Alan Moore's Tomorrow Stories, Book 1 is the first collection of yet another of his numerous ongoing comic book series (along with Promethea, Top Ten, Tom Strong, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). Tomorrow Stories, though, is unique in that each issue is divided into four stories, featuring totally separate plots and characters (though the same characters show up in each issue), and possessed of almost no continuity between issues. Essentially, this is a collection of collections.

It's a truism that short stories are where the most inventive stuff lies; there's more opportunity for experimentation, variety, and stylistic play with a short story (and if the experiment fails, a 20-page flop is easier to forgive than a 1000-page one). So it is here; most of Moore's current output is novel in some way, but this collection is chock-ablock with experimentation.

Consider my favorite story of the book, the absolutely brilliant "How Things Work Out". The story is about the inhabitants of a particular four-story building, and the page is divided into four horizontal panels, each a floor of the building. But it's also divided chronologically: the top panel is 1999, the second panel 1979, then 1959, and the bottom panel is 1939. This is done with astonishing attention not only to foreground and background detail (the characters age going up the page, as do the surroundings -- the building is brand-new at the bottom, and gradually decays up to the top), but also with stylistic detail: the word balloons and lettering in each panel reflect the era in which it's set.

The story flows linearly from left-to-right within each level, so that each level of the building represents a seamless narrative flow from page to page, but it's also written so that, if read top to bottom, the dialogue still transitions appropriately, and the individual storylines of all four eras tie together throughout the story. It's the sort of intricate, detailed work that rewards lingering over details and savoring connections; an absolute masterpiece of graphic design.

The other stories are generally pretty good, too. Those featuring Jack B. Quick are amusing: Jack is a little boy living on a farm, who constantly whips up super-scientific inventions while surrounded by a bunch of country folk; the result is a sort of skewed boy's physics primer. The Greyshirt stories are solid detective/horror stories. The First American stories are self-aware pop-modern parodies of superhero conventions, and didn't quite work for me on the whole, though they had some funny moments. The Cobweb stories are gender/sex obsessed detective stories, and were the weakest of the lot (though the Li'l Cobweb story was great).

Like most of Moore's recent stuff -- heck, like most of Moore's stuff, period -- this is well worth reading.


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