(2003) Andy & Larry Wachowski (Eds), Titan Books, £16.99, trdpbk, 162pp, ISBN 1-840-23806-2
Comics have always been an integral part of the whole Matrix experience, not least in its visualisations and storyboarding, often courtesy of Geof (Hard Boiled) Darrow. There are other influences, to be sure, manga and animé being fairly obvious, but it's comic book imagery and staging that really informs the 'look' of the series. Naturally enough there have been comics on the website (TheMatrix.com) from the beginning and, after some five years and three series, the Wachowskis have selected four of the best tales from each series and put them out in a trade paperback featuring some of the hottest and best respected talents from the comics industry. These include Bill (Elektra Assassin) Sienkiewicz, Ted (Metropol) McKeever, Neil (Sandman) Gaiman, Dave (Watchmen) Gibbons, Paul (Concrete) Chadwick and many more. Burlyman Entertainment (the original publishers) was set up by the Wachowskis and, aside from Matrix-related titles (such as The Art of the Matrix and the forthcoming The Art of the Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions) they will also be publishing new titles created by Geof Darrow, including Doc Frankenstein, Unholy Nemesis of Evil (with Steve Skroce) and Shaolin Cowboy.
Like the stories in The Animatrix these tales are woven in and around the main plotline(s) of the movies (and, indeed, the computer game Enter the Matrix) though, arguably, adding very little. I guess it depends on your attitude. For instance the first story "Bits and Pieces of Information" by the Wachowskis and Darrow tells of (supposedly) the first machine murder of a human (slightly different to the events eventually depicted in "The Second Renaissance" animation) in gloriously detailed black and white. Sienkiewicz's "Sweating the Small Stuff" and Gibbons' "Butterfly" tell of incidental meetings with Agents by 'unawakened' denizens of the Matrix. McKeever's "A Life Less Empty" explores the regrets of someone who took the blue pill offered by Morpheus. Gaiman's illustrated text story "Goliath" (with Sienkiewicz and Gregory Ruth) is more interesting and looks at the Matrix's reaction to an alien incursion into the solar system. And so on. Each a little gem; collectively an imaginative fleshing-out of The Matrix universe, these will appeal very much to fans of the films and will, hopefully, continue to provide further material for hard-copy publication.
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