The premise for in Sanity, AZ is intriguing and rich with potential: a spontaneous town created when the inmates of an insane asylum rise up and take over. Written by Michael Drace Fountain, Marcel Losada, James Ninness, and Joe Pezzula, each issue contains around 10 small vignettes of life in this brutal and harsh environment. The second issue, released on August 20, contains the stories “Ham Tickle,” “The Motel in Sanity,” “Lord’s Name,” “Pointer,” “Raw,” “Broken Water II,” “Cuckoo Clocks,” “Covet,” “Lollipops,” and “Sabbath.”
The choice of making ultra-short stories that only occasionally intersect with common characters or settings was a smart one. I can’t honestly say that I’d like to read a full issue about anyone currently appearing in either existing collections. The trouble comes when the stories seem to fall into two categories: a) an outsider somehow finds the town and is preyed upon (and usually killed) or b) a resident of the town does something to warrant their death. A few stories don’t fall in either category but those are few and far between. The “Broken Water” series shows real potential for an interesting long-term story arc and “Cuckoo Clocks” paints as cute of a picture as possible of children’s first love in these violent and horrifying surroundings.
One particular feature of the book that I like are the single page stories. Again, all the stories in this anthology are quite short but the plots usually rely on predictable twists and end with someone being killed. These one page scenes are rather effective and show a single scene or moment in a striking way.
Generally a different artist does the pencil and ink work on each story with Lance Sawyer being the exception (drawing “Lord’s Name,” “Covet,” and “Sabbath”). Colours are kept consistent by Ben Gilbert and I think having one colourist helps the book maintain a single tone through artist changes. The different visual styles keep things interesting but most of the artists use a rounded and almost distorted cartoonish look. Sawyer’s sharper lines and more minimalist approach really stands out in comparison and reminds me of Rob Guillory’s work on Chew. Gilbert’s lettering looks, to my eyes, too clean and computer generated for the otherwise rounded art styles.
Three separate issues are available digitally first (the third issue is due in November) and the whole collection arrives in a single print volume in December. While I applaud the concept and a few of the vignettes, I’m not terribly compelled to go further with the series. I found most of the “twists in the tale” to be predictable and commonplace and too much repetition in the kinds of stories being told. I think the creative team has potential with this method of structuring a book (several short stories revolving around a location/event) but in Sanity, AZ is a town I don’t need to visit again.