Sunday, April 30, 2006


I recently received my contributors' copy of The Comics Journal #275, which includes (along with much else) Best-of-2005s from twenty people, including me. Actually, I felt a bit guilty about accepting my free copy, since my contribution was the skimpiest by far: merely a list of eight comics/graphic novels/ manga series, with no explanations. (In my defense, Dirk's invitation to contributors explicitly said it was okay to contribute just a list; and I did in fact put considerable time and thought into my list, even if it's not apparent from the finished product.)

David Welsh has put together a handy compilation of the twenty lists here, here, here, and here. Taken as a whole, this is quite a diverse collection here, including a fair sampling of manga and even some Big Two superhero comics, as well as the alt-comix and classic strip collections you'd expect. There are some books that made a number of lists, but not mine, and I thought I'd provide some brief explanations of why I left them off, for anyone interested. Note that these aren't reviews: for that, I'd need to reread the books again. They're just my best recollections of why, when I made my list several weeks ago, I made the decisions I did.

BLACK HOLE: This was the top book of 2005, going by the number of lists it appeared on (eleven). When I first reread it in preparation for making my list, I too fully intended to list it. But when I reread the book again to determine what ranking it should have, I felt that the story and writing were on the whole pedestrian, despite some effective moments; and Charles Burns's art, while good, wasn't exceptional enough for me to put the book on my list for the art alone.

ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY #16: Having seen a quite a number of more recent installments of the two serials begun here, I have no doubt that they will both be great when they're finally collected. But there just didn't seem to be enough substance in this issue alone (which Ware himself describes with accuracy as "the first half of the introductory preface") to put it on a best-of list, despite Jog's argument to the contrary. Still, if you're a Ware fan you'd better buy it, since the collections won't be out for a long time.

WIMBLEDON GREEN: Okay, I'm cheating here: I never even considered putting this on my list. Frankly, I'm surprised that this book made as many lists as it did (seven). When I first read a preview of it, it didn't appeal to me at all. When I read the book itself, having checked it out of my local library, it was more amusing than I'd expected, but still trivial.

THE RABBI'S CAT: When I saw this in the bookstore, I thought the art was gorgeous. When I took it home, the art was still appealing, but the story didn't even interest me enough to propel me to finish it--or to reread it when it came time to make my list.

ICE HAVEN: I felt more or less the same way about this as I did about Eightball #23: while I admired Clowes' skill, on the whole it left me cold.

THE COMPLETE PEANUTS: The strips that have been collected so far are, on the whole, not very good. Had the strip ended where the last volume to appear in 2005 ends, it would be remembered as a good kid strip, and a historically significant one, but not a classic.

WALT & SKEEZIX 1921-1922: I've already stated my opinion about this. I remain baffled by the acclaim it's received, and frankly, the comments made by the those who put it on their lists didn't enlighten me any. (Most incomprehensible to me was Sammy Harkham's: "King created a world that the reader just wants to exist in like no other strip ever." Huh?)

COMPLETE CALVIN AND HOBBES: The only reason I didn't put this on my list is that I didn't think that a book most of whose contents had already appeared in book form and were still in print belonged on a best of 2005 list.

What about the reverse--stuff which I put on my list but nobody else did? That no one else picked Fruits Basket is disappointing and a bit surprising, but on reflection I can understand it. Let's face it, to those haven't read it, the premise is likely to seem a bit silly, and this may have put people off from trying it, even people willing to experiment with manga. Furthermore, much of Takaya's artistry lies in her long-term plotting, and this won't be visible to someone who samples a few volumes. I'm more surprised that Frankenstein Now and Forever by Baladi didn't make anyone else's list: it's precisely the sort of thing TCJ critics eat up. My best guess is that nobody saw it (even though it was reviewed favorably by TCJ). And that wouldn't be too surprising, considering that I've never heard of its publisher (Typocrat) in any other connection.

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006


I realize I've been doing very little posting of late. If anybody is still checking here every other day or so, my apologies: I don't know when, if ever, I'll return to more frequent blogging.

For now, here are a couple of discussions of Never Let Me Go that you might want to check out, though they're both apparently over. (Warning: brief spoiler ahead.) First, John Holbo links to a thoughtful negative review of the book by Adam Roberts. (Scott Eric Kaufman had linked to Roberts' review earlier.) In the comments to Holbo's post, Laura Carroll eloquently defends the book, and Roberts replies. I also have a short comment in that thread (the last, as of this writing).

Second (though first chronologically), there's a discussion of the book on The Guardian's culture blog, focusing particularly on the clones' passivity and failure to rebel. This discussion accompanied (and links to) a series of brief articles on the book, one of which is by Ishiguro himself.

I may write something more substantial on the book here in a few days. Right now I'm waiting for the copy I ordered from interlibrary loan to arrive. (Yes, I am a cheapskate. Also, I own so many books compared to the amount of space I have that I really shouldn't buy any more.)

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