America's Best Comics TPB
I'm on a bit of an ABC kick at the moment, so in-between finishing up the Terrific Tales collections and starting on Tomorrow Stories I thought I'd check out this TPB, comprising a few odds and ends that didn't make it into those other series collections.
First up is a reprint of the America's Best Comics: 64-Page Giant issue, which was released to promote the ABC imprint ahead of its launch. It's a great little primer for the entire line, including lots of short stories highlighting various individual characters and series.
Highlights are a fun Top Ten yarn about vampire gangsters, a Promethea-oriented take-off of Little Nemo that's about as accurate and perfect a pastiche of McCay as I've ever seen, and an amusing strip that's presented as a reportage-style behind-the-scenes look at ABC comics being produced (which gives Alan Moore the chance to chuck in quite a few in-jokes about comics writers and artists, including a self-effacing take on his own pretentiousness and pomposity).
There are also countless little minor offerings in here that are great fun for ABC fans (including an amusing LoEG board game that I'd love to try and actually play, and a Tom Strong strip that presents an interesting prototypical version of the character who doesn't quite feel like the final version that Moore created with Sprouse), and several other strips that introduce characters that would go on to have runs of their own short stories in Terrific Tales and Tomorrow Stories.
After that, it's on to The Many Worlds Of Tesla Strong one-shot, a cracking oversized single issue that makes use of lots of guest artists to tell a story that's part-anthology, part-complete-story, with an overarching plot about King Solomon getting lost in the multiverse and Tesla setting out to rescue him on her cosmic multiverse-traversing surfboard.
With art from such luminaries as Art Adams, Frank Cho, Adam Hughes, Bruce Timm, Chris Sprouse, J. Scott Campbell, Michael Golden and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (each of whom illustrates a different alternate universe), it's a really great showcase for a broad range of talents, with a script that has a lot of fun with the alternate-universe/variant versions of characters gimmick, and which also manages to tie a broad offering of ideas together with a decent central thread to keep things moving forward. Some of the vignettes are serious, some are silly, and some are more like straight action-adventure comics, but they're all enjoyable.
Finally, the book wraps up with a sketchbook/artist-spotlight section that provides a wealth of behind-the-scenes material from across the entire ABC line, with early production sketches, pin-ups, alternate or never-used artwork, and much more. Given the quality of artists that ABC attracted, this is a great gallery to flick through, with some beautiful pieces that never made it to the final comic page but which are thankfully preserved here.
Given that this book can be picked up for just a few quid second-hand, I'd definitely recommend it, whether you're a fan of the ABC line or not. There's a lot packed in here: a huge variety in art style and tone, which has all the strengths of the anthology format with very few of the main weaknesses (namely, the inconsistent quality).
Like the ABC line as a whole, this collection of bits and pieces benefits from a strong single vision behind it, and is a real treat for anyone like me who was a fan of the 'core' ABC books but never bothered to track down this pair of bumper-sized anthology issues. Some of this stuff has cropped up on other collections over the years (I think the Top Ten and Promethea stories made it into the Absolutes), but it's nice to have it all in one place here.