Comprised of a series of three fully colored short stories, Exon Depot is a sort of experiment in storytelling, as Shirow has created these without any text at all, leaving us to fill it in for ourselves. In addition to the 19 total pages of these three stories, Shirow hopes to have somewhere around 50 pages once he's finished illustrating them and puts them into a collection, but he says that it might be another 20 years before he gets it completed, so have some patience here ^_~ The recently finished series of Posterbooks might well be considered part of the collective Exon Depot, but I've not heard confirmation one way or the other of that or any other projects which might be.
Originally published in Comic Gaia in 1992 and republished stateside in Penthouse Comix in 1997, Judgement is the first of the Exon Depot tales. The longest of the 3, this one weighs in at 11 pages, and tells a story of a highly developed society(or Gods?) visiting another planet whose inhabitants are much less developed socially. These aliens/gods decide to try and improve on the people's condition and earn their favor, preforming some miracles and giving them glowing trinkets. Unfortunatley the populous takes sides between the different visitors and an all out war breaks out. Dismayed by this, the visitors rain death and destruction upon the land, leaving few survivors, and then depart from the world to leave the survivors to fend for themselves.
Of course, since there is no dialogue of any form, this is all subject to one's own interpretation. That's what I really like about these tales, you can just sit back and take what's being shown at face value with a basic story, or you can create a pile of story behind what is going on. For all I know, Shirow could have originally created the 'gods' with the intent that they were experimenting with the human condition, taking and advancing a society, and then seeing what happens, even if the outcome doesn't pleae them. It could be any number of things, but all that matters is the story you think it tells, and that's why these shorts are so wonderful, in my opinion.
In addition to that 11-page story, there are two 4-page stories that he has also done, This one was printed(in the US, anyhow) in volume 4 of Dark Horse's A Decade of Dark Horse in October of 1996 and is called, Cherry Mountain High. Featuring a little romp through an overgrown jungle, we see a young woman being chased by a mecha that has been dispatched from a flying craft, but eventually gives up on the chase, leaving the girl free to roam this lush tropical paradise. I've always wondered what led to the chase, and think it would make for a good short story, but I'm sure it couldn't compare to whatever little tale Shirow himself came up with when he originally created it.
Earlier this year, another Shirow fan sent me the following observation on Cherry Mountain High, more proof that we each take something different from this series -
If you study the cockpit close-ups of the tethered land-mate, and the drop ship, you can clearly see that the pilots of both are dead. (Their skulls are visible through the wind-shields.) I'm not sure why the pretty girl is cutting down an entire tree to get that huge "cherry"(?), but the computers running the suit and the dropship have apparently mistaken the falling of that massive tree for some sort of hostile action.
Finally the ARMS Calendar makes up the last 4 panels of the Exon Depot short stories, but that's talked about more on it's page with the rest of the calendars.