Titan’s new A1: The World’s Greatest Comics sadly isn’t. It’s a hodgepodge of short comics from some great creators like Alan Moore, Jim Steranko, Kevin Eastman, Simon Bisley, Bill Sienkiewicz, Jack Kirby, and Joe Simon, among others, except it isn’t really their best work. Or sometimes even their good work.
There were a few standouts, like Jim Steranko’s “Frogs,” Barnaby Bagenda and Jessica Kholinne’s “The Weirding Willows,” and Simon and Kirby’s “Island in the Sky,” but lacking a forward or a brief passage on each selection, the book, which includes everything from a story excerpt to art pieces from a gallery exhibit and even an essay on latte art, feels random and outright confusing. What is the collection attempting to do? Why were these pieces chosen? And, aside from the fact that it’s also “art,” what the hell does coffee foam art have to do with anything else here? The closest thing we get to an explanation is the description on the back of the book which reads, “A1: The World’s Greatest Comics is a delicious collision of genres and styles, where comic creators of the past, present, and future come together to show that creativity has no limits!” That’s fine, but what this book really needs, what might actually have saved it is some explanation as to why the pieces were chosen, especially since the quality of the selections ranged from top tier to amateurish. We need to be shown what sort of bar there was for inclusion, the perceived strengths of the less refined pieces, some sort of entry point for connection to the works. I don’t need someone to hold my hand while I experience art, but, on the flip side, you can’t hurl a bunch of seemingly unrelated material at an audience and expect them to be moved. It’s feels even more disappointing since the rest of the Titan catalog that I’ve read or reviewed this year has been nothing but impressive. Not a great way to end 2013, but a publisher like Titan will undoubtedly be back with even more amazing titles in the New Year.