Sunday, February 4, 2007


Man, I just spent about an hour writing a review of The Best American Comics 2006, and my computer froze up, so I lost everything. Son of a bitch. I was going to examine each story in the book, saying whether I thought it deserved to be included as one of the best comics of the year. So much for that idea. Here's a short summary:

Stories I thought were really good:

"Ready to Die" by Kim Deitch
"The Gift" by Anders Nilsen <-- my favorite!
"Complacency Kills" by Joe Sacco
"La Rubia Loca" by Justin Hall
"Portrait of My Dad" by David Heatley
"Nakedness and Power" by Seth Tobocman, Terisa Turner, and Leigh Brownhill
"Passing Before Life's Very Eyes" by Kurt Wolfgang
"Walkin' the Streets" by Robert Crumb

Stories I thought were pretty good:

"The Amazing Life of Onion Jack" by Joel Priddy
"Comics: A History" by Chris Ware
"Rabbithead" by Rebecca Dart
"Day by Day with Hopey: Tuesday is Whose Day?" by Jaime Hernandez
"A Street-level View of the Republican National Convention" by Lloyd Dangle
"Thirty-three" by Alex Robinson
"Missing" by Jessica Abel
"Thirteen Cats of My Childhood" by Jesse Reklaw

Stories I thought were only okay:

"The Adventures of Paul Bunyan & His Ox, Babe" by Lilli Carre
"Diary of a Bread Delivery Guy" by David Lasky
"Goner Pillow Company" by Ben Katchor
"Only Disconnect" by Alison Bechdel
"Untitled" by Ivan Brunetti
"Dance with the Ventures" by Jonathan Bennett
"Chemical Plant/Another World" by John Porcellino
"The Supervisor" by Hob
"Recollection of Seduction" by Rick Geary
"The Executive Hour" by Tom Hart
"Two Questions" by Lynda Barry

Stories I didn't like:

"Busted!" by Esther Pearl Watson
"Wonder Wart-Hog: The Wart-Hog that Came in from the Cold" by Gilbert Shelton
"Solidarity Forever" by Olivia Schanzer

I thought all the "really good" and "pretty good" stuff should have been included, along with some of the "okay" stuff. I was just put off by the inclusion of stories that were either mediocre or, in the case of the "didn't like" category, just plain bad. But it was a good book overall.

I wasn't going to get to this one, but since the anthology review got truncated, I'll mention it; I also read Curses, by Kevin Huizenga. It was okay. I like Huizenga's art; it's cartoony but expressive. The problem (for me) is the storytelling; most of the stories in this book are wordy narratives, to the point where they almost become illustrated prose stories. There are at least three stories where a story is being read, an article is being written, or some facts are being related, and we end up slogging through text wishing for more pictures. The one about the article that the guy was writing for a Christian was interesting to a former Christian like me, just for the look at the theology that I used to be familiar with, but it got pretty boring. As did the one about starlings running rampant through North America (although I liked the representation of their songs by the lines and words in speech balloons). And I won't even get into the first story, about a Victorian doctor treating a guy who has visions of an evil monkey. My favorite story was "The Feathered Ogre", in which main character Glenn Ganges goes on a mystical quest to release himself and his wife from the curse that is preventing them from getting pregnant. It's a good juxtaposition of weird mythological elements with the strip-mall banality of middle America. I especially liked the scene where Glenn squirts gasoline (enchanted gasoline, that is) into his eyes. That was hilarious. So, I didn't especially like this book, but I am now interested in Huizenga. Maybe he has other work that is less wordy and more, uh, picture-y.

So that's all for me for tonight. If anybody has any questions or comments about these books, please leave a comment! Any recommendation of other Huizenga stuff I would like? Any thoughts on the selections for Best American Comics? Speak up!


  1. Two of the authors whose you speak are translated in french. Anders Nilsen, with Water and Dogs (De l'eau, des chiens in France), edited by Actes Sud (The same publishing house who published Paul Auster in France). The Gift is not yet translated.
    Jessica Abel with Missing (La Perdida in France ; weird, a spanish title for a book translated in french ; certainly because the story takes place in Mexico).
    I haven't like Water and Dogs ; I think it's a parable or an allegory, but I haven't understood it.
    I haven't read Missing, but you made me want to read it.

  2. No Water and Dogs, but Dogs and Water. My excuses.

  3. "Missing" is actually an excerpt from La Perdida, which is also the title of the book in the US. I haven't read anything else by Anders Nilsen, but I really liked his story in this book, so I'll definitely search out more of his work. If I read "Dogs and Water", I'll let you know what I think of it.