Click here for part one, now with all the bizzare formatting errors fixed!
To bring you up to speed; 2006 was a good year for comics. Come years end, lots of folks gave their opinions about the very best comics of the year. I’m taking a critical look at these end of the year round-ups, reviewing both the writing and the books that specific reviewers talk about. The name of the reviewer is a link, and I’ve bolded the books I’ve read, and partially bolded the books I’ve read part of.
Jog’s the best writer about comics on the blogsphere. He can break the most complex craft into simple components and explain in plain English why artists-do-what-the-hell-they do. On top ‘o that, he performs his craft sans the obnoxious snobbery that can often infest say, the Comics Journal.
Basically: Dude is GOOD, and I am in AWE.
So it’s no surprise that he sums up what a year-end review is and does and isn’t and doesn’t better than any of the rest of us schlubs.
“Best Of lists are a fun exercise (I like horseshit, you see), and they’re a nice vehicle for self-reflection, and pursuing a type of external critical summary, a chance for reexamining the gaps as much as what’s there before you, but in the back of my head I know the books I didn’t get to will be waiting for me. No list of this type is ever entirely comprehensive, as I know all of you are aware, and I feel I ought to have some moment where I stop and flip the switch.”
Jog’s Top Ten:
10) Seven Soldiers # 1 — Grant Morrison and J.H. Williams III
9) The Drifting Classrom — Kazuo Umezu
8) Billy Hazelnuts — Tony Millionaire
7) Fun Home — Allison Bechdel
6) Solo # 12 — Brendan McCarthey
5) Ninja — Brian Chippendale
4) The Ticking — Renee French
3) Or Else # 4 — Kevin Huiezenga
2) Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators — Various
1) Fate of the Artist — Eddie Campbell
A really varied and interestin’ mix of material here, covering a huge spectrum of comics. He doesn’t ignore Manga like most reviewers (including everyone on this blog) but also profiles a stylistic variety of American Comics. FUN HOME is basically an illustrated narrative, while Brendan McCarthey’s SOLOi s pure sequential art with only fragments and flotsam of actual story. So it’s not surprising that his number one pick is alternately narrative, abstract and… Nah. I’ll just quote:
“Yes, Campbell is lost in sequential art and stylized prose and fotofunnies and newspaper strip homage, and ironically found only in the land of a comics adaptation of an entirely different work, and all throughout he and we are stalked by the phantom of futility, and faced with the prospect that the artist’s life is maybe not worth all the sacrifice that putting order to imperceptible things entails. Several comics this year (some of which are on this list) sought to give form to the vastness of the artist’s interior; Campbell’s command of the form is so great that he can do so while simultaneously striving to embody the million possibilities that comics itself can offer us, and his wit is so bold that he can drop it all and declare himself dead, with unassailable authority, while never once losing sight of the tiny things that make life and art worth slogging about in. The best thing he’s ever done, and the best of the year.”
Not much I can add to that. I either don’t get or just don’t like Eddie Cambell’s stuff. (I haven’t decided yet.) But Jog does a damnfine job of demonstrating the value in this work which just isn’t my thing. Hard to give higher praise than that, ‘cept for saying Jog is smart and you should read him.
Is this a video game magazine? It sounds really familiar. Anyway, they did a list of best comics picking a bunch of different categories instead of a straight top ten list.
It’s written by people who really like superheroes and consider Walking Dead an Indy book, but given that their choices are pretty good.
Aaaaaand so on. While I thought all of the above ranged between “good” and “very good” I’ve got a few complaints.
(1) Format: Instead of giving us a nice long list like regular human beings, the folks at IGN assume a serious case of ADD and textophobia on the part of their readers. Which means that you have to click on each of the seventeen entries seperately. Which might appeal to the button pushing babies of generation Z, but it made this old farts finger’s hurt.
(2) Best Babe? Geezus. Here’s a little secret. The trick to writing for thirteen year olds is to pretend your not writing for thirteen year olds. Feels like pandering to your audience, which I can’t imagine their audience appreciates.
