REVIEW: 2016 IF Anthology

With a new theme every year, the 2016 IF anthology tackles “Super Powers” as almost 100 all-star creators tell 40 tales of the (super) human condition.

Now I must first declare my bias.  As comics go, I am a fan of a wide variety of topics, but Alterna’s approach to creator owned holds a special place in my fandom.  I pondered when given the opportunity to review this anthology, should I try a new, fresh, exciting approach to the review or should I take a more prosaic approach?  In the end, I opted not to “score” each individual story but rather look at the collection as a whole.  I will give a snap-shot of each story as they unfold and provide my highlight for each.


Captain Terrific, a “self aware” hero who is attempting to leave his fictional print world and enter reality.  A fun and interesting take superhuman condition.  The highlight for me was the pages illustrating Captain Terrific’s attempt to pierce the veil of his comic into our reality, the crumbling page borders were a creative and kinetic touch!



Boyd Baker, an aging hero, returns to the origin of his gifts to find a new group of youngster to recount his adventures to.  Perhaps this is another old hero’s take but this is a few pages of what comics did for me in my youth; escape a rural farm to become a super.  College, a dusty gym and 20+ years later a comic book meathead (@InhumanMongo) is born.  The highlight, aside from the nostalgic storyline, was the unique panel layout, most fitting for this story.



Placed perfectly behind “The Empty Lot”, we are given another take on being a hero.  Fit reading for today’s society which is self absorbed, we find a homeless man being heroic and humans behaving like . . . well humans.  The story is the highlight, finding heroes is like finding beauty, you only need to open your eyes and mind to appreciate the small things.  Like a rabbit.




I, as most fans of this genre, often find myself explaining concepts to new fans.  This is especially true since 2008 brought many of our heroes to the box office.  My 7 year old daughter only recently asked me how being a superhero would feel.  This story mirrors my answer.  The aged hero coming to grips with the reality he cannot save everyone or in some cases shouldn’t.  The highlight is once again the story, or rather the question.  Oh, and I have to plug the Oppenheimer art!



Again the theme continues to answer the question  of what being a hero is.  Set in a group meeting the story gives a unique “perspective” on super powers, super heroes.  The highlight is the answer . . . as in life, it is all about perspective.



Yet another take on genre of heroism.  This is a straight up, in your face satirical look at being a hero.  The highlight is the back handed homage to legacy heroes I don’t even need to name.



The everyday plight of being a hero is front and center yet again.  Here we explore the literal cost of heroic behavior. The highlights are the homage to the greats in these few pages.




Set in an orphanage with super powered children of course!  The tone continues to show a unique angle on the burden of powers.  Highlight of the story are the characters; whimsical and flawed.



In a few pages we get a cliff-hanger!  Set in an Asylum our hero is portrayed as a nutter but is he . . . ?  An thus the highlight:



Mental health issues are nothing new in comics but this wicked short take is a stunning reminder of an important issue which is often unnoticed in humans, super or otherwise.  Highlight the emotion charged art.



The flaw of it all!  This story takes a light hearted look at the would be hero and shows the difficulty but ultimately the heart all our heroes share.  The highlight is the comic relief from a not so comical event.


The stories continue to be grouped intelligently.  Another hero another struggle to be a hero.  The  sheer scope of the trouble having extraordinary abilities would cause is displayed deftly in only a few pages.  Highlight is the splash.



The anthology again gives us pause in finding a superhero facing the unknown.  In this case mortality.  We as readers, fans or comic lovers shutter to think of our heroes facing death, even those who lack supernatural abilities persist for decades in print.  Highlight is the realization even our heroes can disappear.



A hero powered by alcohol?  Well I can relate as many can to the idea of booze making folks feel “ten feet tall and bullet proof.”  Alterna gives us another slant on a real issue in society with a superhero twist.  Highlight is the relatable nature of alcoholism in society and the struggle addicts face daily.  TRUE HEROISM in those who daily succeed.



Most of our lauded comic heroes are specimens of what society defines as beautiful.  Imagine having ultimate powers but being so hideous to behold.  Meet Captain Fugly.  Man or woman, young or old most bipedal homo sapiens strive for beauty.  Highlight is questioning our own vanity.



We cannot forget many heroes are born out of the very real need to escape terrible circumstances.  Highlight is the David vs. Goliath reference in the story.



Daydreaming of being wealthy and famous doesn’t seem like a superpower, but having a diary where your missives became reality is creepily cool!  Creepy is the highlight of this story!



