My idea of a perfect Saturday morning involves a quiet house, a fresh pot of coffee and the latest issue of Meanwhile. I’d be hard pressed to think of a more suitable, or welcome, way to begin a weekend (at least not one that I’d feel comfortable appearing in either print or cyberspace) than with the four colour periodical that’s fast becoming one of the staples of my comic fandom. Showcasing some of the fastest rising and most creative and imaginative writers and artists working in the medium, Meanwhile is always a pleasure (and never a chore) that should be digested, and savoured, at length. However, with this issue, publisher John Anderson has decided to mix things up a little and change the way the stories are presented in Meanwhile, and has included only eight contributions, the two long-standing, ongoing and thoroughly compulsive mainstays Strangehaven and The Bad, Bad Place, new serial The Collector, a couple of (hopefully) debuting chapter tales Daisy Blackwood and Gail Key’s Psychic Lost Item Helpline and standalones, The Sycamore Tree and Cut Out.
While I’m not usually enamoured by, or with, change, after spending a couple of hours poring over this issue, I have to admit that I’m more than a little taken with this new-fangled look, especially the inclusion of the long form story, Cut Out, which is an incredibly moving and frank study of the way that people are held back by familiarity and trapped by the things that they find most comforting. And while it doesn’t explicitly explore the nature of abusive relationships and the many forms that they can assume, Simone Buchert’s story implies that her central characters are locked in one that neither can escape and such, can never move on with their lives.
While that particular tale is worth the price of admission alone, Meanwhile doesn’t rest on its laurels and believing in delivering it’s readers maximum bang for their buck, this time also serves up stories of pulp adventure inspired aerial heroics (Daisy Blackwood), a peculiar, noirish psychic detective (Gail Key) and an ode to loss and age (The Sycamore Tree) all of which are more than intriguing and exciting enough to invest your time in. But it’s the ongoing mysteries, the continuing chapter plays that really keep you coming back for more, and while Sarah Gordon’s The Collector is off to a fantastically strange and beguiling start, it’s the heavy hitters, Gary Spencer Millidge’s wonderfully weird David Lynch-esque tale of small village suburbia Strangehaven and David Hine and Mark Stafford’s eerie Lovecraftian story of revenge and the horror that inevitably follows in its wake, The Bad, Bad Place that ensure you remain transfixed by, and always eager to consume, Meanwhile. It’s what weekends were made for… Tim Cundle