Year's Best Graphic Novels, Comics, and Manga

Dante A. Ciampaglia

If you have little to no familiarity with any of the novels, comics or manga in the book, you're likely going to find more than a few pieces that catch your interest.

Year's Best Graphic Novels, Comics, and Manga

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Length: 272
Price: $19.95
Item Type: Comic
Publication Date: 2006-02

The concept of putting together a compilation of the year's best graphically illustrated work is fantastic. There are so many comics, graphic novels and the like released over a twelve-month period that it's inevitable that something daring or inspired will slip through the cracks. And with more and more great work coming from smaller presses and not-as-well-known creators, a volume that pulls what's deemed to be the best of the best is handy.

And on that level, Year's Best Graphic Novels, Comics, and Manga succeeds brilliantly. Its 272 pages include an introduction from Neil Gaiman and write-ups on fifteen graphic novels, eleven stand-out monthly comics issues and four manga series, all designed for both seasoned comics fans and newcomers to the medium. The line-up is diverse, too. Blankets, Superman: Secret Identity, Scott Pilgrim, Blacksad, Suspended in Language, and The Original, a group of work that cuts across the spectrum of styles, moods and subject matter, are represented in the Graphic Novels section of the book. Similarly, in the Comics group, pages from Batman and Plastic Man are found alongside pages from Demo, Fables and Love and Rockets.

For a broad scoped introduction to quality work, Year's Best is a can't miss. But the book ultimately becomes a big tease.

Credit editors Howard Zimmerman and the late Byron Preiss for selecting choice cuts from the works included in the book; they've picked some great things. And if you have little to no familiarity with any of the novels, comics or manga in the book, you're likely going to find more than a few pieces that catch your interest. But reading through Year's Best is like going to a music store and listening to a 30-second sample of a great song at a listening station: the sample is predetermined, and if you're intrigued enough to want to hear the rest of the song or album you'll have to buy the album.

Those listening stations are, admittedly, selling tools. But does that mean that because you get a similar effect with this book that Year's Best is a tool to sell more copies of a group of novels, comics and manga? Possibly; after all, the writers and artists responsible for the works in the book do live in a cash-driven world.

What's more likely is that, unless you want a 1000-page behemoth, it's impossible to include every page of every work listed in the book. And that's fair enough. Like every year-end list, this one is meant to serve as a starting point to find decent works. (The fact that some of these works are from 2004 rather than 2005 and the issue of Batman included in the book, chapter three of the Hush storyline, is from 2003 is perhaps beside the point. If the Grammy's can honor albums released in 2004 as the best album of 2005, anything goes.)

Where the selections become dicey is in their length. Some snippets are only a couple pages while others are decidedly longer. Why the disparity? Is it a coincidence that the shorter pieces are from major publishers, like DC, while the longer ones tend to be more from independents? And why include manga in the book when there are only four pieces representing the genre as opposed to the 15 graphic novels and 11 comics?

These are fair questions to ask when reading through the otherwise handy guide. It's by no means a homerun as far as compilations though, more like a solid double. Hopefully this collection will enjoy the same type of success that the The Best American Series, books that highlight interesting reading readers probably missed, have enjoyed.

But perhaps future volumes of Year's Best Graphic Novels, Comics and Manga would be better served by breaking it into three books, one for each genre. Grouping them together only weakens the works and their successes.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

Subverting the Romcom: Mercedes Grower on Creating 'Brakes'

Julian Barratt and Oliver Maltman (courtesy Bulldog Film Distribution)

Brakes plunges straight into the brutal and absurd endings of the relationships of nine couples before travelling back to discover the moments of those first sparks of love.

The improvised dark comedy Brakes (2017), a self-described "anti-romcom", is the debut feature of comedienne and writer, director and actress Mercedes Grower. Awarded production completion funding from the BFI Film Fund, Grower now finds herself looking to the future as she develops her second feature film, alongside working with Laura Michalchyshyn from Sundance TV and Wren Arthur from Olive productions on her sitcom, Sailor.

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.