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‘Cell Block Earth and Other Stories’ TPB (review)

Cell Block Earth and Other Stories TPB
Written by Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray
Illustrated by Juan Santacruz,
Andy Kuhn, Tony Akins

Cover by Dave Johnson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Released 3/21/18 / $17.99

 

Cell Block Earth and Other Stories is a Dark Horse collection of reprints with one brand new story. The writing is by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti and the art by a mixed bag of artists I had not really heard of before.

While there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with this volume, I find myself wondering why it exists?

The book consists of three apparently unconnected stories, the first two of which don’t have endings, and the third of which doesn’t have a particularly original one.

Gray’s introduction extolls the pop culture influences of the stories herein and they’re certainly easy to spot—the B movie giant monsters, the Fantastic Four/Challengers of the Unknown heroes, the alien invaders, the robots, the angels and demons, the father whose love for his daughter conquers all.

My problem is that they come off more like clichés that we’ve all seen before, with hardly a new twist in the bunch.

I like the scene in the title story where the plot seems to be starting to head in one direction when all of a sudden, all technology simply stops.

Cell phones and cable broadcasts die, computers go dark, and, worse, airplanes cease to be able to fly…so they crash. This scene is handled well but our main character then instantly becomes a typical know-it-all post-apocalyptic hero and the plot jumps ahead to set up what looks like it might be starting to get interesting only to have the words, “The End” show up at the bottom of the page.

Will there be more? If so, where? When? Nothing is indicated that there will be. It just stops. This story has what is probably the best art of the book, by Juan Santacruz.

The second story is a confusing mess with some intriguing scenes but, again, no explanations, no ending, and no indication that anything is to be tied up anywhere.

Tony Akins offers up the most traditional Marvel/DC style art of any of the three stories here, appropriate since this reads like a superhero origin story. We meet an old man who was once, many years ago, involved in an undersea expedition where his four colleagues disappeared and were presumed dead. Suddenly, many years later now, they return, still young and healthy, and giant sea monsters choose that exact moment to turn up. Concluding that THEY must be somehow responsible, our heroes decide that THEY will have to save the day…only they don’t. We then move on the next story.

In this last tale, we revisit Fight Club, or is it that Lee/Kirby FF story where Ben Grimm is forced to have cage matches with aliens? Anyway, there’s lots of blood and demons and garbled philosophy here, all done up with art reminiscent of Howard Chaykin and sometimes Mike Mignola.

It’s not bad. And at least it has an ending, even if we see it coming a light year away.

None of these stories are bad, in fact. But they aren’t incredibly original and they aren’t particularly noteworthy.

If you’re of a certain age, you may remember back in the 1960s and 1970s when CBS, ABC, and NBC would try to earn back some of their investment on failed TV sitcom pilots by linking two or three together, calling it a comedy special, and just throwing them out there on the air in prime time. On the off chance that anyone actually seemed to like any of them they made it a series.

THAT, more than anything is, is the vibe I get from Cell Block Earth and Other Stories.

 

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