Imagination appears to be the theme of the latest edition of Mallard, a collection of work by writers and artists “new and not so new” to self-publishing (per the zine’s introduction). The art is a bit of a hodgepodge, but self-consciously so: Jo Billingsley’s untitled piece (in which ducks demonstrate the Doppler effect) reinforces the the mallard theme, while a number of single and multi-frame comic strips featuring stick people engaged in what artist Joe Badelley calls “exhilarating small talk” (e.g., “My favorite things are magnets, fish, tractors — in that order”) leavens the proceedings. Things take a turn for the bizarre towards the end of the issue with “She Sang the Vampire Song” by Iain Laurie — a wordless strip consisting largely of melting faces, bad teeth, runny noses, and vomit. Rounding things out are “Cactus vs. Bird,” which is largely self-explanatory, a short piece about a leaf falling from a branch, and a sketch of a vomiting pigeon.
Would I normally read something like this if left to my own devices? Perhaps not. At the same time, though, I’m glad that editor Tom England is doing what he does. His vision is as unique as the voices of the artists he’s promoting are bizarre. And who knows? The rising stars of the comics universe may well be lurking in the pages of Mallard Press titles today.