Sunday, April 14, 2013

Alan Moore's America's Best Comics Trade Paperback Review

Alan Moore's America's Best Comics
DC Comics - America's Best Comics
192 pages
$17.95 (2004) Trade Paperback
ISBN 9781401201470

Contributors: Alan Moore, Peter Hogan, Art Adams, Chris Sprouse, Jeff Campbell, Claudio Castellini, Frank Cho, Bruce Timm, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Michael Golden, Adam Hughes, Phil Noto, Jason Pearson, Karl Story, Dave Stewart, Todd Klein, Al Gordon, Tad Ehrlich, Kevin Nowlan, Alex Ross, Jim Baikie, Hilary Barta, Melinda Gebbie, Gene Ha, Rick Veitch, J.H. Williams III, Alex Sinclair, Steve Moore, Sergio Aragones, Kyle Baker, Zander Cannon, Dame Darcy, Kevin O'Neill, Humberto Ramos, Eric Shanower, and John Totleben

Reprints: America's Best Comics Sketchbook, America's Best Comics Special #1 (including America's Best Comics Preview), and The Many Worlds of Tesla Strong

Synopsis: America's Best Comics - "Quality is a Slogan, not just a Motto!"

"Skull and Bones" - Tom Strong's first adventure in Millennium City after growing up on the lost island of Attabar Teru!  He meets Greta Gabriel and takes on "Charley Bones"

"Jack B. Quick's Amazing World of Science!" - Jack explains quantum particles and how bottled water freezes in your freezer.

"Little Margie in Misty Magic Land" - Promethea helps the king of the sun find his wedding ring so he can marry the queen of the moon.

Meet the characters of the ABC universe...again
"How Mel Got Down with Science Hero Style!" - A nerd gets clowned by an evil dotcom exec at a coffee shop and vows revenge.  He picks up some swell Science Hero clothing to get his revenge.  It doesn't work out so good.

"Deadfellas" - It's a vampire-mafia meeting gone wrong as the cops of Precinct 10 pick up the pieces (or ashes).

"The FIRST First American" - The First American tells the story of his ancestors and how they were responsible for helping found America!  Huh?

"The Game of Extraordinary Gentlemen" - Wonder at the perilous board game for extraordinary gentlemen.  Play at your own risk!

"Specters From Projectors!?!" - Splash Brannigan must rescue his date from the black-and-white cartoons of yesterday!

"He Tied Me to a Buzz-Saw (and It Felt Like a Kiss)" - Cobweb reminisces over her imagined affair with arch-nemesis The Mongoose.  She remembers their life-and-death struggles fondly.

ABC Wizard Preview - Timmy Turbo takes a tour of the America's Best Comics offices to introduce the characters.

"The Many Worlds of Tesla Strong" - King Solomon, Tom Strong's talking British gorilla sidekick, accidentally activates the Searchboard, a flying surfboard able to travel between dimensions, and disappears.  The board reappears, but it's destination log has been wiped clean.  Tesla vows to find Solomon, jumps on, and dashes into another dimension!  She visits the home dimensions of all the different versions of herself she previously met when she accidentally discovered the Searchboard for the first time.

They include Tekla Strong from a post-apocalyptic Earth, Tori Strong from an underwater Earth, Warren Strong's kids, the super-powered Tesla Terrific, Tes of the Tigers, the naked Tamla Strong from a sexually-liberated Earth, a giant Aztec goddess version of herself, and the evil Twyla Strong from Earth-B.  In every dimension Tesla visits the gorilla sidekicks have gone missing and a greater plot becomes apparent.  Can she discover the secret of the missing simians before it's too late?

Pros: Reprints most of the America's Best Comics one-shots not reprinted elsewhere, the Tesla story is pretty good, some decent art and short stories, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen board game is pretty cool, Promethea story is great homage to Winsor McCay, inside the sketchbooks of the main ABC artists

Cons: A schizophrenic palette of multiple artists and short stories, some of the short stories and characters are duds (like Splash Brannigan, the First American, and Jack B. Quick)
The Strong Family run afoul of their evil versions
from an alternate dimension
Mike Tells It Straight: This collection is a grouping of different one-shots from Alan Moore's America's Best Comics imprint from DC Comics (through Wildstorm).  It includes the first ABC preview available with an issue of Wizard comic magazine, a 64-page ABC special consisting of many 8-page short stories, the Tom Strong one-shot featuring Tesla Strong, and the ABC sketchbook.  The sheer number of creators involved in these books is impressive (although quite jarring from a coherent story perspective).  Seems like Moore's preferred method of writing is short stories or chapters.

Some of the stories are quite good - Tesla's one-shot was a robust cross-dimensional tale featuring a bevy of artists to represent each different dimension (my favorite was Jeff Campbell's art for the nudist dimension of Tamla Strong), the vampire-mafia story from Top 10, and the Promethea homage to Winsor McCay's Little Nemo to name a few.  Some are terrible - Splash Brannigan's riff on old Plastic Man stories, the First American fell flat despite being drawn by Sergio Aragones, and Jack B. Quick just doesn't do it for me.

These stories exactly follow the inherent good or bad aspects of each of Moore's creations.  Taken as a whole they are pretty average (i.e. unremarkable).  I would recommend this volume if you are an ABC completist in collected format, particularly for Tom Strong, Top 10 and Promethea.  Especially considering the price is rock bottom at the time of this review.

TO BUY and Recommendations: