SCI: The Jewish Comics Anthology Volume 2 is a treasure trove of 18 science fiction stories adapted from traditional Jewish teachings, legends, folklore, and mythology that started as a Kickstarter project. Several entries in the collection are illustrated prose pieces, but most of them are told in comic book format. The tone, tempo, and color palette are as varied as the diverse authors and illustrators that created new adaptations of the tales for this second anthology of Jewish tales.
In the foreword, editor Steven M. Bergson states that one of the intentions of this volume was to “introduce obscure, offbeat, and bizarre tales when we can.” A secondary objective is to make the collection accessible to readers of all ages. While I agree that the anthology met the first intention, I am not sure that every entry met the second goal. Many of the traditional stories are convoluted and, even with the individual introductory preface for each of the entries, the nuances and storytelling may be too complex for younger readers, even dedicated fans of science fiction. Many of the stories, adapted from the Torah and the Talmud (the compilation of the debates of historical rabbis debating what the Torah means), will be unfamiliar to many non-Jewish readers. This reader was particularly taken with the introductions offering background context and, occasionally, brief editorial commentary on significant aspects of individual items.
Among the many unusual tales, however, are the reworkings of the more familiar stories that will resonate with younger readers, such as “Stone Soup,” a traditional European folktale found in many cultures; “It Could be Worse,” one that the editors label “the crowded house folktale”; and “Something from Nothing.” This latter reworking, written by Trina Robbins and illustrated by Rossi Gifford, is one of my favorite entries. Robbins, the daughter of a tailor and a former tailor herself, breathes a fresh rendition on this timeless Yiddish folktale. The use of the color red for the blanket and it’s recreations garnish attention in the otherwise black and white illustrations for this tale, reminiscent of the use of the color in the 1993 film Schindler’s List. Taking place in the near future, the story reminds us all of the need for historical memory along with hopes for the future.
Several stories are ablaze with neon colors and creative panel layouts while others, such as Robbin’s tale, use color only to highlight significant elements. Many of the characters are identifiable as human while many of them are truly from another universe or time. The illustrative styles differ as much as the stories themselves and complement the stories being told. Included at the end of the stories are five full-page illustrations that are wordless stories in themselves. One that particularly resounded with me was a stunning and hauntingly beautiful retro-future “Golem” by David Mack. Biographies for the creative talent involved in the anthology rounds out the worthy collection.
SCI: The Jewish Comics Anthology Volume 2
By Steven M. Bergson
Art by David Mack
Alternate History Comics, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: Adult
Series Reading Order