Pullbox Reviews: Plexus – Anthology Science Fiction is alive and well in Ireland

A teleporter out of control, desperate to make a connection…

A father and daughter trapped in a fallout shelter, cut off from the outside world and reaching out to other survivors…

Two mothers doing everything they can to see a sick child through a crisis…

Three very different, very personal, very small stories… all told from within the framework of the incredible, & and outrageous. It was Gene Rodenberry’s belief that good science fiction had to come from simple beginnings. Start with a good story, about people and their lives, and build the incredible out from there. At its core, this is what Plexus is. A sci fi anthology telling small, individual stories about people with relatable problems.

Writer Paul Carroll started Plexus with that idea in mind, and he’s crafted three stories that fill that bill. In Glitch, Shane Lewis lives in a world where superpowered people are the new minority. Shelter tells a story of a father reaching out to the world from a bomb shelter, hoping to find any information about other survivors. Al covers the conventional crisis of parents, Doctors Shelley Stone and Marie Branch, with a sick child. All three installments are small, slice of life stories, told from the perspective of normal people who are living their lives under very abnormal circumstances. One thing that has to be acknowledged is that when writing short stories, there’s very little time to waste on establishing setting or characters. Readers don’t have the luxury of backstories to get them invested in the lives of the individuals. Paul Carroll is very much aware of this, and does a fantastic job of getting right down to it. He’s able to invest enough emotional depth in his characters to ensure that they don’t just read as flat cardboard cutouts. We don’t have to know everything leading up to these snapshots, because we’re not really dealing with the world as a whole. Each story is about coping with an aftermath, and comes from a very relatable place that’s easy for a reader to take hold of and understand.

Another hurdle to be overcome in an anthology comic is going to be finding artists able to establish their individual styles quickly and without build up. Rebecca Reynolds, Colm Griffin, & Steve Mardo are all very different artists, each with a unique style. From one story to the next it’s easy to pick up where one stops and the next one starts, even without a title page in between. It’s an efficient tactic that helps to address one issue in short fiction, freeing up that space to invest in the stories themselves. And while the chapters don’t really have much by way of flashy imagery, the artists have plenty to work. Each does a great job of setting the stage and creating a world without much by way of preamble.

It’ll be cool to see what Paul Carroll has in mind for the series going forward, if he’s going to stay on as the writer throughout, or if other voices will be brought in. What was great about this opening installment is the way it approached science fiction… as background flavoring behind the stories, rather than as an end in and of itself.

Final Score: 8

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