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08 December 2008

Mallard 4, Two Stories and I Like Birds from Mallard Press.

Mallard issue 4 (July 2008).
The fourth issue of Mallard Small Press's flagship anthology. Including contributions from Tom England, Christopher Bernard Leahy, Joe Baddeley, Matt Fletcher and many more.
40 pages, B&W with colour cover: £2.00 (+50p P&P)  

When I start thinking about my inevitable "best of 2008" list the first thing that comes to mind is how many good anthologies I've seen.  Not just good single volume anthologies but good ongoing anthology series.  This is the second Mallard book that Tom England and his pals have sent my way.  Like the last issue I reviewed it is very much the quintessential minicomic/zine in size, shape appearance and content.  A neat blend of comic stories, gag comics, strip comics and short literature.  I think this issue is a bit sharper than the last.  No great breakthrough but just a little better in every way.  It has a nicely designed back cover by Jenny Peacock.  Joe Baddeley again provides some really great little stick figure strips  and gags that do a nice job pacing the book and making it feel more like a magazine than just a collection of stuff.  Matt Fletcher has a good looking two page day-in-the-life-recap thing made up of drawn snapshots.  Each pane is a transition from the last but it has a flow to it and the drawings have a warmth that makes it engaging.  I think the best work in the book is that of Tom England.  He has several short slice of life comics that would feel very accessible to fans of John Porcellino.  

Two Stories by Tom England and Christopher Bernard Leahy.
Published by Mallard Small Press.
21 pages.  B&W.  

Two Stories looks and feels a lot like Mallard except that it is made up of just two longer stories instead of several shorter works.  The first is a is a comic by Tom England called "A Memory of an Evening".  It is a study both in how the memory works and how our perception of events changes as we age.  It is also a neat exercise in making a comic about how one makes comics and it does this without being a boring Scott McCloud essay.  I appreciate that.  The comic moves around over several years and shows more range and storytelling chops than I have seen in any of England's other stuff.  
The second story is a prose short story by Christopher Bernard Leahy called "The Gap".  Leahy does a great job of establishing the character in just the first few paragraphs.  More importantly, it is a pretty interesting character.  The story is very short.  More of a moment than a story.  But because Leahy does such a great job of setting up the character's emotional condition there is a lot of weight to the slim events.  
The two stories compliment each other quite well.  Both are studies in memory and together make a balanced book.  I'd like to see England and Leahy go at this again.

I Like Birds by Tom England
Published by Mallard Small Press.
12 pages.  B&W.

England's I Like Birds is a very traditional minocimic in it's size, look and minimal subject matter.  The title sums the thing up pretty well.  There are several little riffs on birds.  Some pantomime, some conversation and lots of birds.  The look of it and even the lettering make me think of James Kochalka's kid friendly works like Peanutbutter and Jeremy.  In short, it is a charming little minicomic about birds.

Your best pal ever,
Shannon Smith
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