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Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #181by Drew Barth

Energized and Anthologized Vol. 4

It’s been over a year since I wrote about the last Ex.Mag from Peow Studio and that came out shortly after major historical events were occurring here. And this time around we’re somehow embroiled in an even larger mess of erosions of bodily autonomy and civil liberties.

So, comics, huh?

If there’s anything that’s provided a well-needed respite from the general state of this country, it’s been some fairly good comics over the past few months. And with Peow’s newest volume in their Ex.Mag series releasing this past month, there’s a fair amount to get lost in.

As with previous Ex.Mag releases, this volume is themed to a specific genre. In this case, Master Grade—a phrase commonly used when talking about giant robot model kits—is the line running through these pages. These are also some of my favorite stories to come from the series thus far. From the opening “Tiempos Híbridos: Chab’s Hands” to the frenetic energy of “Inferiority Complex” to inward reflections of “MMCM” there is a mecha story in this volume that touches on every intersection of the human and the mechanical on a macro level. And in a story like “CLANG” by Emil Friis Ernst we see it even more so as a group of children watch a giant robot fight on the edge of their town. As the fight comes to a conclusion, the pilot of the losing bot ejects and one of the kids comes face to face with someone that reminds them too much of themselves. Everything about the story draws you into its world and emotions and doesn’t even speak a single word outside of onomatopoeia.

More than anything, this volume of Ex.Mag explores the abundance of stories that are possible in the mecha genre. As much as I enjoy a fight, I want to see the symbol of an oppressive regime retrofitted to help transport the last of a breed of trees hundreds of miles to new habitat. Or the thoughts of the robot that pilots the person that pilots the larger robot as it scours ruins. This is one of the key strengths in themed anthologies: being able to see these different and often underutilized interpretations of long-established genres and their conventions. It’s the kind of anthology that makes me want more anthologies of work that dives into these genres deeper and deeper.

Ex.Mag is still that beacon of anthologies for the kind of work that it is still consistently putting out. Every story here is the kind that makes you stop and rethink your notions of genre and how those stories can be told. Every creator here is working with some of their best stories in the medium and, again, it just makes me want to see more in the future. As this anthology came after the original Kickstarter for the original three they published, I can only hope that more come soon. And that the world is a little more stable next time.

Get excited. Get giant.


Drew Barth at Miami Book Fair in 2019.

Drew Barth (Episode 331, 485, & 510) resides in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.