Comic Review: Once Upon a Time Machine

I love a good anthology but the problem is publishers rarely do them these days.  The idea of bringing together a variety of writers and artists to contribute variations on a central theme guided by the singular vision of a central editor means that there will always be something for everyone and if you don’t like one story don’t worry; another story by a different writer/artist combination will be coming up shortly.  The newest 400+ page anthology by Dark Horse is that rare book where you won’t be skipping over certain stories as each one of the over 25 different tales is a wonderful little reading experience all on its own.  I firmly believe that this collection of stories will help to solidify Dark Horse Comic’s reputation as one of the most important producers of comics literature today.

The original intent of fairy tales was to impart values or lessons upon young children in a way that is entertaining for them by using characters the young listeners can relate to.  Why else are the main characters all so young in the stories?  What is the story of Pinocchio if not a way to remind young boys of the importance of being good wrapped in an entertaining package?  That version might have been fine 200 years ago but what child now has ever seen a wooden toy much less played with one?  What if, instead of a wooden boy, Pinocchio were a computer program learning how to interact with He wants to be a real little boy.humans and what would he need to learn to be a good son to his “father”?  Now THAT is a version of Pinocchio that children today can read and enjoy.  These are the types of questions editor Andrew Carl and producer Chris Stevens have charged this gathering of over 90+ writers and artists to answer.

 Some of these stories are just plain silly while others will leave you pondering what it means to be human.  Some will cause you to put down the book and think about how hard it can be to go forward another day for someone else despite your own pain or how your story might not be about you at all.  The majority of the stories are just too short and I wanted more, but that’s a good problem to have.  When you leave the reader wanting more that means you’ve done something right.

Unfortunately I do have two major problems with the book.  First off a lot of the entries are singleCome on, just TELL me you don’t want to know more about this story. page splashes that are incredibly cool but that’s all we get.  How can you tease me with something as awesome as a Humpty Dumpty pin up by Ryan Ottley and leave me hanging?  I can only hope that if there is a volume two these pin ups serve as a spring board for the next round of tales.  

My second problem with this collection is that there is no back story.  And by that I mean:  How were the writers and artists chosen?  How were the assignments handed out?  What was the genesis of the project?  If you do an anthology like this I think the back story, the in between, and the thoughts of the editors is every bit as vital as the stories themselves and without it this volume only feels mostly completed.

Should you buy this then?  Well it is $25.00 but for that price you get over 400 pages of story none of which wear out their welcome and in my opinion comics needs a break from the endless parade of meaningless mega crossovers that happen every other year and need to get back to doing what they can do better than any other medium: give adult and children both a wonderful reading experience.  And if the promotional video found here doesn’t make you want to read it nothing I say can change your mind