A year ago, Mark Millar launched a contest which was specifically designed to seek out new comic book creator talents. Thousands of writers and artists across the globe submitted stories set within the worlds of Millar’s creator-owned books like Kick-Ass, Chrononauts, Starlight, etc., and the winners would get theirs published in a special annual collection. The Millarworld Talent Search took the comic book world by storm, and now the book is finally here. And what a beauty it is to behold.
The annual contains six short stories, opening with a delightfully entertaining Chrononauts piece by writer Shaun Brill and artist Conor Hughes. Prom Night features Danny returning to the scene of his high school prom, and trying to get his younger self to hook up with a hot girl. This of course has ramifications which require more time-travel and correction, and Danny interacting with another version of himself. It’s a fun tale which effectively captures the tone of Millar and Sean Gordon-Murphy’s absurdist miniseries, while also exemplifying the uniqueness of the short comic format.
We then move on to a Batman and Robin-esque Kick-Ass story called Blindsided, in which Dave pairs up with a young street-level amateur. Writer Ricardo Mo sets up an interesting dynamic with these characters and keeps the plotting concise, while artist Ifesinachi Orjiekwe delivers exquisitely fluid pencils. It’s another fun, engaging story that fits in well with the Kick-Ass universe, while setting itself apart from John Romita Jr.’s distinctive designs.
Yet after two lighthearted stories, the book takes an ultra-gritty turn with Undeath, a story from Millar and Peter Gross’ seminal supernatural series American Jesus. Written by my buddy Cliff Bumgardner and with stellar visuals by artist Steve Beach, this one is a captivating display of psychological horror. Taking place during the iconic third issue of the series when Jodie saves the life of his priest’s dog, this event causes all death to cease for several moments. Bumgardner examines how this effects people across the globe, and how the horrors that stem from an unexplainable occurrence leave their mark. Beach’s pencils are equally grim and disturbing, and the way this story adds to Millar and Gross’ mythos makes it a must-read for fans of the cult comic.
Next, writer Philip Huxley and artist Myron Macklin give readers a fun Kingsman story with Mum’s The Word. Now, this is the only series on here I haven’t yet read, but I’ve seen the movie and am familiar with its James Bond-esque style. Huxley and Macklin capture the sheer adrenaline of this universe well with a tale about Eggsy visiting his Mom, but having to first take down a bad guy in the middle of their living room while his Mom is fixing dinner in the kitchen. It’s a simple, stylistic short which keeps its momentum going throughout. Huxley’s dialogue is particularly sharp and clever, while Macklin’s pencils are highly cinematic and coincide well with the fast-paced tone of the story.
With its ending beautifully capturing the sentimental nuances of Duke McQueen’s character, the Starlight story Duke McQueen’s Greatest Adventure is the most touching one here. Writer Deniz Camp and artist Pracheta Banerjee chronicle a conversation between Duke and his grandkids as he tells them stories of some of his most daring feats when he was an intergalactic guardian. There are saber fights and narrow escapes, all building up to an emotional climax which I’d rather not spoil. Camp nicely balances the present-day dialogue with the flashbacks, and likewise Banerjee’s gorgeous pencils pay homage to Goran Parlov’s blend of realism and pulpy escapism in the original series.
Finally the Hit-Girl story Mindy’s ABCs executes a humorous, inexplicably clever concept. As Mindy goes through the alphabet, you can imagine that the words she picks to match with each letter are a little different and darker than “A is for Apple.” As she uses words associated with the dismemberment of her enemies, we see the action play out in the same kind of Kill Bill style that you’d expect from any Hit-Girl story. Writer Mark Abnett and artist Ozgur Yildirim give it their own weirdly Disney-esque style, while injecting it with plenty of graphic violence and quippy narration from the titular protagonist.
This is a book you really don’t want to miss, and you can get yours signed at the Ultimate Comics in Raleigh on Saturday by the creators of the American Jesus story.
-kevin Schaefer for Ultimate Comics