“BOOM! Box 2014 Mix Tape” #1 is an anthology of short comics and teasers from the BOOM! Box imprint. While the title alludes to the mix tapes of the 90s, the stories themselves aren’t retro at all. They share a manic, cartoony vibe similar to the approach of “Adventure Time” but with some stories that are just for adults.
In “Hambourgeois & Chip” by Rian Sygh, grumpy Hambourgeois is paired with his loopy, excitable friend Chip. Their interaction is reminiscent of many odd couple character pairings, “Pinky and the Brain” in particular. The central conflict of possible cannibalism is riveting if off-the-wall. Sygh’s facial expressions and dialogue are superb at drawing the reader in.
“Paz & Richard: A Midas Flesh Short Story” by Ryan North, Braden Lamb and Chris O’Neill is just a teaser that leads into the regular “Midas Flesh” title. North builds suspense efficiently and the information-dumping is confined to Paz and Richard’s teaching lecture. It works fine but more action would have crafted a deeper hook.
“Punk Rock Grandma” by Alexis Ziritt immediately makes an impression because of the anachronism of a punk rock grandmother as a prisoner in a dragon’s castle. The neon colors work well for Ziritt’s Crumb-esque style, but the ending twist is unsettling.
“Misunderstood Haunted House” by Shannon Watters and Kendra Wells draws the reader in with background detail and a silent opening, but it feels insubstantial because the central joke is a one-liner.
“The Last Bigfoot” by Becca Tobin has the last of his species droning on with a stream-of-consciousness monologue. It’s trippy, but it goes on too long and doesn’t lead anywhere.
“The Math’s Easier. We All Win: A Munchkin Short Story” by John Kovalic with colors by Katy Farina is an old joke in new clothes. There’s an extended setup but it leads to a shallow payoff.
“Animals Are Pretty Weird, Y’all” by Rosemary Mosco is an excellent one-pager. The title makes it pretty self-explanatory. Mosco’s illustrations with their soft colors enhance the humor.
“Teen President” by Eryk Donovan is reminiscent of the DC character and comic “Prez.” Like that comic, it relies too much on the incongruity of a teenage president for its meaning. Donovan’s character is a colorful neo-punk skater on the outside with the same progressive ideals on the inside.
“A Girl and Her Raptor: A Lumberjanes Short Story” by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters and Carey Pietsch is a small gem. It’s a variation of the classic kid-and-pet story, but Watters and Stevenson keep their story fresh through great facial expressions and body language, sincerity and sharp dialogue.
“Help Us! Great Warrior: A Preview” by Madeleine Flores is an excellent teaser, establishing the main character and sense of humor quickly. Trillian Gunn’s pastel colors are pretty but also reinforce transitions well. The ending joke is heavily foreshadowed, but it’s still more than funny enough to get readers excited.
“The Port-A-Potty on Remington Lane” by Stefan Tosheff is a hilarious fusion of a “Chew”-like food-driven setting, a noir detective story and supernatural horror.
“Wake Up, Thug Pug! A Teen Dog Short Story” by Jake Lawrence focuses on the metaphysics of dreaming. The dialogue rambles as Teen Dog argues with his subconscious and the joke’s ending is anticlimactic.
“A Selection of All-New Cyanide and Happiness” by Dave McElfatrick, Rob Denbleyker and Kris Wilson has a couple of pieces by each creator. They’re fine but aren’t different from the usual webcomics.
“Worst Witches” by Paul Maybury is the least reader-friendly of the stories. While it shows the reader instead of telling, the storytelling doesn’t situate the reader quickly enough and the action is confusing.
Overall, “BOOM! Box 2014 Mix Tape” has the usual balance of hits and misses but it accurately gives readers the flavor of a large part of BOOM! Box’s comics.