As a New Zealand comic collector, I feel morally obliged to pick up whatever bits and pieces of locally produced content I stumble across. Sadly, the local comic scene is devoted and contains nuggets of raw talent, but it is inevitably constrained by time, money, and the near-complete lack of any sustained local distribution channel or market.
There are exceptions. We can boast a (literal) handful of creators who have achieved international recognition. Ant Sang, Roger Langridge, Richard Fairgray and Dylan Horrocks are notable candidates. All of them have produced masterpieces, but their schedules are typically sporadic, with long delays between publication.
For the next generation of aspiring NZ creators, the scene is even more grim! Self-publication of commercial-grade content is a daunting prospect, both technically, financially, and in terms of the effort required to product a complete work of publishable quality. The natural answer for the up-and-coming comic artist/writer is to contribute to an anthology. But even there, the path has been far from easy.
NZ comic anthologies have come and gone. New Ground, Officer Pup, the Funtime Comics collective have all made commendable efforts. But they generally suffered from underwhelming shelf appeal and erratic printing schedules. I would reluctantly add that often they contained a disappointingly high percentage of "filler" content which probably wasn't quite ready to see print.
"Faction" has changed the game. Firstly, "Faction" is visually stunning. Full-gloss printing, eye-popping high-definition cover art makes this one of the prettiest books on the comic book shelves right now, bar none.
In terms of schedule, the first issue came out in December 2012, and we've had two more issues since then. Editor Damon Keen and Aime Maxwell are clearly driven to finish what they start.
Finally, the standard for the content jumps a full notch above what we have seen in any anthology to date, both creatively and artistically. The overwhelming majority of the stories are strong, attractive, authentically fresh material.
There are a couple of exceptions, of course. There are two (admittedly very different) Manga-styled stories later in the book which I feel are both somewhat misplaced. To me, they both appeared out-of-step thematically, as well as lacking the necessary sophistication to earn their place in the page count. But your mileage may vary, and I guess the goal of the book is to represent all of the active comic book genres in Aotearoa.
Final Verdict: All NZ comic collectors should own a copy of this book. Things are looking up for the NZ comics scene, and this series deserves our support — financially and creatively.