There are lots of one page strips here featuring Ware's cast of stock characters. Big Tex, Rocket Sam, Quimby the Mouse, Rusty Brown, and of course Jimmy Corrigan all have numerous entries and it's very nice to see them reprinted in such a large size (the book is an unwieldy but breathtaking 9' x 15') and on quality stock. Ware's use of color in his strips is always impressive and he takes full advantage of the over-large format to show this off.
There are also a few examples of another trademark Acme Novelty inclusion: the cut-and-assemble project. Many of these are notorious for being plausible yet unbelievably complicated to actually construct. There are actually disappointingly few of these in this collection and they are not the best examples of some of the more intricate fare that have appeared in previous issues.
The new material in this volume reflects Ware's other visual styles and some of the new experiments with form such as Dick Public and The Letterer as well as his various takes on biographies of artists. Much of this has appeared in other publications and is therefore not technically new, but is collected together for the first time here.
Then there is a story featuring Ware's 'God' character that is threaded throughout the book. With the first few panels appearing in the early advertising sections and further panels and mini-sequences sprinkled amongst the book's other sections, this culminates in a sort of illustrated cannon that loops back on itself continuously. For all its wordless simplicity, the cyclical nature seems to speak heaps toward that sense of doubt and confusion in humanity that Ware expresses with his practically patented nihilistic take on the absurd.
Style and Substance
This is not so much a book or even a collection as it is an experience. Few other books or graphic novels match the readers' investment with reward. The only lamentable aspect is that it isn't longer. Despite the book's time-consuming intricacy, I was left wanting more.
As an introduction to an artist who is certainly the greatest technical innovator of the form since Winsor McCay, The Acme Novelty Library Annual Report to Shareholders is indispensable. This is a great launching pad from which to jump into the Quimby the Mouse Collection and Jimmy Corrigan, as well as to seek out older issues and prepare for the inevitable Chalky White book. It can't be recommended enough.