Probably best known for his collaboration with Alan Moore on the extraordinary From Hell, Eddie Campbell, serving as both writer and artist, first gained acclaim for Alec, the thinly-veiled autobiographical adventures of a Scottish artist. Alec :The Years Have No Pants collects all of the very frank, often humorous previously published tales plus a new story. While all the stories showcase Campbell's distinctive art, the highlight of this impressive book derives from the evolution of the artist. Midway through the 638 page volume, the realization dawns that Eddie Campbell may be one of the field's most accomplished storytellers.
Campbell is a master of autobiographical comics, with a deft, often breathtaking way with a line and a sophisticated Scottish storytelling wit that places him in a different universe than the likes of Crumb, Pekar or Sacco. This unwieldy hardcover collection puts his best work in chronological order to show the shape of four decades of his life, starting with the Alec stories that made his reputation in the London small-press scene in the 1980s. It's nice to get reacquainted with the more obscure pieces, such as "Graffiti Kitchen," his raw, downbeat follow-up to the Alec books. However, the minor compilations "Little Italy" and "The Dead Muse" suffer in comparison to the rest of the content, and others, such as "Life of the Artist" and, indeed, the Alec volumes themselves, are just as satisfying, if not more so, when experienced as standalone pieces. I suppose it's nice to have all the interrelated stories handy under one cover, but the book's high page count and its sheer size and weight don't make it particularly convenient.
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