Review: Mixtape

Cover art by Gareth Luby (line art) and Paul Carroll (colour art)

Mixtape is an anthology written and edited by Gary Moloney(who was good enough to shoot me over a review PDF). Mixtape is his debut collection featuring six stories with contributions from Irish and international comics talent. This anthology is also the first output I’ve read from a new small press publisher called Limit Break Comics.

Story 1 – Weapons of Mech Destruction

Written by Gary Moloney. Line art by Hendry Prasetya. Colour art by Chris O’Halloran. Lettered by Hassan Otsmane-Elhauo.

The first strip takes place in what looks to be the near future. The nature of war has changed with Mechs now being used in warfare. A mech pilot is called to action when an unidentified Mech unit enters the Korean neutral zone.

It’s a four-pager that is slowly building to the surprise in the final panel. Dialogue gives the reader some hints about the shape of the world. The ending of the strip is such that it could be part of a larger story.

The line art has a nice level of detail on the Mech, both internally and externally. Equally the colour art impresses, whether it’s the digital display inside the Mech or a busy battle panel. Dialogue and captions have a ‘brief and  to the point’ flow to the team, and why wouldn’t they as it’s a military story after all? Placement of the text throughout the strip leads the readers eye through the pages nicely.

First strip of Moloneys  first anthology and it makes for a great impression.

Story 2 – Lex Inuista

Written by Gary Moloney. Line art by Mary Anne Mackey. Colour art by Ellie Wright. Letters by Julie Gravelle.

This strip veers into legal-comedy territory with super-villains thrown in to spice things up. The focal character is a lawyer tasked with defending the super-villain who finds himself before the judge. The defence for the accused lay out how Mr McIntyre ended up in the life of super-villainy.

The dialogue is fun and stops the proceedings from becoming dry to read.

The art is in keeping with the lighter tone of this story. I did enjoy the panel where McIntyre is revealed to the reader. He certainly makes for an intimidating character. A mixture of the courtroom scene and flashbacks also give a bit of variety to proceedings.

The art team do a good job on the visuals and lettering is easy to read with good positioning and flow through the pages.

An enjoyable change of pace from the first story. And I did chuckle at the business card in the closing page of the strip.

Story 3 – The Last Stop

Written by Gary Moloney. Art by Clare Foley. Letters by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou.

A lone soldier travels home by train while musing on the meaning of home. When his mind returns to the train carriage he occupies, things slowly take on a sinister air for the traveling soldier.

The artwork, particularly the colours, give the strip the sensation of traveling through a bad dream. And when a new colour is introduced to the strip, you hope for the sake of the soldier that a bad dream is all it is.

It’s also a good strip for getting a better understanding of what a good letterer brings to a strip. The style of lettering perfectly suits the art while being quite different to the style used in the previous strip Otsmane-Elhaou lettered.

Another solid strip with some wonderfully realised pages that show Moloney can vary the type of stories he writes without dropping the ball.

Story 4 – Fist of the Orc Star

Written by Gary Moloney. Line art by Katie Fleming. Colour by Ellie Wright. Letters by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou.

Still on the fence about the anthology? How about Fight Club, but with Orcs thrown in for good measure!

“Grant” is looking for the next thing in action thrill-seeking. Getting into the ring with an Orc is certainly one way to the adrenaline pumping.

This strip is a good example of a story having the right art team involved. Fleming has a fun style that really gets the most out of the story. When the combatants touch gloves, all I could think was “nice knowing ya, “Grant”!”. I also liked that the scene had some good background characters to fill out the scene. Lots of bright colours compliment the line art and make for a fun fight club strip.

Story 5 – The Interview

Written by Gary Moloney. Pencils by Andrew Taylor. Inks by Lauren Tracey. Colours by Joseph Griffin. Letters by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou.

This strip is another that feels like it could be part of a larger story. I got to the last panel and I wanted to know where things go from there.

The strip sees a report meet a man who is making an unbelievable claim as to his true identity. It definitely falls into a type of story that I generally enjoy so it’s nice to see Moloney take a swing at it. That said, I really wanted this story to have more breathing room. There’s plenty of threads for the reporter to pick at but, to me, it’s over before it really gets going.

There’s some really good looking art in the strip, both in terms of the line art and the colour art. Panels have a nice mix of angles to avoid the strip becoming somewhat dull to read. It is two characters chatting across a cafe table so it could happen all to easily. Colours give the scene a relaxed atmosphere which works well for when the interviewee reveals their identity. It gives the reveal a bit more impact.

The story and artwork had me wishing for a longer strip, as it just really worked for me.

Story 6 – Wishing You Were Here

Written by Gary Moloney. Line art by Daniel Romero. Colour art by Joseph Griffin. Letters by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou.

And we’ve arrived at the outro to the Mixtape. I quite liked how this strip was done. A young woman has moved from a small village to the city. In the strip, a letter to her parents serves as the only text in the strip. The reader is reading the letter while a scene featuring the woman in the city plays out in the panels. The two different threads of the story show how some adult children will sugarcoat their life outside the family home so that their parents won’t worry.

The scene in the city is told through images only. I felt that this gave a stronger contrast between the letter and city scene that might have been lost if the city scene featured any dialogue. The art does a great job with the storytelling in the city scene. At no point did I feel lost as to what was happening even though there is no text to explain the scene.

I also liked the colour palette that is used for the city at night. There’s a limited range used but nothing is lost at any point, be it props or the cast.

It’s a solid closer to the anthology.

For a first release from a small press creator, this is an impressive anthology. Moloney can clearly spin a story. When also consider the array of talented comic folk involved in the anthology, it was a surprise when I realised it a debut anthology from Moloney.

There’s a variety of stories and art styles featured in the anthology which means that the should be something in there to appeal to most comic readers.

You can pick up a copy of Mixtape at Dublin City Comics, Forbidden Planet Dublin or Big Bang Comics, Dundrum (with plans to have the comic also available in Comic Vault, Cork). There’s also the option of sending an email to limitbreakireland@gmail.com if you can’t make it to one of the comic stores.

About contributor.
Comic-loving bookworm. Scribbler of words and images.
Can be found on Twitter @Stephen_C_Ward.