I preferred Volume 1
, but this is worth reading too.
Trying to nail down the difference, I think it's as if The Girly Comic settled down. I get the impression of less variety. A story is less likely to startle you, so as an anthology this lacks the "what the hell?" factor of the combined likes of Spiderweiss (whoops, Seasons), Spon, Surreal School Stories, I Want My Own Gimp!, My Poison Pen Pal!, The Good Fairies of New York and My Little Princesses. I don't think there's a single superhero subversion, whereas Volume 1
had quite a few. (Admittedly there's only so far you can go with that subgenre, but last volume's dabblings in it were still quite fun.) There's less action-adventure, although that's not entirely a bad thing. There's also less horror than last time (The Witches Place, Twinkle Toes), although in fairness Sparkle is way more twisted than either of those.
I also found it a bit less funny. That's a crucial difference, although of course it would be wrong to say that it lacks humour. Plenty of people here will make you laugh, e.g. Jeremy Dennis, Motodraconis and of course the mighty Lee Kennedy.
I'll start with Lee Kennedy, who's once again my favourite thing in the book. Lee Kennedy rules. Unfortunately three of her stories here are from other people's scripts, but that still leaves nine instances of Undiluted Kennedy. They're also a bit different to the strips she was doing last time, with fewer childhood reminiscences and more third-person biographies and stream-of-consciousness fretting. London Bomb Day is a bizarre example of the latter, which I admire beyond measure and I can't believe another creator would even have been capable of imagining it. 'Andy' I enjoyed and appreciated, although I'd have preferred the poetry to scan. Clumping over the Common is a classic and has dogs. However my favourites here are her medical strips that make me feel wrong for laughing: Hashimoto's Hypothyroidism and Ultrascan.
There are strips that I admired for their writing, whether it's because they're tackling real and horrifying issues (War Wounds, A Girl's Story, Past Crimes Unpunished), because of their mad ideas (Perfect Ideas, False Idols) or else simply because they're charming or odd (The Monster in the Well, Daniel O'Mahoney's Sisters of the Head). The fecundity of ideas is a particular joy of this kind of collection. That's something you don't get in seasoned professionals who believe in milking the maximum mileage from every idea, e.g. Steven Moffat.
There are also some good comedies. New Boots, How did you waste your time today?, BraTastiKo, etc.
There's bound to be art you'll love. There are slick, stylish artists like Des Taylor who are clearly either professionals or should be, but there's a lot to admire in the quirkier stuff too. I relished the intricate creations of Jenny Linn Cole in The Frock of Doom, which just goes to show what a difference it makes to be drawing something that lets you go to town. Here Cole is illustrating her own scripts, so she's writing what she wants to draw. Kate Brown and Laura Howell charmed me. Josceline Fenton's work is clearly manga-inspired (in a good way), to such an extent that I suspect one of her stories (Promesse) started out in Japanese and was only later relettered into English. Word balloons are taller than their width and there's a sound effect in katakana.
Another of the book's creators is of Japanese origin (Mayko Fry), but her (excellent and charming) work doesn't look remotely manga-like.
1. Strangers to Love is a homage to Tod Browning's Freaks (1932), down to one of the midgets being named after Harry Earles's character.
2. I enjoyed florid narrative voices. There's a Victorian Boys' Own flavour to Rhubarb. "The study was crammed with a world of amazing things Papa had collected while exploring Africa - the darkest continent!" Then there's Septimus Le Plage. "Oh Lor! His pockets are veritably Tardisiferous!"
3. Oddcases: Explodo. Is that Wolverine in one panel? (Oddcases and Sylvia's Path both return from Volume 1
, although my favourite Oddcases story is still The Phantom Kittens.)
4. Mild Doctor Who references: the "Tardisiferous" pockets and a Cyberman head in the not entirely successful but still interesting photo-story (Rescue Me).
5. Sometimes Selina collects together similarly themed strips. There's a "fairy tale and mythology" run at the end, but the best stretch is the Underwear Section. This is new. Volume 1
had no equivalent of this and they're some of the best stories in the book: direct, down-to-earth and often funny.
As I said, I preferred Volume 1
. Compared with that book's fireworks, this perhaps feels a smidgin more pedestrian. However both are enjoyable and I'd recommend this too. If nothing else, this time Selina's slightly handicapped because two of The Girly Comic's ongoing series aren't in here, since their respective creators (Terry Wiley and Motodraconis) have their own collected editions of them. You can buy those too. A ton of creativity with no rules, going in whatever direction the creators want to explore. This kind of anthology gives you new faith in the future of comics.