(3) The writing is on the shittiest possible side of competent. Everything is “Incredible” “Can Not Be Missed” “Captured Our Imagination.” Pride of Baghdad is “Classic.” Twice. In a two hundred word review. When Infinite Crisis is touted as best mini-series, they ask “Can there really be any other choice?”
I can think of a couple dozen. And I LIKED Infinite Crisis.
The whole thing has a kind of critic paid to write good reviews for bad movies vibe. Non-descriptive adjectives and unsubstantiated hyperbolic claims are e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e and the phrasing is occasionally awkward and almost always feels cliched.
On the other hand, seeing what passes for writing in what I assume is the corporate sector makes me damn proud of the comics blogsphere.
Of Seqart gives us, Bully-like, his FIFTY best of the year. Supposedly. I only count 36, but I suppose the Ignatz line could be broken down into seperate books. UNLIKE Bully, Clough doesn’t rank the damn things, so I guess I’m listing all thirty-six of these fuckers.
1) Mome — Various
2) An Anthologogy of Grahic Fiction, Cartoons and True Stories,
3) Asthma – John Hankiewicz
4) the Mother’s Mouth — Dash Shaw
5) Lucky — Gabrielle Bell
6) Girl Stories — Lauren Weinstein
7) Dungeon — Louis Trondhiem
8) American Splendour 1-4 — Harvey Pekar & various
9) Squirrel Mother — Meghan Kelso
10) Klezmer — Johaan Sfar
11) Schizo # 4 — Ivan Brunetti
12) Get A Life and
13) Maybe Later — Both by Charles Berberian & Philippe Dupuy
14) Mine Tonight — Trevor Alixopolous
15) The Left Bank Gang and
16) Meow Baby — Jason
17) We Are On Our Own — Miriam Katan
18) La Perdida — Jessica Abel
19) But I Like It — Joe Sacco
20) Project: Romantic — Various
21) Tales Designed to Thrizzle 2 and 3 — Michael Kupperman
22) Forty Hour Man — Steve Beaupre & Steve Lafler
23) Art D’ecco — Roger & Andrew Langridge
24) Comic Art # 8 — Various
25) The Ignatz Line from Fantagraphics — Various
26) Drawn and Quarterly Showcase # 4 — Various
27) Kramer’s Ergot # 6 — Various
28) Acme Novelty Library # 17 — Chris Ware
29) Love and Rockets — Los. Bros. Hernandez
30) Let Us Be Perfectly Clear — Paul Hornschemier
31) Dork # 11 — Evan Dorkin
32) The Magic Whistle # 10 — Sam Henderson
33) Best American Comics 2006 — Various
34) The Vagabounds # 2 –Josh Neufield
35) Chickens with Plums — Marjane Satrapi
36) 110Percent — Tony Consiglo
Little bummed I’ve read less than half of these. I’m a bad comics nerd who liked INFINITE CRISIS.
Writing-wise the “all-this-and-the-kitchen-sink too” approach of listing EVERYTHING makes for bumpy writing; ’bout half of the individual reviews are puff pieces, with the other half offering genuine insights. He does an exceptional job summng up both what Trondhiem’s DUNGEON is and what makes it good. Which are the two most important things when reviewing:
“DUNGEON, co-written with fellow French titan Sfar, manages to tell a farcical sword & sorcery epic that manages to simultaneously to mock and show affection for the form. The stories, told funny animal-style in the tradition of Carl Barks, are hilarious & violent but also very human.”
On the other paw Clough calls The SQUIRREL MOTHER the best of the year, but his review is cliched and bland, way more IGN than Jog:
“but this is a pitch-perfect collection of stories, attractively presented, from an artist at her creative peak.”
Ooooh. Attractively presented. Sounds more “buffet at the company picnic” than “best comic of the year.” Although t’be fair, he does link to a prior review of the book which is WAY more detailed.
I don’t think the format really works here. Lacking Bully’s infectious enthusiasm, MY TOP THIRTY-SIX just doesn’t have the same authority to it that MY TOP TEN FAVORITES does. Just feels like “Here’s a list of everything I read this year that was kinda OK or better.” But maybe I’m just bitter ’cause I’m a sucker for the top ten ranking format.
On the other hand, I’m definitely gonna seek out MINE TONIGHT, so dude must be doing something right.
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