The fourth issue of Amazing Forest, the first and only one I've read so far, contains two stories that could not be more different, both in content and style. All of the stories in the anthology are written by Freitas and Farinas, with different artists for each one, and for each issue’s cover, leaving the reader excitedly unprepared for the mysteriously bizarre stories that await them beyond the cover. This issue’s cover is by Kiel West, and it is a sharp, cute picture that belies the strange and dark content in the rest of the issue, which makes it especially fun. Wonderfully, MonkeyBrain provides brief bios on each of the artists, as well as Freitas and Farinas, so if you especially dig a particular artist’s style, you can find more of their work elsewhere on the internet, or connect with them on social media, or just spread the word about the crazy-talented new artist you just discovered thanks to Amazing Forest.
The first story, "Benjamin Franklin, Dragon Hunter," with art by Job Yamen and colors and letters by Austin Breed, is gritty and almost grisly in its style. There is an intentionally messy, spattered sheen to the art, and it looks aged, as if it was drawn on parchment and then buried in the sand for a decade. This rough, yet stylized, look, with its thin outlines and heavy red and tan color palette, conveys desperation and danger in each panel, and it perfectly captures the feeling of being introduced to a secret history that has existed beneath the surface of our known history for eons. The story is peculiar, at once small and grand in its scope, and it presents a Benjamin Franklin you most definitely have not seen anywhere else. The second story, "Robo Dreams," was unique, to say the least. Another highly stylized artistic choice, with art, letters, and colors this time all provided by Edwin Vazquez, "Robo Dreams" depicted all of the characters with bubble bodies and scrunched faces. The dialogue was hard for me to read at times, and I found the art incredibly bizarre, but the story had a surprising amount of intrigue, and even pathos, to it, and I found myself caught off guard by the complex, hierarchically cyclical storytelling and emotional weight, and it got inside my head in an interesting and thoughtful way. It’s a bit of a technological shell game, sucking you in without you even realizing it, the bright, thick-lined art almost luring you into a discombobulated comfortableness.
Amazing Forest is highly unconventional, artistically challenging, incredibly avant-garde, and immensely entertaining, and after reading an issue I’m certain you’ll have your own celebratory adjectives to add. The stories and art blossoming out of Freitas and Farinas’ collaborations are not for everyone, but anyone with an open mind who is looking for something new and edgy and exciting will find something they enjoy, or something that inspires them, or broadens their horizons, and these are the people that Amazing Forest is for: dreamers; seekers; and risk-takers. Both of the tales in this issue could easily come back in future installments, and Freitas and Farinas whet your appetite enough to get you on board for more. Or maybe this it for the two stories, done once and never to be repeated, further adventures existing only in the reader’s imagination as Freitas, Farinas, and their artists continuously venture into new, unknown territory, the Amazing Forest growing up all around them with each issue, until they are surrounded by a thick, lush, burgeoning forest of absolute creative freedom.