One of the last times I visited the used book store I saw this book on display. The cover which was totally awesome, and immediately caught my eye. My brain stopped and a little voice in my mind said “what is that?” The size of the book along with the artwork really had me hooked. I had never heard of or seen this book before so I had no idea what to expect. The cover made it look like a space opera story, so I was sold. I had to have it.
Brian Haberlin had been in the comics industry since the mid 90’s. His most famous works include Cyberforce and is the creator of Witchblade. He also worked on Spawn for a period of time. Brian has managed a few companies over the years including Avalon Studios before he eventually worked for Todd McFarland Productions. Currently he runs Digitalarttutorials.com, which is an art tutorial website, also he teaches at Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Brain is also a partner in Anomaly Production which is the studio that produced and published the Anomaly comic. I reached out to Brian and he was gracious enough to answer some questions I had for him, check out the interview here.
This story takes place in the year 2700, far in the future. In this future a giant company called the Conglomerate runs the planet, it has basically replaced all the governments of the world. The Conglomerate is responsible for finding, and colonizing new planets, they are also responsible for the slaughter of countless species that will not cooperate as they come to mine the bountiful resources on these remote planets. Sam, who is the daughter of one of the majority shareholders of the Conglomerate, decides that she wants the company to be more socially responsible when it comes to these matters. Her stepfather agrees and sends her on a mission to a distant planet. Her and a rag tag group of individuals are to make contact and do so without destroying the locals, which will give the Conglomerate some much needed good press. What the team does not realize is that there is a saboteur among them, and the mission itself has sinister intentions and an ulterior motive.
I really enjoyed this one. I was quite intrigued to see how the books started with one idea then completely finished with something else. It was like the book did a 180 and still worked perfectly, something that I have not seen before in any literary form. What I think is most interesting is how the story perfectly blended two distinct genres, fantasy and sifi. I am sure there are other examples of stories out there similar to this one, but I have never seen or read anything quite like this.
When I started reading this one I honestly did not know what to expect from a story standpoint. But once I opened the book and started reading I was pleasantly surprised how quickly the story took off and how fast it grabs the reader. I have read a few books that have the same “overdone” feel to them (Ascend and Monocyte). What I mean is that they are oversized and all have superb artwork. Anomaly falls into that category, but there is one very very distinct difference that separates this book from the others. This one has a well thought out and executed story, something that other two mentioned above lack in every sense of the word. So I have to give some major props to Haberlin on this, as I think it could have been easy to draw in readers with fancy colorful artwork, but instead he puts together a very interesting story along with some fantastic visuals.
As I mentioned in my opening this story blends two genres, fantasy and science fiction. Before I started reading I had no idea what to expect nor that this is where the story was going to go. This merging of these two ideas is very unique, at least to me. I have not read a story like this before, not saying that this is one of a kind, but certainly a first for me. What I like is how he does it, it works perfectly with the story and is something I would never have thought of, although it is very simple. I have to give credit to Haberlin here.
The characters in the story are great. There are quite a few species that are introduced so at times it is hard to keep track of them all. But they all have very distinct personalities and facial features so it is not that difficult. Haberlin also does a good job of setting up a dystopian world back on Earth. I would love to see more of this world in a sequel, but for this story it was not as important. Honestly, there are so many different elements at play here that it is tough to cover them all. There is a dystopian society, high tech low life theme (almost reminds me of something out of a William Gibson novel), also there is the fantasy aspect, and some wizard/sword sorcery which I think goes in the fantasy tag as well. There really is something for everyone in this book.
There are a few things outside the story that make this book unique. The first and most obvious is the size. It boasts the title of the longest graphic novel on the market, with over 330 pages of story. Along with quite a few extras at the end including a glossary, a breakdown of each character and species, and a time line of the events leading up to the story as it takes place 700 years in Earth’s future. This book is also oversize, not the traditional comic dimensions. Its length is 16.5 inches, so it is elongated and kind of difficult to read lying in your bed. The most unique thing about this book what the creators call “augmented reality.” Which is something that Marvel played with not too long ago. Basically using your smart phone and the Anomaly App, you can put the phone over specific pages and the phone will give you either a 3D image of the artwork or an audio recording to go along with the story. This is something moderately new and different that adds yet another element to the book itself.
The artwork in the story is amazing. It was the first thing that drew me to the book and helped me quickly make the decision that I had to have it. The visuals are at times almost over stimulating, but in a good way. Sometimes with great artwork my brain and eyes get over stimulated and the artwork can backfire, that is not the case here. There is loads of detail and the oversized pages create some epic scenes, in fact some of the best full page splashes I have seen in comic form. There are even two fold out pages that are simply amazing, and would honstly make some pretty cool posters. I have to wonder if the oversized pages help with the artwork to not make it too much to visually digest. With artwork this great, the smaller pages sometimes make it difficult to enjoy, sometimes there is just too much detail squeezed into a small space. The artwork looks like it is painted, I am not sure if that is a digital addition or if in fact it was painted. I am fairly certain that it was colored digitally, which gives the book its epic rich colors. I am still not certain how the art style was created. It is very different and certainly adds another level of intrigue to the story. The page layouts are above average. There were some new and different layouts that were not over the top but certainly a nice mix-up. This book, with its unique size did a nice job incorporating differ page layouts, creating some very neat scenes. As I already said the full page splashes are truly amazing. I could honestly sit and analyze them for hours, there is just so much going on in them, so much color and detail. It looks like a high resolution still frame from a movie. Something else I noticed is that there are no word bubbles. The words are just written overtop the artwork so you do not get the white bubbles in the middle of a scene. This is certainly noticeable in a good way. I am surprised more artist do not try this technique. It seems simple and could let the reader see more of any particular scene, instead of an oval white blob that often times ruin or at least distract you from the artwork.
As I said above, usually when you get an over the top book like this one, there is something lacking, usually the story. The size is there to make up for what is missing. Anomaly is the exception, dare I say that it is indeed an anomaly, ok bad joke. Still though this book is solid anyway you look at it. The only negative and it is a small one is that I did feel the story was a little predictable toward the end. But that is such a small nit picking analysis. Overall the story is great, and I see that there is a sequel in the works due out in early 2016 called Anomaly 2 The Rubicon, can’t wait to see that. The artwork is superb and really works well with the story. The overall size of the book, I do not mean the page count, is rather awkward but the totally awesome visuals are worth the hassle. I did not mind the length of the book one bit, as I was so into the story. It felt like it was a normal length graphic novel, and did not want to put it down. I never noticed the length, honestly I wanted it to keep going. There are so many different ideas and plot elements at play that I was sad when it ended. If you have some time you should certainly check this one out as you will definitely get your money’s worth in this one. Speaking of money, I will warn you that it does retail for $75, which is quite expensive for a graphic novel. But if you check around you can get a copy cheaper. I recommend checking this one out if you get a chance.