Attack on Titan has become a juggernaut of a series across the globe; it’s become so popular that this special book was created, the Attack on Titan Anthology. Tons of famous, award-winning Western creators have come together to create their own spin on the franchise — whether it be in canon or something completely different, let’s see what these guys can do with the license. Is it good?
Attack on Titan Anthology (Kodansha Comics)
There’s many short stories within this collection, so let’s take a look at each one individually and see how they hold up.
“Under the Surface”
In San Francisco, year 2030, the world is on the brink of ruin. The gap between the poor and rich is beyond measure, there’s civil unrest all over, and all sea life has simply vanished. However, Doctor Price thinks there’s still hope for tomorrow and believes he has discovered evidence of some whales out in the bay; he takes a small team and heads out there to look, while chaos reigns in the street.
This story is brought to us by Scott Snyder and Ray Fawkes, with frequent Snyder collaborator, Rafael Albuquerque, on art duties. The best way to describe this tale is that it feels like a pitch for a new series by the creative team; they set up an interesting scenario about the world falling apart, using some current topics and issues from real life/current events, and hit us with a twist at the end that would make the situation even worse for everyone. On that level, the story works, but that’s really it, as the overall connection to Attack on Titan feels very limited; the story stops just as it is about to get going, and there’s not much character to it. Albuquerque’s artwork is certainly pleasant to look at and he does feel like an appropriate artist to draw something related to Attack on Titan due to his work on American Vampire in the past. Outside of one art flub, his work is the strongest part of the comic.
“Attack on Attack On Titan”
“Attack on ‘Attack on Titan'” comes courtesy of Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer and they present us with a weekly comic strip vibe. Sprinkled throughout are pages of several single strips featuring many of the characters from the series in goofy, but violent scenarios; they’re setup like daily newspaper comics (think Garfield or Peanuts), but with more violence and adult language used for comedic situations. Unfortunately, the humor misses the mark for me but I can see how the humor might vibe with some — perhaps those that are familiar with/fans of Dorkin’s previous work like Milk & Cheese.
“An Illustrated Guide to the Glorious Walled Cities”
Writer Genevieve Valentine and artist David Lopez provide what might be the most interesting offering of the collection. This story… is not really a story, but more like a magazine article that acts as a guide to the Walled Cities in the Attack on Titan series, taking place right before the series begins. The guide talks about what each city offers, some of the landmarks that pop up throughout the franchise, and even has amusing advertisements for various products as well. It’s a very neat addition to the collection and fans are certainly going to like this one, especially towards the end when things take a rather… surprising turn.
“The Titan’s Laugh”
An alternate universe tale of Attack on Titan, “The Titan’s Laugh” follows two friends (or siblings?) named Elin and Den. One day when running from the soldiers after stealing some food, they end up in someone’s basement — a basement that contains of all things a joke book. From there, the wall falls and chaos breaks out.
This story is written and drawn by Faith Erin Hicks. It’s a relatively quick tale with a strange, but amusing ending (it only works because this is an alternate universe with different rules) and some likable protagonists. The humor in this comic is a bit corny, but corny/bad on purpose and in a way that turns around to becoming silly. The writing ultimately works, but the artwork is the weakest link; it’s not that Hicks’ artwork is bad or anything, since it’s not (it has a Becky Cloonan vibe to it); it just doesn’t fit the tone that this series usually has and the Titans just don’t look all that creepy like they should.
“Live and Let Die”
While exploring beyond Wall Rose, a Survey Corps squad is attacked by Abnormal Titans. Only the leader of the squad, Taki, manages to survive and just barely. She is eventually rescued by a mysterious group of people who have been away from civilization for a long time.
This is possibly one of the strongest stories in the collection. Written and illustrated by Michael Avon Oeming, it’s a story about this new character, Taki, encountering a group of people living beyond the walls and how they’ve survived. While it goes by very quickly and there’s not a whole lot of characterization, it’s a neat tale of survival with plenty of excitement and action. Oeming’s artwork looks particularly great here, as he renders some absolutely terrifying looking Titans and great bits of action. While the flashy and bright colors seem a bit odd for an Attack on Titan tale, they do lend themselves well in areas as they make the Titans even more disturbing.
I don’t think this is the time to discuss weather, missy.
Written by Gail Simone and drawn by Phil Jiminez, “Good Dog” is an almost completely silent tale about a young girl and her dog during the time the Colossal Titan smashed a hole into the perimeter wall around Shiganshina. It’s a very brief and quick story, but a very well executed one. Simone just lets Jiminez’s artwork speak for itself, showcasing the emotions the main character is going through, specifically her desire for revenge. “Good Dog” is easy to follow and the resolution is ultimately bittersweet, but fitting. The only problem I found here is Jiminez’s artwork on occasion; while he does a fantastic job with sequential storytelling, capturing the horror and panic when the Colossal Titan broke the wall, and drawing the Titans in general –there are some issues when it comes to facial expressions and having the main character look consistent age-wise. Otherwise, it’s a good story overall.
“Attack on Playtime”
This particular one-shot is brought to use by Sam Humphries and Damion Scott and it’s about a young girl’s revenge fantasy come to life. Our young female protagonist is always getting put down by her homeroom teacher, gym teacher, and school principal, so one day she brings a Titan to school to kill them all. It’s a rather ugly tale, with everyone being so completely unpleasant, unreal (oh sure people, try disciplining and yelling at the girl who is seeking a monster on you, that’ll work) and exhibiting a complete lack of a sense of humor. There’s just no fun with this one at all and the artwork isn’t exactly pleasant either, with a cartoony style that would work only if this story was particularly funny. However, it’s really not at all and there are small mistakes here and there, like word balloons going to the wrong person.
