Traveler, writer, reviewer, all-round observer. I like anything cool & fast, but occasionally sit at a cafe watching the world go by.
Generally speaking, anthologies are fun. It’s one great way to get a taste of your favorite genre from different stories by various artists and writers. And if you’re a fan of steampunk, then SteamPunk Originals Volume 1 from Arcana gives you just that.
Be forewarned though – it does contain both the good and the not so good. What makes it more appealing though, are the one-page steampunk-themed advertisements as well as unfinished story ideas. Right at the start, on the cover itself is an example of that – “Le Mieux Est L’Ennemi Du Bien” by Mike Schneider and Matt Wiley – showing an engineer about to fix what looks like a defeated machine, but everyone on the street calling out in unified determination, “No!!!” It is only one page, but with the combined genius of it’s artwork and writing, it leaves you knowing right away what happened.
One story that I particularly enjoyed is “Rule Britannia! The Messenger” by Axel Howerton, Red Tash, and Steven Yarbrough. It’s about an unassuming messenger just trying to do her job while taking on a bar-full of anti-Brittish-rule ruffians. The combined drawing, color, and story brings back the old vintage comic book action in steampunk fashion.
Despite some of the interestingly good parts, I was disappointed by some of the bad ones. The book does have several narratives with child-like artwork and makeshift storylines, as well as some really good ones with impressive drawings, color, and imaginative tales. An example of one that I wasn’t impressed with is the very first story, “Terra Nullius” by Clara Barton Smith and George Ford. I didn’t know what to make of it, and questioned if this was even fitting. The only thing steampunk about it was the small silhouette image of the main character, explorer and inventor Cornelius York, in his steam-powered blimp – and that’s it. The artwork for this specific piece wasn’t much to rave about either -seemingly more fitting for a grade-schooler yet the gory action details were undeniably adult-only.
There are a few others that set the same example of child-like art versus adult-only themes, and some of that leaves you scratching your head wondering, “why bother putting it in this book?” Unfortunately, with this anthology, you have to take the good with the bad.
In it’s defense though, on the back description, it does emphasize, “Goggles, gadgets, and gears: Considering steampunk on those terms is no less absurd then imagining our reality populated solely by electricians, hackers, and astronauts…. Steampunk can be as rich and diverse as our own reality.” I suppose what this anthology is doing, is giving us what life is like during this fantasy era, with and without the goggles, gadgets, and gears.
If you’re a true steampunk fan, then this should definitely be among your collection. If you’re only a moderate though, then you can safely skip it.
Steampunk Originals Volume 1 will be available on store shelves October 2013.