Strange Eggs
Edited by Chris Reilly, Ben Towle, Steve Ahlquist
Published by Slave Labor Graphics; $3.95 USD

Harkening back to the days of children's entertainment that scared the youngsters with shaky morals and a cold eccentricity, Strange Eggs comes as a new bearerof charming depravity. Hatched by Slave Labor Graphics, (rather than their all-ages imprint Amaze-Ink, which should give a hint or two about the content,) two plucky kids are given an egg once a week that contains some sort of creature. The premise suggests a Saturday morning extravaganza, but the cartoonists, many from the publisher's stable of creators, have taken what should be fun for the whole family and twisted into something darker.

It should be no surprise that the best stories in Strange Eggs are the ones with the most questionable content. Memorable both for its disturbing allusions to statutory rape and miscarriage, as well as its wordless, esoteric, and innovative narrative, Jonathan Adams' "Fertilizer" was one of the standout pieces, and in conjunction with his stylistically different back cover, he proves himself as a noteworthy talent. Roger Langridge, creator of Fred the Clown contributes a one page story that is certainly the funniest in the book. Chris Reilley, one of the editors and apparent ringleader of the anthology writes several of the stories, and they range from one of the best to a couple of the worst.

The trait shared by the most successful stories in Strange Eggs is that the further they stray from the initial premise, the more exciting and enjoyable they become. The premise itself is actually very clever, but when played strait, infrequently as it is, the results are pretty tame. Jennifer Feinberg and Todd Meister have an unconventional look to their contribution, but the plot, sticking closely to parameters of the anthology, is so conventional that it not only bores but feels out of place. Same goes for the initial, "set-up" story, and a few others. Strange Eggs almost seems like a parody of a classic kid's comic or cartoon, in that it works best when it subverts the parameters of a "Strange Eggs" story. Crab Scrambly, as the most overt example, completely ignores the premise, in a not entirely successful story that is at best tangentially related to the unifying concept.

As a comics anthology, Strange Eggs doesn't quite measure up to the heavyweights of the past year, McSweeney's #13, Kramer's Ergot, or even Project Superior. It works best when it is against itself, and some of the stories are conventional and just aren't fun or funny. Still, there is a good amount to like about the book, enough to recommend that it be read, and then pass this little nightmare factory off to a kid, preferably someone else's.

-- Jef Harmatz

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