This post is part of a series about what was inside this month’s big box of free comics.
Concrete is just as good as I remember, except for the Fragile Creature series in which Chadwick experimented with a Moebius-influenced line story that is less beautiful than his other artwork on the series and lacks the physical weight suggested by a heavy character like Concrete. Plus, I found the story boring compared to the 10-issue series and the six-issue Think Like a Mountain.
Mountain features one of my favorite scenes: Concrete walks underwater along the Pacific Northwest coast. He encounters a shark swarm, a hidden octopus, and a horrific “ghost net”: a fishing net lost at sea that traps fish, birds, seals, and other animals in its inescapable tangle until they die.
Like Mountain and the story about building a sustainable farm, the six issues of The Human Dilemma focus on Chadwick’s ecological concerns, which he discusses in more detail in supplementary articles and responses to readers’ letters. Chadwick does a remarkable job of giving his characters opposing viewpoints to argue and question, so that even if some characters are preachy, it doesn’t feel like the storyteller is preaching.
Instead, the stories reveal the complexity of taking action or even reaching a solid conclusion about environmental concerns (and everything else in life). Characters reach a decision then find reasons to doubt they made the right choice. They change their minds. Characters make bad decisions and suffer the consequences, or even suffer for their more noble actions. Besides telling a damn good story, Concrete invites readers to question, ponder, and re-evaluate.
Chadwick’s art is a delight. Although I liked the full-color art in Mountain, Concrete shines brightest in black & white printings that show off the compositional beauty of every page. Chadwick uses creative points of view in many panels, such as in Dilemma when we see a character through a wine bottle that distorts his image, which is perfect for a scene in which the character’s emotions are out of control and leading him to make a poor decision.
The first six issues of the original series were collected, in pairs, in three slim paperback volumes. The first two paperbacks are worth getting for the additional pages of story Chadwick had room to include in those editions, pages which are not simply “deleted scenes” but enhance the story. I got all three paperbacks and the original single issues because the reprints do not include the original back covers I am so fond of.
I was surprised to find the final two issues of Dilemma were not in the big box. But this is a mistake that turned out well. When I went to MyComicShop.com to order them, I found my missing ninth issue of the original series had become available. Yes! Into the shopping cart! (I even had just enough store credit remaining to pay for them and their shipping. Bonus!) I did not replace some issues of odds and ends, nor the Killer Smile limited series I don’t recall being thrilled with; but aside from the hard-to-find second volume of collected short stories, I’m happy to once again have a Concrete collection that includes the best of the best.
Collector’s Guide: From Concrete #1-10. The paperback reprints of the first six issues are: Land and Sea. A New Life. Odd Jobs. All ten issues are reprinted in Complete Concrete or the Concrete TPB series. Other recommended volumes include: Concrete: Think Like a Mountain, also in TPB; Concrete: The Human Dilemma; Concrete: The Complete Short Stories.