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In Review: Amongst the Stars (Planet Jimbot)

Amongst the Stars - Cover

 

Written by Jim Alexander
Art by Mike Perkins, Will Pickering
Published by Planet Jimbot – Black and White interiors (64 pages)

The StoryAliens have nightmares too. Us! An alien race reaches out to planet Earth with its collective mind. But for the aliens, too late, it proves a mentally crippling experience, where Earth drags them down to a level they don’t want to go and cannot escape from. They are trapped in something akin to a horror movie. Everyone on Earth remains blissfully unaware of this alien intervention, or do they? Can we somehow help save them? It’s in the back of their minds…

 

Amongst the Stars - Sample Page 1

 

The Review: Previously released by US publisher Caliber Comics in their flagship anthology series High Caliber, and through Jim’s own company Planet Jimbot back in 2012, this is a representation of this hard to find story. Both writer and artist have moved on since these days and both have worked for mainstream comic companies.  It made a nice change to dip a foot back in time.

Amongst The Stars is the sort of book that takes you back to the days of science fiction before the explosions of Star Wars. Before everything was about a good looking hero saving the galaxy. In it, we see the love of strangeness. We see echoes of Robert Silverberg, A. E. van Vogt, Philip K. Dick and the like. Back then, science fiction was a eerie and often scary world. Ideas were full of unfamiliar and unsettling worlds and aliens – and, in my humble opinion, Amongst the Stars has all of this going for it.

 

Amongst the Stars - Sample Page 2

 

Jim Alexander and Mike Perkins approach the narrative with a scattershot style: the story jumps about like Jim Carey on a trampoline and keeps you waiting for explanations that in some cases never seem to arrive. This is what I found to be a challenging joy. I love the fact that it doesn’t keep to any traditional tract. We don’t see the recurrence of established characters to convey some exposition. A book like this should revel in it’s angular trippy confusion, it shouldn’t stop to explain. I think we have enough of that already, don’t you?

Ideas are thrown up into your brain at the turn of every page. The alien landscapes (or lack of) are at perfect counterpoint to the banality of a party or a wedding. Yet somehow they match each other. Note for note, moment for moment.  It’s this difference that brings the story and characters together (in more ways than one in fact).

I know this sounds like the babbling of a madman, but I found this sort of book refreshing.  Everyone is hung up on those ‘How to be a Screenwriter’ books that they fail to experiment with form and structure.  It took a book to get reprinted like this to show what can and should be done with the medium.

 

Amongst the Stars - Sample Page 3

 

The story itself speaks to many a theme.  Death, survival, intellect, personality and drinking too much at parties. Perkins really shows us how an alien landscape can be completely otherworldly yet be full of beauty.  His black and white line work on the bleak white page looks amazing.  He manages to deconstruct and build (literally on a couple of pages) an alien life form that is completely believable and yet a touch angelic.

I’m not saying that the art is perfect. The art has a couple of moments that could do with a tweak (especially in the faces of characters in the earlier pages) and the Stephen Hawkings moment was a little on the nose?  But I really enjoyed it and it filled a weekend commute with interest and a little nostalgia.

 

Growing Pains - Art by Will Pickering

 

Growing Pains
Written by Jim Alexander
Art by Will Pickering
Letters by Jim Campbell

The Story: This is a shortish back up tale that tells of a tower block cordoned off by police and a boy and father separated by a police specialist for a spooky and pretty darn gory reason.  It’s set in urban Scotland and has a little twist in the last page.

The Review: I always enjoy stories by Jim and Will so this was a pleasant addition to the volume. It’s a twist in the tale Future Shocks style story that is clean looking and nasty feeling.  It’s hard to comment on this sort of story with spoilers but it paid off in the final pages really nicely.

• The Amongst the Stars collection is being launched at the London Super Comic Con at the Excel Centre in London is a few short days.  Pop over to www.londonsupercomicconvention.com or @LSComicCon for details of the event.

• You can find the Planet Jimbot guys on Facebook or @Planetjimbot on Twitter.  We interviewed Jim about Amongst The Stars, his work and his plans for Planet Jimbot here back in 2012. They’ll have a table at the Excel event so pop over and grab a signed copy if you can get there.

• Jim Alexander can be found on Twitter @JimPlanetjimbot and Jim Campbell @CampbellLetters

About Antony Esmond

Antony Esmond
Antony Esmond is a comic reviewer and writer - his hips don't lie.
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