Review: “Alterna Anniversaries” (Alterna Comics, Monochrome May Special)

Welcome back to Monochrome MayThe Splintering’s month-long celebration of colorless creativity.

Despite the frustration in doing so, I like to review anthology books from time to time, as they don’t seem to get the same level of attention as single-story graphic novels. But why is it so frustrating? Not only do anthologies typically include works by multiple creative teams, but they aren’t always consistent with regard to theme, genre, or sometimes even intended audience.

Enter the Alterna 10 Year Anniversaries Collection. Published in 2016, this anthology is intended to be a celebration of Alterna’s first decade of publishing comic books. 

Boasting a total of 435 pages, the Alterna Anniversaries book collects 8-10 page previews of 35 different books, presented in black and white. You might have already done the math and realized that this can’t possibly account for the full 435 pages, but each book also has a title page and a character highlight page, plus there is the usual book filler such as a table of contents, a forward written by Alterna Comics founder Peter Simeti, and a bit of back matter. In any case, it’s not like this book is light on content. The more important question is, is it still a worthwhile pickup? 

Consistent with the concerns I mentioned above, the Alterna Anniversaries collection does indeed span multiple genres, styles, and includes the work of dozens of creators. Given that you’re only getting an 8-10 page preview of each book, this “celebration” felt a bit more like a giant advertisement than anything else – one you had to pay for, to make matters even worse. For those looking to sample comics before throwing down their cash to buy them, I’d have to imagine that “sailing the high seas” not only offers a better idea of what you can expect from your purchase, but it won’t cost you anything but time. 

For collectors or law-abiding purists, the Alterna Anniversaries book still has some worth, but it is almost entirely an exploratory shopping venture rather than entertainment. For me, I found that I owned many of the books represented in the collection already, though I did discover a few that seem to be worth tracking down (i.e. The Black Hand, Empire of the Wolf, and The Machine Stops). Some of the stories represented are still available in print from Alterna in some way or another (The Actual Roger, Unit 44, The Chair). 

As a follower of Alterna Comics as a company, however, this collection also serves as a time capsule of sorts representing the company and its founder before 2018. Not only does it feature the work and creators who very publicly and unceremoniously threw Peter Simeti under the bus for his customer service-focused social media policy, but Simeti’s forward at the book’s outset projects an optimistic naïveté that would be hardened by drama just a couple of years later. Not that Peter doesn’t still project an optimistic countenance, but he’s more sobered these days. 

Originally priced at $20 (which is nearly $25 now, thanks to our recent, record-level inflationary spikes), it is very difficult to recommend hunting down Alterna Anniversaries at cover price. However, it is worth noting that I recently picked up my copy for far, far less, so my buck may bang harder than yours, so to speak. It will likely remain on my shelf as a unique Alterna curio for now, though once I collect the full printings of all of the stories featured within, it will have little use. 

Continued in Corktown – not Tinseltown

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