There is no doubt that this is a rare achievement in comics production, and it is certainly also a high-quality anthology containing some great comics, but editor Sammy Harkham and the stellar line up of cartoonists invited to contribute have set the bar so high in their previous work that much of what they offer here nevertheless fails to reach the high water mark of contemporary comics that the book could have been.
In addition to many of the artists who contributed to earlier issues of the anthology and helped make Kramers the statement in contemporary comics art it has been, Harkham this time around invited some of the heavy-hitters of past generations: Ivan Brunetti, Dan Clowes, Kim Deitch, Matt Groening, Jaime Hernandez, Ben Katchor, Seth, Adrian Tomine and Chris Ware. In contrast to earlier such “guest appearances”â€”Ware, for example, seemed conspicuously out of place in KE5â€”the uniqueness of the present project and the sheer number of very different cartoonists contributing overrides any concerns one might otherwise have had about artistic dissonance. Actually, the book’s sheer eclecticism is a strength in that it adds to the feeling that this could potentially be a kind of Pioneer Plaqueâ€”or an Ark, as Tom Gauld would have us imagine with his gorgeous contributionâ€”of early 21st-century comics, one day to bring four-coloured fun to Morlocks.
Harkham exhibits what seems like self-ironic awareness of this with his front cover. It depicts the Fairfax, LA street in which he and his brothers run a book store, Family Books, evidently decorated by Ron Regé. Only, the setting is post-apocalyptic. Nature has reclaimed the streets, shared in harmony between mostly herbivorous animals and nude women. It is night, but a new day is dawning. Water runs from the broken storefront, puddling around a discarded comic book.