Rian Hughes is a man with great design flair. Looking at this book is a treat and a veritable textbook of examples for those with any interest in graphic design.
He's also a gifted comic strip artist, though more in a European cartoony style (think Herge or Chaland) than the steroid-enhanced work of Jim Lee (which I like also). He illustrates a good story and his work is very easy on the eye.
That said, the stories that he illustrates aren't going to set the world on fire. They all have a science fiction slant, with the most famous tales being Really & Truly and Dare, the Grant Morrison eighties take on Dan Dare. If I'm being truthful, I bought the collection for Dare, having heard so much about it.
Was I disappointed? Yeah, I was. It seemed a little mean-spirited to take the admittedly slightly simplistic but optimistic worldview of the Dan Dare strips and have Dan turned into a soldier who would kill children if his orders demanded it. It feels less like a homage to Dan than a potshot at Margaret Thatcher, through poorly disguised substitute, Gloria Mundi. (I much prefer the tack Alan Moore took to dealing with Thatcher in Miracleman, in which Miraclewoman chastises Miracleman for intimidating Thatcher, because her narrow worldview means she's powerless to deal with the changes in world politics.) They don't even leave Earth. It's not a bad story, by any means, and I appreciated what Morrison wanted to do, but I felt that it wouldn't have mattered if they'd used an analogue for Dare, as Philip Jose Farmer did with Doc Savage and Tarzan in his "what if these characters were real" stories. Mind you, if you feel that Dare is in good need of being taken down a peg or two and are still bitter about the Tory government of 1979-97, I daresay you'll get a kick out of it.
Really&Truly meanwhile is bubbly but inconsequential and bizarre fun.
At the end of the day, I do think such collections are important and I certainly think that Hughes, a prodigious talent deserves widespread acclaim, just as Knockabout deserves support. So I do think if you have an interest in comic strip art, this is a good book to have.
I am in agreement with the other reviewer here regarding the quality of the stories contained in this book. They are very much of their time (late 80's, early 90's) and place (the British Isles).
However, Hughes's genius lies in his layouts, his illustration, his use of colour and, of course, his typography. This man wrote the rulebook on comic design in those halcyon days where the weekly/monthly comic attempted to be as adult as some graphic novels.
That time has passed. It would have been interesting for him to combine his skills with those of better writers -- perhaps an art deco League of Extraordinary Gentlemen?
Regardless, visually this book is a treat. Beautiful stock accurately reproduces every detail of each strip (Dare looks like it could have been made last week), and if the stories do not match the quality, that in no way lessens the brilliance of this book as a showcase for Rian's art. The slipcased edition is signed and limited to 350, and is even better than the standard.
Wholeheartedly recommended, but most definitely 'recommended for mature readers.'