In Review – ‘Anomaly Squad’

The Anomaly Squad.

Written by Luke James Halsall.
Art by Jim Lavery.
Letters by Rob Jones.

Anomaly Squad Cover (for review purposes only).

The Story – All the superheroes in the world have suddenly disappeared. A Detective heads round to a shared house where a number of pretty flaky and emotionally unstable powered individuals are living and recruits them to help. These include a vampire, a man-sized duck, a clock-man and a psychotic woman called Little Miss Hittie.

Will they succeed in saving the world?

Maybe. But it may not go according to any kind of plan.

The Review – I got this comic through from the writer yesterday after he read my last post/mission statement. I’ve chatted to Luke a few times and he’s been a guest on the Awesome Comics Podcast. He describes this new comic as a cross between the Doom Patrol and The Umbrella Academy. You can certainly feel both those properties as you read through. There is an overall atmosphere of a group of powered individuals who are outsiders, awkward in their place in the world and bundled together as an argumentative and mismatched team.

This does have a strong cover that playfully shows the characters crammed into a selfie which has the effect of a being a Zoomer version of the famous Justice League #1 cover. It is colourful, full of personality and eye-catching. In fact this is a story that crams in a lot of story. I would actually say that it tries to have too much for it’s running time. Let’s be clear here though, it is a fast and crazy but fun read. I had a good time reading it so what follows are just a few pacing, format, dialogue quibbles.

Honestly, there are some scene/panel transitions that had me scratching my head and I think that some of the pacing could do with some work. The story jumps about a lot, in fact you can see that this is partly fashioned on purpose and why it has a crazy/violent but charming element (to a point). But in my opinion scenes need more time to breathe and the characters need more screen time to be developed and to allow the reader to become familiar with/engaged with them. I was left initially confused on a couple of page turns wondering who was who and what was happening. This was especially apparent in the transition to the black and white pages or in the appearance of the Curator – a man who changes into human form from a grandfather clock. The clock is hinted at in the background in the previous panel but not enough to make the transformation logical or interesting.

Image used for review purposes only.

I’d also question the artistic decision to have the revelation of two of the main characters with their backs to the reader. I’m guessing it’s for comedic effect? It doesn’t quite pull this off. But, to be totally fair the comic is unruly and rebellious and often pretty darn funny so maybe this adds to a general mood. Luke and Jim juggle a lot of lunatics and mostly pull it off. The story starts with some great set pieces for example. A hero who lives online and stops cat-fishing weirdos made for a great opener for example. I’d also question the decision to have two white men of a similar age with similar hair and both wearing sunglasses. It wasn’t until my second read that I realised they were different people.

Image showing the two characters – for review purposes only.

The lettering works ok but there are moments where I found the balloon/panel placement a little intrusive. And the font chosen for the Silent Movie pastiche is a little unreadable when read on the iPad. Certain phrases took a second pass when I was reading and could be reconsidered. For example, when you have a hero called ‘That 90s Guy’ it makes for a mouthful introducing him with a panel that reads ‘That’s That 90s Guy’.

Panel that seems to be stuck to a pencil skirt?

Each page is full of every colour imaginable as we have come to acknowledge in a lot of small press superhero comics. This is handled well, especially when you see the more crowded panels. Although some interior scenes have been inked like they have creeping mould on the wallas and ceiling – I’m going to say that this is part of the overall vibe/story.

There are some well written anarchic/snappy moments of dialogue but it often comes from people I couldn’t keep track of in such a short story. Honestly I think that this could do with being twice as long and the ending feels a little subdued and banally staged with only a little burst of the old uber violence and cartoon gore to please the reader.

The art is pretty ruddy solid and has a style that feels like an extension of UK weekly comics with it’s comedy bent – albeit with much less panels on the page and a more adult approach. I’m guessing this will be US comics size and feel that each page could be utilised for more panels and therefore more story. You spin through pages like this is a Manga. In retrospect not an altogether bad choice in todays market.

In Conclusion – Overall I would say that this is a fun read with some great characters that could be spun out into a much longer story. The ideas are great and the art is very readable. I will be paying attention when this drops in March. Bookmark it when you get a chance.

And Now to the Links….

This comic isn’t available for sale yet, but will be hitting a crowdfunding platform in March 2022. It does however have it’s own Instagram page that you can find here.

You can find the writer Luke on Instagram here and on Twitter right here. Here is also a link to a previous Kickstarter from Luke. If you keep an eye on him on the platform you should be able to tag when the next project drops.

You can find the art of Mr Jim Lavery over on Instagram here. He doesn’t appear to be super active over there but some of the black and white art on show is outstanding.

And you can find Rob Jones and his lettering right here and at his website here.

Many thanks for reading.

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