"Anomaly" Graphic Novel Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Anomaly Publishing
Written by Skip Brittenham and Brian Haberlin
Illustrated by Brian Haberlin and Geirrod Van Dyke
2012, 368 Pages
Graphic Novel published on November 15th, 2012
It's probably really tough to create a brand new intellectual property, especially in the sci-fi space. Regardless of what you do, you're going to get compared to the likes of Star Wars and Star Trek. Skip Brittenham and Brian Haberlin have set out to make their mark on the science fiction genre by utilizing amazing artwork and augmented reality technology with Anomaly. Set 700 years in the future, the graphic novel follows a group of travelers as they set out to change the way the Conglomerate (the massive multi-corporation governing body) makes contact with new worlds. Let's just say that they don't currently follow the Prime Directive. What starts out as a routine mission quickly spirals out of control and sends the technology-laden group into the stone age.
The first thing you'll notice about Anomaly is that it's unlike any graphic novel you've ever read. It's laid out more like an art book than a traditional comic. The pages are all landscape format, presented in a cinematic widescreen style. It's not a book you would take with you to the toilet or on a leisurely stroll to the park due to its massive size. There is a tremendous amount of quality put into this book. The pages are glossy and of thick stock. Of course, this all comes with a hefty price tag of $75 for the cover price.
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Anomaly utilizes an augmented reality app you can download to your smartphone or tablet. This unlocks more content, such as 3D models and advanced character profiles. It's a nice addition to the book that comes at no additional charge. Marvel Comics has been getting into this space lately with a number of their titles, but they're AR usually just unlocks videos with the creators. The Anomaly apps allow you to dive deeper into all of the content (of which there is quite a bit of it).
The story within Anomaly is massive. Brittenham and Haberlin have built an entire universe here. The Conglomerate rules over everything. Think a more evil, faceless version of the Federation in Star Trek and you're on the right track. Instead of a government, it's a huge business. The currency used is shares of stock within the company. Robots are more prized than human lives.
In an effort to change the way the Conglomerate handles the addition of new worlds (which is currently very violent), Samantha leads an expedition to a planet called Anomaly. What they don't realize is that it's essentially a suicide mission. No ships that have ever been sent to Anomaly have ever returned and no one knows why. When the crew lands, they find their technology eaten up and they're stranded on this new planet with dozens of different races, each vying for superiority. These humans get wrapped up in a huge war between the rival races.
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This description is not doing the book justice because as mentioned previously, it's pretty epic. There's a lot going on with a ton of background. If you're a nerdy guy like me, you'll find a lot to enjoy in all of the information crammed into this huge graphic novel. If you spent time reading the cards on the back panels of Star Wars figures, you'll be right at home.
The artwork for Anomaly is very impressive. Artists Brian Haberlin and Geirrod Van Dyke make use of the extra space provided by the book's layout. Everything about this graphic novel feels bigger, as if I'm watching an IMAX presentation of a feature film. There's even a two-page spread that pulls out of the book at one point.
The creatures are all unique, each more frightening than the last. There's a real mythology built within these pages. The various eccentricities of each race come out in their design. The cave demons are massive beasts with skulls for faces while the Moncs are a peaceful race living amongst the treetops.
Anomaly raises the bar for comics. This is the kind of artwork that the medium is capable of. Granted, it comes with a big chunk of change, but it's worth it. The book also features several pages of back matter including a glossary, timeline, and a character's diary. Brittenham and Haberlin have created a new science fiction epic that can go toe-to-toe with the likes of current franchises like Mass Effect in terms of scale and quality.