As far as the physical quality goes, there's little to compalin about. Not only is there 300 pages of strips contained within, but the paper is of a high grade and the printing clear as you could want. Turn the book over and you can read a 'widescreen' sci-fi serial by accalimed creators Simon Furman and Geoff Senior (Dragons Claws, anyone?). Previously unreleased, it's a solid 40 page prequel to their online series.
Elsewhere, the material veers from very impressive to quite woeful. The standouts are a trio of stories from the well respected Flintlock magazine, all writtten by Steve Tanner. Each of these historical tales is a gem, particularly the full length "Lady Flintlock" with lovely art by Anthony Summey. It's the sort of tale that made me vow to investigate the parent magazine in future, so it does it's job well.
The problems start when you get to self published stuff that has obviously never been through the grubby hands of a good editor. You get spelling mistakes, overlong tales, stories that just stop with no resolution.... it can be a frustrating read, that's for sure. John Erasmus' "Happy App" is a nice little future shock, and I was amused by Mike Higg's "Ninja Monkey' and the lovely looking 'Hail To The Cheif' by Peter Duncan and Andrew Pawley. Also of note are a few of Pete Doree's "The Kids From rec Road" strips which are always fun. Special mention goes to Claudia Doyle, who wrote the simple but properly structured "Galactic Man" when she was just 11, and was lucky enough to have a talented dad (Ed Doyle) to draw it up in full colour.
This annual is indeed an admirable attempt to bring a load of comics to the people, I hope that if we get another one next year a bit more restraint will be taken with regards to the content. Showcasing strips from small press magazines is a good way to go, with adverts as payment. We could even see some from the Zarjaz and Dogbreath 2000AD fanzines, for example, or one of the many well edited publications from Owen Watts (The Big O). There's a little too much 'If you've drawn it we'll print it' here, but one still can't argue with the noble intent or sheer wealth of stuff inside.
BUY IT HERE, KIDS!