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Nelson
posted June 13, 2012
 

imageCreators: Edited By Rob Davis & Woodrow Phoenix; Created By Paul Grist, Rob Davis, Woodrow Phoenix, Ellen Lindner, Jamie Smart, Gary Northfield, Sarah McIntyre, Suzy Varty, Sean Longcroft, Warwick Johnson-Cadwell, Luke Pearson, Paul Harrison-Davies, Katie Green, Paul Peart-Smith, Glyn Dillon, I.N.J.Culbard, John Allison, Philip Bond, D'Israeli, Simone Lia, Darryl Cunningham, Jonathan Edwards, Ade Salmon, Kate Charlesworth, Warren Pleece, Kristyna Baczynski, HarveyJames, Rian Hughes, Sean Phillips & Pete Doree, Kate Brown, Simon Gane, Jon McNaught, Adam Cadwell, Faz Choudhury, JAKe, Jeremy Day, Dan McDaid, Roger Langridge, Will Morris, Dave Shelton, Carol Swain, Hunt Emerson, Duncan Fegredo, Philippa Rice, Josceline Fenton, Garen Ewing, Tom Humberstone, Dan Berry, Alice Duke, Posy Simmonds, Laura Howell, Andi Watson and Dave Taylor
Publishing Information: Blank Slate Books, Softcover, 252 pages, 2012, $22.95.
Ordering Numbers: 9781906653231 (ISBN13)

I thought the Nelson anthology deeply depressing, in a way, in that it succeeds so well as a sampler for modern British talent that you realize there's nothing in the way of an industry that can support or promote anywhere near the number of deserving cartoonists on hand. If comics is deep in the Era of Pretty Good that I think it is, this book is as solid a single example of the amount of talent on hand as you're ever likely to see. i would read maybe 90 percent of these cartoonists working in a similar vein via a solo title, and that's an extremely high percentage for a work like this one.

Conceived to help a homeless charity, Nelson eschews the whatever-you-like approach that dooms a lot of similar projects for something much more controlled: a story of one person's life (named Nelson) told by isolating one day each year of that person's life. This proves smart in that it focuses the work, likely instilled a virtue of not being shown up within the artists themselves, and helped to fashion a book that should have as long a shelf life as is possible for an event bearing this many names. It also allows for some interesting sorting -- Posy Simmonds' brief contribution gains a lot of its power when it's contrasted with the work that came previous to it, while several artists working the childhood end of Nelson's life seem uniquely suited for comics work starring children. There are joys to be had in every decade, though. Two specific highlights for me were a visually accomplished sequence by Paul Peart-Smith and some really loose and lovely looking art from Sean Phillips -- it's almost Molly Kiely's art loose, that material.

If there's anything lacking, I'd say that a bit of the contextual work is a bit on the nose in terms of cultural references and adolescent rites of passage. The past carries its own past with it, which makes me look at some of the right-then-and-now plots points as a bit manipulative, easy and even over-planned. I'm also not certain for all the quality work on hand that anyone really transcends the gimmick, the story being told. Still, this is a first-rate charity object, a fine comic of its type and a slightly melancholy look at a scene that might under slightly different circumstances produce even more routinely challenging work. I liked Nelson; I hope it wins some awards.

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