A1 Annual by Dave Elliott (editor)

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A1 Annual by Dave Elliott (editor)

Buy A1 Annual by Dave Elliott (editor) at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Graphic Novels
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Don't come to this thinking the world's greatest are always going to have the appeal to hook the curious uncommitted reader.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 120 Date: November 2013
Publisher: Titan Comics
ISBN: 9781782760160

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It's perhaps a little surprising how few comics anthologies there are on the shelves of regular bookstores. The whole world of sequential art is so fragmented the choices to be made are infinite, everyone who comes into some renown soon wishes for a self-published collection of his favourites or her friends' work, and there definitely is too much out there for anyone in the audience of comix to fully grasp without some kind of editorial spoon-feeding. One such editor is Dave Elliott, whose A1 Comics has been collating what it deems the world's greatest since 1989, but even with that pedigree it's only now that full hardbacks of their greatest hits are being launched – hardbacks such as this book.

Uniquely, graphic novel creation must concentrate on the individual frame of art and its accumulative effect, the individual word and its accumulative effect, AND the accumulative effect of them both put together. It's a little bit of a shame that this book seems to look at the look, to concentrate on the image rather than the literary side of things. Poor proof-reading on several pieces (within the speech bubbles, and not just their introductions) is but one clue to this.

The longest piece is by Sandy Plunkett, and his looks great. There's a nice European flavour to his mysterious tale, let down by jarring anachronisms in the dialogue and the plot swinging from left to right a bit too much. Bill Sienkiewicz offers a delicious-looking piece, that looks watercoloured but could also just be computer-made. Kevin Eastman and Simon Bisley combine to provide vicious full-on colour, but the plot is buried behind the armour. Scott Hampton seems to leave a few salient bits of his story out too, although it looks grand. Rian Hughes and Dave Gibbons assemble art recreating the original comic scenes purloined by Roy Lichtenstein to make their point of this being high culture art if you'd only let us call it thus, with Jim Steranko nearby with his long-unseen project of a read-it-how-you-like tale of frog dissection – a pictorial equivalent of B S Johnson having his novel in nine choose-your-own-order pamphlets.

Elsewhere plot suffers a little by the nature of this collection – it's a window, a sounding board, a showcase. So we get a prologue to one story that might be wonderful but is just a four-page advert; a bonus extra we're told fits in near the very beginning of a web-based comic. They might be exemplary, but they don't offer the story-telling satisfaction of completion in any kind of way, so we're not encouraged to look for more elsewhere. There are longer pieces here, self-contained ones that do invite us into a franchise, but oddly it's generally from creators who we would lap up anyway – a very dated sci-fi tale from Joe Simon and Jack Kirby out of the vaults, and a fun Alan Moore piece from his Mr Monster ideas, matching the bodging superhero with Moore's own personal interests – in this case, recycling.

So this nice hardback is a bit of a curate's egg, and a curator's egg too. The anthology might have been more concentrated, whereas this is a little slapdash. Collecting as it was supposed to do the crème de la crème should have given us something a bit more universally appealing than some of the pieces here, that don't merit mention whatsoever. It brings together enough in the way of rarities – the Moore, the Simon and Kirby piece, and it's always good to see Grendel being revived (or not, as the case may be) – to make it speak up for itself. But it doesn't always speak up for the whole concept of collecting the world's greatest in a fully enjoyable manner to catch the passing curious browser.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

You might enjoy The Weirdo Years 1981-'91 by R Crumb for a flashback to another author's past glories.

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Buy A1 Annual by Dave Elliott (editor) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A1 Annual by Dave Elliott (editor) at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy A1 Annual by Dave Elliott (editor) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A1 Annual by Dave Elliott (editor) at Amazon.com.


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