An anthology title from Titan Publishing, A1: The World’s Greatest Comics certainly promises something in the title which it never quite delivers. It is a frustrating collection which never wows you as a reader, but only very rarely provides you with something which would resonate with the title.
First though, a brief history lesson. A1, for a time, was published annually and this volume marks its rather apt comic-book resurrection. So we expect a varied mix of classic creators (Alan Moore, Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Jim Steranko) and newer, upcoming writers and artists (Ron Marz, Madeleine Holly-Rosing). That’s all well and good, but the anthology suffers enormously from very limited context. There is no introduction from the editors, and the title page announces this as Volume 1, so only purists will know that the title existed previously. Furthermore, whilst some creators come fully formed in the public sphere, such as Alan Moore, others are rather newer and the anthology only provides their biographies, which sometimes don’t let the reader know where more work from the creators can be found. It’s a frustrating experience, especially when so much of the newer work is clearly an extract from something larger.
The book is also pock-marked with typos and marred in some instances by poor prose writing. The newer pieces especially are by and large dull stories, with the art doing the heavy lifting. Even Alan Moore’s Dr Monster story falls flat.
So where can we find The World’s Greatest Comics within? Well, it’s down to legendary artist Jim Steranko and his excellent short, Frogs. Rather tellingly, he is also the only writer to provide a short essay about the piece, its history, original publication and the intentions behind it. It’s a brilliant piece and the exact kind of work I was expecting going in. Also worth reading is James Robinson’s rather dark Grendal piece.
Any Cop? Yes and no. There are clearly strong pieces to be found in A1, and as the first in a new iteration of the series it is exciting that there’s a platform for both new and old creators to be recognised, however this one does fall short of the World’s Greatest promise on the front. Better luck next time, eh?