October 18, 2011

Living in A Nightmare World

Your moment of full disclosure - originally, I had received electronic copies of Nightmare World for a recent episode of Zone 4. However, I'm glad that I had received complimentary electronic copies (including one for Volume 3, to be released on 10/25), because quite simply - this is one of the better comics that I have read in awhile.

Nightmare World is, first and foremost, an online web comic, but Dirk Manning takes a really unique approach - short stories (usually about eight pages) that usually take on a horror-theme. They also provide part of an overarching arc which....well, some may have you think that the particulars involved may be a little too "nerd cliche", but the strength is that  the overall arc is rarely telegraphed (even in the text pieces that occur at the end of volumes 1 and 2). Each of these stories is self-contained, short, and thankfully, are of varying quality. Fortunately, there are no out-and-out stinkers in each volume, but with anthology books, your mileage may vary.

In short, there's a little something for everyone - even though this is a "horror" book, the stories range in tone and type, from Twilight Zone-style science fiction to slasher-style shocks, from superheroic heights to supernatural creepiness. Volumes 1 and 2 are great, stand-alone volumes that provide you with the bulk of pieces to the puzzle that effortlessly void creating gaps to be filled in.

But Volume 3? That's where it begins to come together - and Manning, with various artists, manages to pull these disparate threads together without putting on an "I'm-so-clever" air. (I think someone should arrange for Mr. Manning and Steven Moffatt to meet - just sayin'). In fact, the strength of Nightmare World is that Manning trusts and respects the reader's intelligence enough to allow them to see the connections, to put the pieces together...and that makes these anthologies all the richer and a much more enjoyable read.

(My personal favorite from Volume 3 - an event told from two different perspectives; one told in comic form, the other a text piece. I am being deliberately vague, but only because I don't want to spoil these volumes for everyone. My only caveat - read these anthologies in order. Volume 3 helps make a lot of sense of volumes 1 and 2).

If you're looking for appropriately themed reading for Halloween, or you just want to give a great indie comic a try (and yes, I do find it ironic that I'm calling Image an "indie"), you would do well to give this a shot. You can click on the link above for the online version, and once you like that strip, buy all three volumes.

This time, believe the hype - Nightmare World is that good.