I have to say that there isn't a whole lot to review here, other than to perhaps make the rest of the world aware that this book exists, but perhaps that will suffice.
I missed seeing Retroactive at San Diego this year, partly, I'm sure, since it sold out in the first day or two. A simple hardcover collection, slightly oversized, of Darwyn's work in a hardcover format.
Given the loose brush stroke slightly "cartoony"style that Cooke works in , one might think that it wouldn't be as effective large as it is in reduction, with the tightening effect when the art shrinks in size. The opposite is true, as the larger version lends a greater abstract power to the best images here, the simplicity of the image gains impact as the artist's choices are magnified.
It is a bit like what Lichenstein was after, but Roy was able to demean the medium of comics while at the same time trading in on their power and stealing from them for his source material. Many of the oversize pieces, such as "Old Miami" in the frontpiece, are so enlarged that we can easily make the grain of the rough tooth bristol under his brush strokes on the art. Other skteches, such as "Hal", "Jetage" and "Score" work even better at 500% than the do at actual size.
One of the best pieces in the book, an untitled Spirit piece done on duotone board, is one that i had never seen before, and was instantly captured by. A great deal of work went into this one, the planning of the four different tones (white, black, 30% grey, 60% grey) and it does a magnificent job of capturing the energy and tone of Eisner's best work. In a curious omission, there is no title for the Spirit two pager.
Mint copies of this book, by the way, will be impossible to find unless they're still in the damn shrink wrap. The back cover is mostly white, and already is showing scuffs on it from being in my studio on the shelf or on the table. Now, mind you, books in my studio end up getting used, opened, read, paged through but they're not dipped in ink and driven over by snow tires. Get used to seeing shelf marks on any of these and just move on.
It has long been my contention that more people would be impressed by comic art if they saw it full size. The reproduction may hide some flaws, but it also robs the art of some of its grandeur, and I simply that is a shame. When guests come over and see the various originals that I have in the house, you can see the non comic readers looking at the art in a new way, they're clearly seeing things that they would never have noticed with cheap printing and bad reproduction. Cooke's best stuff, from New Frontier to Catwoman, has the strength to stand no only on its own but to stand up to repreaded examination.