Let's be clear about this: Drawn & Quarterly 25 is an essential purchase, with more than 750 pages featuring exclusive work by some of the finest artists working today. Be warned, though - it may prove considerably more expensive than the cover price suggests; if you don't have a lot of D&Q comics this could be a gateway drug to the back catalogue.
As physical artefacts go, this is a particularly splendid book: hardback, with a great Tom Gauld cover, printed on lavish paper stock, and with a ribbon bookmark in the shade of orange used for text throughout. Such attention to detail functions as a reminder of the seriousness with which D&Q takes its work, as well as showing just how many of the greats it has published.
Inside there is a mixture of comics, essays, interviews, photos, correspondence and more. There are new pieces written specifically for this volume, excerpts from forthcoming works, rare strips from the past, and other unreleased material. The first 50 pages or so provide a history of D&Q, whetting the appetite for the comic strips that follow. Featuring work by Chester Brown, Joe Matt, Seth, Kate Beaton, Chris Ware, Adrian Tomine, Jillian Tamaki, Art Spiegelman, Rutu Modan, Gabrielle Bell, Joe Sacco, Daniel Clowes, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Kevin Huizenga, Anders Nilsen, Guy Delisle, Julie Doucet, Peter Bagge, Gilbert Hernandez, Lynda Barry and many, many more, it's hard to imagine any fan of indie comics not wanting to read this.
It's also brilliantly sequenced, with essays and features building anticipation for many of the artists who appear on later pages. Some are represented solely by their work but others feature in photos, essays, and recollections. This context undoubtedly helps deepen the appreciation of their creations.
Some of the particular highlights: the first new work by Joe Matt for ten years, 14 pages that are as laugh out loud funny as his work always is (tempered somewhat by the realisation that if these pages are his total output since 2006, it may be a while before the book about his life in LA is released). Twenty pages of Yoshihiro Tatsumi's A Drifting Life Part Two, the forthcoming continuation of his autobiography. Lynda Barry's Sneaking Out, originally published in RAW. Several photos that show that Seth's hat does, in fact, come off from time to time. Chester Brown's The Hymn of the Pearl, originally produced for a (presumably far from festive) Christmas card. James Sturm's sequence of strips. Adrian Tomine's Optic Nerve. Anders Nilsen's Me and the Universe. Kevin Huizenga's My Career in Comics. Guy Delisle's Just for Me. Tom Gauld's cover and story. This list could go on and on.
Peter Bagge's The Death of the Age of Stuff charts the dwindling financial opportunities open to cartoonists of his generation. Starting with the admission that he's given up on physical media and local retailers, now consuming digital goods and shopping online, it moves to the discovery of his own work on filesharing sites then his attempts to earn a living through appearances at local comicons and the sale of original pages (at dwindling prices, natch). The whole anthology makes it pretty clear than publishing comics like these is no path to riches for anyone concerned. However, this beautiful volume, a defiant throwback to the age of stuff, deserves to sell very well, and is a reminder that physical media still has its place when both the form and the content is this good. Buy without hesitation.