Most anyone can name the caped and cowled hero from Gotham and give a reasonable account of his family fortune being used to fight evil.  This story flips the script and gives us billionaire parents financing the dreams of their child to be a superhero.  Highlight for any parent is the co$t of making your children’ dreams come true.



The title resonates with me personally.  While my daily job shows me most of what is evil in the world, I can still find things which bring me joy.  When in the company of other humans I find the constant complaining and negativity to be nearly unending.  The story of Captain Fantastic and his disappearance remind me of today’s entitled, negative nurturing humans!  Highlight is the hook ending the short story.


Screenshot_135 Screenshot_136

I’m a sucker for the mythos of King Arthur and company.  This is a funny twist on the story of old.  Only thing missing is a dragon!  Highlight is the Stoner Arthur King calling Merlin everything but Merlin.



Reflex shows us a story of persistence in the face of failure and yet another story of how hard becoming a hero can be.  Highlight is a giant Callinectes sapidus or Blue Crab for fellow Marylanders.



The first straight up superhero story of the anthology.  The hero sets out to stop a terrorist plot.  Highlight:  It’s a straight up hero story with campy quip.



The story highlights the imagination of a child and manages to make a bunny look bad ass!  Which are also the highlights of the story.



Another story showing heroes we pass everyday and do not recognize.  The highlight is once again the mirroring of a societal issue most have faced; self doubt, self loathing, and the hyperactive amygdala.



A hero with a woman problem; totally believable.  Fun short with plenty of action and comical dialogue.  The highlight is the precognition goggles.



In my house anything which cannot be explained is chalked up to “SPEED-FORCE.”  Witty time travel piece with the highlight of seeing Hitler kicked square in the arse!



Average kid spending the day with a “hero” who then puts the moves on his mom.  Sounds like a recent movie with a hot aunt and a billionaire playboy philanthropist.  The highlight aside from the familiarity is said hero’s reason for needing a place to rest.



Martial arts and cops make for a good short showing the dichotomy of comic and real life heroes.  Highlight for me is the Bruce Lee look to the opening character.



Smooth line work on yet another twist on the typical hero trope.  Highlight is the game.



What child doesn’t want to make their parent(s) proud.  The catalyst to this hero’s story is again a common theme which continues to have reliability to life.  Highlight is the emotion showing on the hero when he still feels inadequate.



Awesome twisty short story answering the question, better than I have in this review, on what makes a hero.  The highlight is Boylan’s definition.



Kudos for alliteration, Hellfire Hornet gives a great one shot performance showing the self-sacrificial nature of all great heroes.  The splash is the highlight.



A reluctant suicide bomber turned hero.  Certainly this is poignant for the headlines of today.  Highlight is seeing the boy  portrayed heroically, showing reluctance in committing a terrorist act against innocent people.



Labeled a coward and sent to hell.  This story of redemption shows the measure of a hero is still putting others above self.  The highlight is in the lettering changes for the characters.



What happens to heroes who are fired?  Although not a question I have given much thought to, I found the story to be an interesting character piece on a hero losing his place.  The highlight is the thought provoking nature of aging and losing relevancy in society, super or otherwise.



The story of the circus side show with a heroic twist and again the sacrificial hero.  The highlight is the missing “trick” when our hero saves the day.



Animate a snow man . . . why not!  Great short showing some cool angular panels and fitting art for the story.



Busy short of a heroic lumberjack and his side-kick Chipper!  Highlight is Lumberjack passing a booty call for the greater good.



Well scripted take on Hercules’ first of ten labors, the Nemean Lion.  Highlights are the flashbacks to his family solidifying the gravitas of the tale.



Fitting to place this final short as the wrap up piece to the anthology.  The highlight is finding the joy in what you love and for me and fellow fans it is OUR HEROES!

Nearly 100 fantastic creators and 40 original stories later I have finished the 2016 IF Anthology.  I must say it was a great pleasure to read each of these stories.  As reviews go, I would normally point out areas which I felt needed polish or change, or simply “didn’t work for me.”  As I stated some 1400 words ago, I opted to look at the collection as a whole and it definitely worked for me!  In the face of my bias, I did see some area where dialogue was blocking art or vice versa; however, this is a large collection and these issues are minor when weighing the beauty of the collective.  Many of the stories were art strong while others the script carried the greater weight.  In the end, I would highly recommend picking this anthology up to add to your collection and challenge your entrenched views of super powers, and superheroes alike.


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