Grim_Noir Hangs Out with the Regulars at the Black Crown

Black Crown Quarterly 1 cover

Title: Black Crown Quarterly #1

Story and Art: (various writers and artists)

Editor: Shelly Bond

Letterer: Aditya Bidikar

Publisher: IDW Publishing

Reviewed by Grim_Noir

As I have written about before, reviewing comic book anthologies is considered career suicide. There is just too much ground to cover: Too many creators, too many plots and too many characters. Reviewers end up spending too much time explaining what they did and didn’t like, but all the reader of the review wants to know is if its worth their time and money. In the last two years, DC gave a master class on how to do an anthology right. Their Legends of Tomorrow, New Talent Showcase and DC Rebirth Holiday Special were good anthology books that added additional shading and nuance to characters’ portrayals, while advancing the universe-building of a new/rebooting comic book line.

Sadly, IDW’s Black Crown Quarterly is none of that. For a comics line that is just starting out, I am loath to call this “too little, too late,” already, but if it isn’t that, then it skates awfully close to being that.

Black Crown page 1

When Shelly Bond was hired as an Assistant Editor for the Vertigo line by DC’s Karen Berger, that imprint was in its infancy. By the time Berger stepped down from Vertigo in late 2012, Bond was the only logical choice to replace her. Together, they had wet-nursed Vertigo into THE premier comics line for thoughtful science fiction, fantasy, supernatural tales, psychological horror, satire and paranoia. After DC “restructured” Vertigo out of existence in 2016, Bond took that ookey sensibility to IDW and began brain-storming. This month, the seeds of her new idea began to bear fruit.

Black Crown block

“What if,” Bond thought, “ALL the weirdness in an entire imprint, like Vertigo, happened simultaneously on a single street in an unnamed town, not unlike Leeds, England?” Thus began the Black Crown line of comic books. Creators would pitch their sci-fi, fantasy & horror, then choose a building on this fictional street where the action would (mostly) occur.

The titular Black Crown of both the imprint and the Quarterly is a mysterious, difficult-to-find bar that Bond has entrusted to Rob Davis. Davis, who has written for Judge Dredd and Doctor Who comics, knows this eerie ground like the back of his hand. Together with artist Robin Henley, Davis’ “Tales from the Black Crown” story is a confident, creepy romp and acts as a promise of more cheeky fun to follow.

Punks Not Dead preview

If I’m honest, however, that additional fun never comes. The next story, “CUD: Rich and Strange” is just an SNL sketch about aging rockers in a nursing home, whose brains are drug-addled and whose best days are behind them. From there, …Quarterly goes downhill quickly. The rest of the book consists of interviews with the creators and short (in most cases, just FOUR pages) previews of other books in the line: Kid Lobotomy, Assassinistas, Cannonball Comics and Punks Not Dead.

Back in September, IDW already put out sneak peeks of Kid Lobotomy and Assassinistas, so including them in this anthology really felt unnecessary. David Barnett’s and Martin Simmonds’ preview of Punks Not Dead caught my attention, but I would have rather read issue 1 of that book…if I didn’t have a four month wait for issue 1 to come out…

Bottom line: As a 48-page book, with only 22 pages of original content, costing seven bucks, this book is a poor anthology for a promising comic book line. IDW and its consumers would be better served with a Tales of the Black Crown comic book that had an 8-page back-up story from elsewhere in the Black Crown universe.

Black Crown Quarterly 1 wrap cover

 

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* GRIM_NOIR is convinced that the internet is a figment of his imagination. Please comment below and/or follow @Grim_Noir on Twitter or Friend on Good Reads or Facebook to end his self-delusions.

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