Nelson Paperback – 21 Nov 2011
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''A superb anthology [which] gathers 54 of the UK's finest comic creators to tell a life story in a series of one-day snapshots.'' --The Times
''A beautiful and unexpectedly powerful volume, showcasing no less than 54 of the most talented British comics artists around...These 54 artists have between them cleverly pinned a life to the page: optimism turning first to disappointment, and then, finally, to a new and rising contentment.'' --The Observer
''Truly unique...I adored Nelson ...An absolute indie masterpiece.'' --Starburst Magazine
Top customer reviews
A collaboration between 54 British comic artists has produced a surprisingly cohesive and heartfelt novel
[...], Friday 18 November 2011 11.00 GMT
This is a wonderful idea: Rob Davis, the artist and writer whose excellent graphic novel adaptation of Don Quixote came out earlier this year, and Woodrow Phoenix, the man who created the acclaimed Rumble Strip, have got together with the team at Blank Slate Books to produce a beautiful and unexpectedly powerful volume, showcasing no less than 54 of the most talented British comics artists around. Even better, all the profits from the first 4,000 copies of Nelson will go to Shelter, the housing and homelessness charity. If you're interested in discovering new voices (though I should say that Posy Simmonds also performs a cherishable cameo), and want to do a little bit of good in the process, then this is for you.
Nelson is a collaboration, by which I mean that those involved have produced one long novel, rather than a series of short stories. Davis's idea - and it's a good one - was to ask each of those who agreed to take part (they were rounded up via Twitter) to tell the story of a single day in a different year in the life of the character they would create together: a woman named Nelson, after her father's favourite pub, who was, they decided, born in 1968 (there being more artists than years, a couple have done different days in the same year). The result is much more than an elaborate game of consequences. Davis and Phoenix, as editors, obviously kept a close eye on the narrative. Though the vision and style of each artist is different, the baton is respectfully received, the story consistent and knowing. Yes, you will need to concentrate: the physical appearance of Nelson, her friends and family sometimes changes dramatically from year to year. But her essence remains the same. She is a clever, funny, difficult woman and, as she grows up, the reader worries for her. Will she ever be happy? Will she ever allow herself to be loved? Or will the painful legacy of her lost twin and her absent father - who may, she discovers, have ended up on the streets - finally crush her?
I loved this book. I liked the collision of styles and moods, from the Charles Burns-like attitude of Adam Cadwell and Faz Choudhury to the silent-movie simplicity of Jon McNaught and Kristyna Baczynski (though it also seems wrong to pick out names in such a galaxy of stars; the book has no weak links). But more than this, I liked the story. Nelson is only a year older than me, so the nostalgic bits - her Space Hopper, her passion for Duran Duran, her delight at the invention of the fax machine - were direct mailshots. I remember wondering how my family would survive the coming nuclear winter (Nelson's father obtains a "Protect and Survive" manual from the local post office), just as I remember I-Spy books on long journeys, and the Topper nestling alluringly between Twinkle, Mandy and the Beezer at the newsagent. The book has a heartfelt quality - a stark truthfulness - that you would never have predicted, given the circumstances in which it was born. These 54 artists have between them cleverly pinned a life to the page: optimism turning first to disappointment, and then, finally, to a new and rising contentment.
If you are looking for a snapshot of the best in British comics art, then look no further. The attention to detail and story in this book does not disappoint.
The book tells the story of Nel, a British girl (woman) through the styles of the 54 creatives involved. Each creator turns in between 1 and 5 pages, using them to chronicle an event or a moment in Nel's life. The neat twist, or added effect, in the book is that each event is in a seperate year of her life, following Nel from birth, through childhood, a roving, reckless very British adolescence and on to... well, no spoilers.
The snapshot, compilation-tape, family-album, anthology nature of this collection is so essential to its power and its British nature that it has to be mentioned. You see a few pages from each year, seeing just a little moment, and through incidental dialogue you get to experience the overall shape of her life passing by. It's a powerful way to tell the story, giving the reader a lot of credit, trusting you to be smart enough to follow along in its path.
There is so much to enjoy here. I mention family-albums as part of its style because the book is all about family and like any family there are highs and lows, laughs and tears. This is one of the sweetest graphic novels I have ever read and so much more cohesive in theme and tone than you would imagine from it's exquisite-corpse style story-telling. Buy it, its amazing. And some of the book's profits are going to charity, so you can feel good about a purchase you will get so much out of.
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No, infact it is every bit as good.
In other words, it is a masterpiece.
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