, damn, Sean’s passion for the material is apparent in how he talks about them, but the whole presentation backs that up 100%. And the production quality is there as well, with bright colors and good paper stock.
Effectiveness: here’s where I’d say the book has way more pluses than not, with only a couple of minuses which are probably subjective. Skybound X is a celebration of what Skybound was, is, and will be; as such, it features a title that calls back to a heavy-hitter – Walking Dead – runs through codas or addendums to a whole bunch of other titles, and also has some premiere material leading into upcoming books. The thing is, I don’t know if this is ever explicitly stated, and that’s one recommendation I might have: adding a mission statement somewhere, or labeling the TOC’s in some way – e.g. “New title!” / “The classic returns!” – and keeping those spots set in place each issue, might’ve made this thing even stronger. Only by the fifth book was I able to look back and realize the assortment of titles was actually pretty consistent between new, old, etc.; during reading, it felt a little scattershot, and I never knew whether or not to expect a ‘To Be Continued…’ or a standalone.
Which leads to my other comment: while all of these strips look fantastic, with very varied art styles – although a somewhat shared, poppy color palette, which is surely just coincidental – and are easy reads (again, accounting for individual tastes – for example, opener Rick Grimes 2000 relies a bit too much and too frequently on base-level humor to get by, but I’m sure it’s a hoot for WD fans), a couple of these I felt were not standalone reads, and I do think that’s important for an anthology. If it’s a preview book, that’s a different thing, but this isn’t that: in trying to do all things – highlight the imprints successes; garner interest in its catalogue; show off new books – it maybe allowed for some looseness in storytelling that meant that a couple of strips didn’t give me a clear sense of identity. I did feel like if I were already a reader, I’d appreciate them, but as a newbie, they didn’t offer much. This is, thankfully, a rarity across the issues – we’re only talking maybe 2 or 3 out of the 3 + Rick Grimes titles per issue.
But on the whole… congratulations are in order. I got the impression the Skybound teams are having fun, and the anthology itself had its own identity, which is maybe the harder achievement. It’s a professional package. YMMV due to the mixed bag o’ contents, but if you’re like me, just passing by due to one or two interests, it’s still money and time well spent.