The storied flaw of the anthology or the magazine is that they’re uneven. The best of collections can be victims to this pratfall, and in the case of Heavy Metal #275, while there’s a unique unifying element, an important detail is missed that hurts the cohesion of the anthology.
Heavy Metal #275 bills itself as the “cyberpunk meets magic realism” issue, and it hits this mark on the button. The creative teams are almost exclusively Latino and Latina. They tend to hit the same subject matter, no matter what different angles they aim for with their stories. This is a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it.
The good: there’s a clear mission to this book, and it’s to tell stories about the intersection between cyberpunk and magic realism. If you’re in the market for these kinds of stories — moreso, if you want to support diversity in comics — this is so far up your alley you might as well set up a box and start living out of it. If not, obviously, you’re going to be a little bit lost-in-the-woods.
The bad: we’ve got the aforementioned unevenness, and the aforementioned wheelhouse of the stories. Guest editor R.G. Llarena put together an interesting row of talent, but some of the stories fall short of their promise, or hit the same notes as other stories almost point-for-point. There are future visions of Mexico City and future visions of gods coming back to take their claim and there are opportunistic white men. There’s nothing wrong with this; some of the best stories in the anthology hit these notes, in fact. It would’ve been smart to bill Heavy Metal #275 as an issue that also deals with Mexican lore and futurism, because for so many of these stories, it’s integral. It’s not just about magical realism and cyberpunk; a lot of it is about Mexico, and that could’ve pulled in more readers and added another unifying element, past what’s given on the cover. Without that little plug, it just seems like we’re treading over the same story more than we should be, and missing out on an audience more and more interested in supporting diversity.
The best story in the anthology comes from Jorge F. Munoz and Santiago Casares, and is called “The Data Mule.” Munoz wouldn’t look out of place at Dark Horse or Image these days; his art is crisp, stylistically-flexible, and makes some of the other turns look amateurish. Casares’ story fits both cyberpunk and magical realism (though it leans more on cyberpunk), and doesn’t linger, as some of the stories do.
If you’re interested in a look into the Mexican experience, supporting diversity in comics, and gambling on some stories that may or may not catch you, Heavy Metal #275 is worth gamble. With that being said, it’s hard not to call it a gamble; the long list of artists and writers walk a lot of the same ground from story to story, and it reads a little monochrome by the end. The high points are worth your money