Saturday, January 08, 2011

Books of the Year, Part 3: Graphic Novels

I think it's obvious from the sporadic posting of parts 1 and 2 of this would-be "series" that actually doing full-length reviews of all my favorite books of 2010 would take me right up through the end of 2011. So, in the spirit of brevity and timeliness, here are my picks in the Graphic Novel Division:

Book of the year, as far as I'm concerned. As great as "The Hunter," Darwyn Cooke's first Parker adaptation was ( and it was pretty damn great) this volume tops it in every way. The series of heists, each illustrated in a different style, is just one of the book's many highlights.


Gilbert's stuff is a lot of fun (and a lot of weird, too), but it's Jaime's shattering look back at Maggie's troubled past that elevates this book above even Love and Rockets' normally stellar standards. "Browntown" is one of the best stories ever to appear in Love and Rockets, and if you know how brilliant the book is -- easily one of the best comic series ever -- you know that's high praise indeed.


When I heard Chris Ware speak at last spring's C2E2 convention in Chicago, he said this book was delayed because he couldn't get the right fabric for the cover. I'm happy to say the wait was worth it. In his latest Acme Novelty Library publication, Ware looks at the entire life of Jordan Lint, who'd we only seen previously as a bully in the background of Ware's Rusty Brown and Chalky White Series. It's a rich, complex and disturbing tale, mostly because it feels so real. Keep an eye out for a cameo from Rusty, a moment that comes out of nowhere and doesn't last long, but isn't easily forgotten.


Dan Clowes also takes a long look at a character's life in "Wilson, "using page-long disconnected strips to tell his tale. It's both very funny and surprisingly sad, and the disconnect between the strips -- some very big events happen off-panel -- adds to the suitably disjointed feeling. Plus, Wilson himself is one of the funniest characters Clowes has ever written.


This is the volume that arrived in 2010, but consider it symbolic of the entire series, which I discovered just last year (and yes, I really that I was (a) late to the party and (b) way older than the book's supposedly demographic). I really liked everything about "Scott Pilgrim," from Bryan Lee O'Malley's evolving art style to the pyrotechnic fight scenes to, most of all, the low-key moments that captured the feeling of post-collegiate slacking no matter how old you are or whether or not you live in Canada. And, needless, to say, I loved the movie, too.

Like Vol. 6 of "Scott Pilgrim," this is only one chapter of a larger story, the difference being this is the first and not the last . For that reason (and many other typically Charles Burns-esque reasons) it's hard to see exactly where the story is going to take us. Suffice to say, it's utterly intriguing and beautifully drawn, with crisp color art that rewards repeat readings.

And, last but not least, here's something that's definitely not a graphic novel but still one of my absolute favorite publications of the year. As Seth says in his intro, he decided to put his current serial, the years-in-the-making "Clyde Fans," together with other short strips and bits of ephemera in an annual hardcover collection, finally forsaking the pamphlet format he loved so much. I think it was a smart move, giving us a chance to keep up with "Clyde Fans" and see more of his work, including the fascinating look at the cardboard city he built included in this volume. Plus, as with everything from Seth, its gorgeous design looks damned good sitting on your shelf. Can't wait 'til the next volume arrives next fall.

Next: The Year's Best Books about Comics

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