Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Best American Comics 2006

Well, I'm back. I know it has been a while since my last post but I have valid reasons. It has been a very busy time for me lately with the holidays and a lot of work baring down on me, so it probably wasn't the best time for me to choose a book that I would really need to delve into and contemplate. I am not big on the whole idea of New Year's resolutions, but I kinda told myself that I would venture out from the common superhero fare and try some new comics in 2009. With that in mind, I went to my bookcase and grabbed The Best American Comics 2006. I found this book a few months ago at a Borders outlet store for $4.00. Honestly, now that I have finished reading it, I can assure you that I got much more than my money's worth. Even at the cover price of $22.00, I still think this anthology is a steal.

Basically, The Best American Comics 2006 is an anthology of sequential art stories and excerpts from larger works. I was very excited to read it since all of the stories in the book were new to me except one of the entries, an excerpt from James Robinson's Tricked, which I wholeheartedly agree is worthy to be included in the best of 2006. My excitement was heightened even more due to the fact that Harvey Pekar, writer of American Splendor and The Quitter, was the guest editor of the collection. If Harvey Pekar says something is worth reading, I will read it without question. The man is a genius in my book. (By the way, I just found out that he wrote an opera that is going to be performed and simulcast on the internet on January 31, 2009! Click here for more info.)

Through the course of all of the selections in the book, two themes became pretty obvious: the sociopolitical climate we live in and the internal problems and idiosyncrasies we all deal with. Almost every selection dealt with one of these two topics. The only one that really did not tackle either subject was also the only comic to mention superheroes as it humorously looked at the evolution of mainstream comics from the Silver Age up through the Modern Age. I think the best way to critique the book for all of you is to look at my favorite story from each of the two themes. In Joe Sacco's autobiographical story "Complacency Kills," we follow Sacco in Iraq as a front line reporter. Sadly, what I know about modern warfare comes only from playing way too much Call of Duty, but I learned a lot from just a few pages of Sacco's comic. He showed the day-to-day actions of our Marines in Iraq and you get the feeling that they truly are in a horrible catch twenty-two. Many of their normal operating procedures are in place to keep them safe, yet they could be construed as slights to normal civilians in that country. For instance, the Marines that Sacco was riding with were called to investigate a suspicious group of cars parked far off the main road. When they get there, guns drawn, they find that it is a funeral procession. It is a story like that that truly makes you think. As for the more psychological stories, the most interesting was definitely the excerpt from Couch Tag by Jesse Reklaw. I had never read anything by him before but this excerpt really made me want to go look for more of his writing. The selection was actually multiple stories from Reklaw's childhood that all centered around the many cats that his family had. The art was simple but evocative which was perfect for the subject matter. While many cats came and went from the household, something profound was learned from each one of them, even if they didn't live very long. The pets acted as a solid framework for a coming of age story.

After reading the entire collection, I highly recommend The Best American Comics 2006. If you have the chance, go and pick up a copy. I think that now that I have had a taste, I will have to go out and find the books that were excerpted to make this excellent anthology.

No comments: