Sometimes it's a real treat when you're working through mountains of to-be-read books and you finally hit a real gem. As I love speculative biology and I love hunting for new artists I didn't really doubt that I would enjoy finally working my way through this, but it's such a pitch perfect project for me that I really want to emphasize how fun this book is. Plus if you're a fan of the anthology format and discovering new talent then this should be an instant win for you.
Edited by Jay Eaton and Mia "Hye" Mardikian, the Almost Real zines highlight various indy creators by letting their imaginations run wild. Each artists gets between 2-4 pages to create a unique creature or environment, and each of their narratives is completely different as well. Some approach it with a more clinical voice, while others may insert more emotion, tone, or a subtle mini-story.
For example, one of my favorites was the case studies of 'False Centaurs' by Kanesha C. Bryant. It takes the form of notes from an unnamed observer recounting their interplanetary findings and the opinions of their benefactor as they failed time and time again to find a true centaur. In ten paragraphs Bryant paints a humorous and horrifying (Humorifying?) series of encounters that are both engaging and unsettling.
Also, Bryant coins the term 'Disappointment Fish' and I love her forever for that.
Likewise, Deadwood Dross' entry of the Universal Donor, a giant tree of human donor body parts, is also another disturbing creation that creates a unique story through its vague set-ups. Dross develops a fascinating concept and world within four pages that deserves an entire book to itself.
On the tonal flipside we have Abby Howard's The Wallaby Folk, which utilizes a great comedic approach that examines the cultural clashes that would occur if humanity met up with an evolved wallaby species.
There's a lot crammed into this 64-page package and it all has a pretty broad range of appeal. And while there are elements of body horror within some chapters it's all very vague or just gross without being too graphic, so the package is still all-ages appropriate. Plus seriously, if you have a kid already into speculative biology they're gonna love the gross stuff. This is a pretty fantastic zine for just $20, so do yourself a favor and go grab a copy.