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Out of Picture Volume 1: Art from the Outside Looking In    by The Artists of OOP order for
Out of Picture Volume 1
by The Artists of OOP
Order:  USA  Can
Villard, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton

The title for this anthology, Out of Picture, comes from the film editing room and refers to recorded material that never gets used - that is, it ends up out of the picture or film. While the title implies that these are wayside delights snipped from larger projects, this doesn't quite seem to be the case. Also, the pieces within are called short illustrated stories, avoiding the use of the word comic or any derivative thereof. While some could arguably be considered illustrated stories, others are clearly comics, adhering to many of the medium's constructs (the use of panels and word balloons to name two). However, this new anthology from Villard (also responsible for the highly-praised Flight series) is a visual cornucopia of imagination - a pleasure to look at and a delight to read.

Some eleven stories make up this collection with plots that range from overcoming childhood trauma, oppressive government, and dream fantasies to terrorism in the US and pirates. The art and narrative devices create a sense of wonder and surrealism that will both capture and alienate readers as they fall prey to beautiful, color-drenched panels on oversized glossy pages. Pieces are less than sixteen pages and run the gamut from silent to stories with a mild amount of text. The focus here is the art and in most cases words serve as a distraction from the distinct and rich drawings throughout. David Gordon's The Wedding Present considers the dark shadow of American complacency and its implications for the War on Terror through the use of stuffed animals and toys, making the story's message only starker. By contrast, Greg Couch's Four and Twenty Blackbirds is a mixed bag of nursery rhyme tales rehashed into a film noir theme, adding laughs to many of those childhood verses.

In addition to the stories, the collection includes brief biographies of all the artists as well as a Development Gallery, where readers can see preliminary sketches and models used for the art exhibited within each story. As denoted by the title, this will be a continuing series from Villard. The question will be whether they can maintain the high standard they set in this debut collection.

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