In some part of the Walls (the most inner city?), there’s a young woman named Lyla who has been developing what would be best described a plane of sorts. She wants to help develop technology that could be of use in the war against the Titans. Then, of course, there are some problems…
I’m ultimately not sure what to feel or what to think about this one. It seems to be referencing events further along in the series with the military police (I don’t understand why they’re acting the way they are here) and what goes on in the innermost city. “Skies Above” might be the most developed in terms of character work, but the ending feels rather abrupt and ambiguous. Rhianna Pratchett and Ben Applegate have an interesting set of characters here for the story, but it feels like it could’ve benefited from having more pages to flesh things out. Jorge Corona’s artwork isn’t too bad, though there isn’t too much to say about it. It’s not bad, especially with his solid layouts, but it’s not as memorable as it could be either. This story feels like it could be good, but it’s just missing that little something to push it over the hump.
“Bahamut” is about a man named Bertolt Weill, a playwright that rubs elbows with the higher crust of the Inner Wall. He has a secret lover, who… has quite the interesting ability. Overall, there isn’t much for me to comment on in this particular story. It’s a comic that just kind of happens and ends without much fanfare or anything. It’s not particularly awful, but it’s not all that memorable. It’s written by Ron Wimberly, who also draws the story as well. His artwork is okay, but it doesn’t feel particularly well-suited for an Attack on Titan yarn with its style and vibrant colors. The only particular thing about the artwork is that the Titans appear to be based on real-life humans given their appearance. Other than that, not much else to say.
“Attack on Demoncon”
Damn, these cosplayers make amazing costumes!
Brought to you Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, and Babs Tarr of Batgirl fame; this creative team brings a rather amusing tale taking place within a comic convention. Three girls dress up as “sexy” variants of the Colossal Titans and a group of guys dressed as members of the Survey Corps show up to play along with them. One of the Corps members acts like a douche to one of the girls and thus, a Titan attack occurs.
This is a very quick, simple story and it’s probably one of the better ones. This is what “Attack on Playtime” should have been, to me at least, in terms of execution. It’s a revenge fantasy that, oddly enough, stays within the bounds of this universe’s reality, with one of the girls imagining a Titan taking out the jackasses in her mind, but in actuality (and unseen by us) it’s just her beating them up. The setup and conflict is quick, but a relatable enough situation for many people. The writing is decent and the artwork works surprisingly well in the story, handling the “horror” aspect well and displaying plenty of amusing Easter eggs in the background.
“Fee Fie Foh”
From Si Spurrier comes a tale that is the longest and perhaps most disconnected from Attack on Titan. The story is about a man named Mod of Dover and it takes place on an island around Britain, where fable and fact are almost one and the same. Mod is the hero of a small tribe who has been able to protect everyone from the Titans with his cunning plans and use of the island’s high cliffs. However, he has been growing arrogant and ignoring the blood rituals that island has developed to ensure their safety and… you see where this is going.
I say this story is rather disconnected from Attack on Titan because of the way it’s written and presented. Sure, there are Titans in this story (some that would fit right at home in the regular series), but they’re never referred to as Titans, but more as giants (hence the title). There’s no acknowledgment of the Walls, any past character, and there’s modern technology applied that’s not present in the main series. The story feels more like Si Spurrier used Attack on Titan as an excuse to write a one-shot story about giants and legends. So, with that in mind, that’s probably makes it the weakest “Titan” story of the collection.
However, as a stand-alone story — it’s also probably the best written and most fleshed out of the stories in this book. Using about 30 or so pages, Spurrier spins a yarn that’s very well-thought out, has a decently characterized protagonist, and concludes in a way that makes sense. There are some issues in the dialogue and there’s not much explanation about what the Divine is exactly or where it comes from, which leads to some confusing bits. The artwork is provided by Kate Brown and Paul Duffield, who draw and color a very atmospheric and visually stunning tale. The characters are drawn well, the monsters are terrifying, the layouts are solid, and I love the visual storytelling and even some of the unique word balloons in this story.
An old couple are at home one day, the man having come back from hunting and the woman sitting at home sewing a blanket for her son… whenever he comes back. That’s when the Wall breaks and the Titans arrive.
This is another very quick and simple, but quiet and somber tale by Asaf and Tomer Hanuka. There’s not much surprise to it, since you can guess most of the plot beats, but it’s still effective enough. Speaking of which, this is easily one of the most visually stunning books in the collection; the great line work and luscious coloring capture the mood and atmosphere so perfectly of what the creators are trying to do. Definitely a strong finish for the collection on a visual level.
And Everything Else…
And before we wrap up, let’s cover some other parts of the book: there were several pinup pages throughout the collection, all of which looked good. There’s a huge gallery in the back full of sketches, variant covers for this and other volumes of the series, a glossary about all of the creators, and a bonus preview for the motion book that Kodansha is releasing online as well. There’s some good bonus content here and the collection itself is a sturdy hardcover with no binding issues. The only thing about the collection that was problematic were some warped pages at the very beginning that didn’t look good.
Is It Good?
Attack on Titan Anthology is a collection of tales that range from great to underwhelming. There are definitely some winners in here that are worth reading and checking out. However, there’s also some bad ones that aren’t as fun to read due to writing/art issues, endings that are too abrupt, or stories that never get off the ground to begin with. Unless you are a huge fan of Attack on Titan, the thirty dollar price tag might be a little steep (although, if you click our “Read Now” link at the top you can save 29%; and the Kindle & Comixology version is only $15.99) — so make sure you’re ready to immerse yourself in the world before you make the purchase.