Remember the kids game where you'd sit with a group of people and when it was your turn you'd have to come up with a word that followed the one you'd just heard in order to build up a story? It was stream of consciousness story-telling at its most rudimentary but it was always surprising and fun. Nelson (Blank Slate) has grown out of the United Kingdom Comics Collective (UKCC) and puts this relay-race storytelling to a real test. Over 250 pages, 54 comic creators each show a snippet in a year in the life of Nel, born in 1968 and taking us up to 2011 (I know that's only 43 years but there's a couple of overlaps).
And as you can imagine, with 54 different creators that's quite a spread of styles. From Jamie Smart's doughy cartoons, to Jon McNaught's quiet moment of introspection, Duncan Fegredo's more detailed sense of realism channelling the Twin Tower attack in 2002 and even a very brief appearance from Posey Simmonds.
Of course any type of anthology has a built in flaw in that some styles are going to work for you better than others but this is better than a regular anthology because of the continuity in the story. You're compelled to read each chapter and that means you're giving each artist your full attention rather than skipping a part you don't like the look of. But of the course the fact that there are so many creators, I would think that it's impossible to not to be impressed by the breadth of styles on offer - really we could shelve this book in our How To Draw... reference section of the shop. But we won't because at the end of the day it achieves its primary objective to tell a beautiful character study that, due to the many creative voices, remains fresh and surprising. An admirable and veritable success.