Review: Alec

Alec? Alec? Who the **** is Alec?

Alec - The King Canute crowdApologies for the bad pun (those of you who don’t get the reference, just be glad you missed the amazing European pop music of the 90’s), but I imagine most of you won’t have had an idea what I mean when I talk about Alec. Well, ignoring those of you clever enough to move your eyes a few degrees to the right and note that I appear to be recommending a book titled “Alec – The King Canute Crowd”. Which I am. That and the other books in the Alec series (I show The King Canute Crowd because that’s really where you should start).

But why? What’s it about? What’s the hook, where’s the twist? Well, that’s just it. There isn’t one. Because while Alec has something to tell, it’s not a story in a traditional sense. Hell, if you go intoThe King Canute Crowd and try to read it as a single tale you’ll just wind up confused. What Alec offers is a slice-of-life, semi-autobiographical series of mini-tales, told without ever giving reference to time or ‘progress’ besides the filling-out of the characters as they go through life.  

And as a slice-of-life work, there’s no moral to the stories, no greater purpose to anything other than simple, beautiful, anecdotal storytelling that shows life in all its grim beauty. And as for the art… oh, wait, sorry, did I not say? The Alec books – they’re comics. As in, tales told through a combination of images and words. I know. This mortifies you. Comics are childish, after all. I mean, who else would enjoy stories told with a combination of imagery and verbiage? Aside from those weirdos who watch films, of course.


But most comics are for kids, right? To be honest, in the English language especially, that’s probably right. Well, assuming you count teenagers within that bracket. And, to be frank, most comics are mediocre, nothing more than pulp fiction. But then, so are most books and films. You just have to learn to ignore the fodder and go right to the cream of the crop – and this is most definitely amongst la crème de la crème. So don’t let your preconceptions guide you with this one – you’ll find no spandex here. Just give it a go, and see what can be done through the medium of sequential art.

Anyway, where was I? Of course, the art. Well, it’s rough. As Eddie Campbell admits in the introduction, the quality of the art varies wildly according to his level of commitment at the time of drawing, but this just adds a more personal touch to a book that succeeds entirely because of how close you feel to the author. Each scratch of ink has its own character, and the rough approach to illustration makes for a beautiful piece of work.

And I’m not the only fan. I feel like I should just copy one of the many excellent reviews about the books, but that would be cheating. If you need more convincing than I can give, there’s a short one at which should show you exactly why you need Alec.

Semi-autobiographical out of Ten

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September 2006
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