Coming in late September is the most recent edition of the Best American Comics series, this time guest edited by Neil Gaiman, writer extraordinaire of such excellent reads as Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett,) and the historic The Sandman comic, among others. The Best American Comics series is a long running series that showcases the editor’s picks for the most notable comics of the year, be they short stories, graphic novels, periodical so-called funnies. This year’s edition is notoriously eclectic.
The Best American Comics 2010
Edited by Neil Gaiman, Jessica Abel and Matt Madden
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Readers should be warned that if they are expecting a collection of complete works they will be disappointed. This collection showcases writers and artists by whetting the appetite through short stories and short to mid-length excerpts Most of the excerpts are available for purchase in their entirety if the reader is interested in completing the story.
The Good: The Lagoon excerpt was inexplicable and completely enthralling and enjoyable. The Alcoholic, a story about coming to terms after 9/11, was troubling and touching. Asterios Polyp was excellent, the art style and frequently jumping story left me wanting more. Lobster Run, an anime influenced relationship comic is too short! Norman Eight’s Left Arm is visually striking and the dialogue was unexpectedly fun. The excerpt from Scott Pilgrim v the Universe is noteworthy in that the source material looks so unlike (read “superior,”) the recently released movie.
The Bad: The shortness and randomness of the excerpts. The excerpt from Omega the Unknown, for instance, is only chapter 7 and as such I found myself completely at a loss for what was going on or why I should care. It was a poor decision by the editors, in my opinion, to lead off the book with that comic (and possibly with chapter 7.) If I were previewing this book at a local store I doubt I would have gone further. Cest N’est Pas Una Comic while admittedly a retrospective seemed dated and done before. Ditto The War on Fornication. American Elf (also dated, literally, as November 2007,) was uninteresting and unfunny. ACME Novelty Library looked great but some of the frames and text are so small that it is nearly impossible to read. Also, many of the indie comics reflected a completely liberal bias. In a collection of the so-called best American comics why were there no conservative-leaning artists? I don’t mind the liberal bent, but a more well rounded collection would have felt more representative of the “best.”
The only struggle I have with recommending this book to readers is in deciding who to recommend it to. It seems to me that true fans of indie comics will already be familiar with many if not most of these writers and artists so this book isn’t necessarily for them except as a part of their Best American Comics collection. I’m also not sure if this book is for those who enjoy mainstream comics either as there aren’t superheroes and the expected world saving scenarios and those readers may find themselves bored with the mundane art styles and story lines. In the end, I find myself recommending this book to only those who are interested but not familiar with indie comics but aren’t interested in paying for several collections that they may find that they do not enjoy. This is a perfect preview of what the indie comics world has to offer.
If you are that person, then I recommend this book wholeheartedly. If you are not, you may well find yourself scratching your head and wondering why you just spent $23.
Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of BookGateway.com. Along with his contributions to BookGateway, he reviews for the commercial site BuddyHollywood.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he cartoons and writes on current events and Christianity.
This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.