Best Comics of 2008

The year winds down, vacation comes and goes, and best of lists make their appearances. I’m usually pretty bad about remembering what I read each year. With the help of my (I think up-to-date) Library Thing account, I have a pretty good list of what comics I have from 2008 (that discounts minis and pamphlets, but I added them to my list below as much as I could). I tried to stick to comics published this year, either new, translated, collected, or, occasionally, new editions, though some might be a little off. This year, besides listing a best-of list of an arbitrary number of works, I’m also listing, as much as possible, all the “new” comics I read. I’m linking to my posts on same, though I only wrote about a tiny percentage.

Best Comics of 2008 (in no particular order):

Comics Poetry pick:
Craghead, Warren. How to Be Everywhere: I’m already cheating as this was published in 2007. It must have been late in the year, because I clearly didn’t get this until 2008, else it would have made my best of 2007 list. My post on this is still forthcoming (sometimes the best works are the hardest to write about), so in the meantime see what Bill Randall has to say.

Excavating Manga History pick:
Hayashi, Seiichi. Red-Colored Elegy (Drawn & Quarterly): The way this comic unfolds narratively fascinated me. Hayashi leaves plenty of room for thought and interpretation. I go on at length here.

Breaking Through in All Sorts of Ways pick:
Shaw, Dash. Bottomless Belly Button (Fantagraphics) and BodyWorld (online). Shaw’s The Mother’s Mouth made my 2006 list, and he continues to impress both in these two longer works and in his recent and ongoing contributions to Mome. I wrote about BBB here. I haven’t written about BodyWorld yet, so you’ll have to read BodyWorld for yourself online in anticipation of its release by Pantheon sometime next year.

Manga Series pick:
Urushibara, Yuri. Mushishi v.1-6 (Del Rey) (4-6 date from 2008). My opinion may be slanted here because this is my latest reading (I read five volumes in the past weeks), but this manga series really impresses. Despite it’s regimented episodic structure (which I usually do not like), this series builds a wonderful world of Japanese villages at some indistinct time period (1700s? 1600s?) populated by invisible life forms called “mushi” which are somewhere between plant, insect, and spirit. Each story shows the mushi affecting people in different ways. Urushibara’s art is evocative, often beautifully abstract, and rougher than mainstream manga. Edit: I subsequently posted about the series here.

Perennial Favorite pick 1:
Porcellino, John. Thoreau at Walden (Hyperion). An intelligent and beautiful book by one of my favorite comic artists. My post about the book.

Perennial Favorite pick 2:
Hernandez, Jaime. The Education of Hopey Glass (Fantagraphics). One of my favorite cartoonists. This book is another excellent addition to the ongoing epic group biography of his characters. I wasn’t so thrilled with the latest serial story (Love and Rockets: New Stories v.1) that dove full bore into the usually downplayed superhero stories that lurk in the background of some of the other books.

Mini-comics pick:
Overby, Jason. Jessica (mini) Solipsist’s Doodles (mini) and Discretefunk.com (website). I just recently discovered Overby’s work and have been fascinated by it. I wrote about Jessica here and my post on Solipsist’s Doodles from this week is here.

Popular pick:
Guibert, Emmanuel. Alan’s War (First Second). I probably won’t be posting about this because I don’t have much to say, but this biographical comic is an excellent, beautifully drawn, well told story of Alan Cope and his life. About half the book focuses on his experiences getting drafted and sent to Europe at the end of World War II; the second half deals runs through the rest of his life, jumping from thread to thread to connect the formative experiences of the first half with his subsequent life. Guibert’s drawings look like old photos and the narration is conversational and engaging. This work should have a broad appeal.

Anthology pick
Various, edited by Sammy Harkham. Kramer’s Ergot volume 7 (Buenaventura). Just the sheet outlandish size of this book makes it impressive. That inside finds a decent percentage of amazing works by some of the best living comic artists (primarily from the US) is the prize inside. While some of the pages in the book are disappointing on different levels (some just didn’t take advantage of the format like they could have), many of the contributions are wonderful, large and colorful, with a clear interest in making the most of the large format. Chris Ware evens offers a comic that has an optimistic ending (I was surprised). More on this in the near future as I collect my thoughts.

Comics I Know I Read in 2008:
(mostly complete list, in no order though I put publishers together)

C.F., Powr Mastrs v.2 (Picturebox)
Yokoyama, Travel (Picturebox)
C.F., Core of Caligula (Picturebox)
Weinstein, Goddess of War v.1 (Picturebox)
Santoro et al, Cold Heat Specials (Picturebox) (I wrote about the first two)
Thomas etc., Savage Sword of Conan v.4 (Dark Horse) (Actually I’m still reading this, it’s very long.)
Whedon et al, Buffy Season 8 various issues (Dark Horse)
Rege, Against Pain (Drawn & Quarterly)
Barry, What It Is (Drawn & Quarterly)
Modan, Jamilti (Drawn & Quarterly)
Lutes, Berlin v.16 (Drawn & Quarterly)
Ware, Acme v.19 (Drawn & Quarterly)
Tomine, Shortcomings (Drawn & Quarterly)
Huizenga, Or Else v.5 (Drawn & Quarterly)
Briggs, Gentleman Jim (Drawn & Quarterly)
Doucet, 365 Days (Drawn & Quarterly)
various, DQ Showcase 5 (Drawn & Quarterly)
Amano, Aqua 2 (Tokyopop)
Asano, Solanin (Viz)
Tezuka, Dororo 1 (Vertical)
Drake, Heart of Juliet Jones v.1 (Classic Comics Press)
Caniff, Terry and the Pirates v.2 (IDW)
Larcenet, Ordinary Victories v.2 (NBM) (I reviewed the french album that makes up the first half of this translation)
Trondheim, Little Nothings v.1 (NBM) and ongoing online (in French)
Tanaka, Metronome (NBM)
Giardino, No Pasaran v.3 (NBM)
Trondheim and Appollo, Bourbon Island 1730 (First Second)
Campbell, Monsieur Leotard (First Second)
Brubaker, Reich v.3-5 (Sparkplug)
English et al, Windy Corner 2 (Sparkplug)
Alixopoulos, Hot Breath of War (Sparkplug)
Huizenga, Ganges v.2 (Fantagraphics)
various, Mome v.10-12 (Fantagraphics)
Schulz, Complete Peanuts 67-68 (Fantagraphics)
Drechsler, Daddy’s Girl (Fantagraphics)
Hernandez Bros. Love and Rockets: New Stories v.1 (Fantagraphics)
Peeters, Blue Pills (Houghton Mifflin)
Gravett ed., Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics (Running Press)
Actus Tragidus, How to Love (Top Shelf)
Simmonds, Tamara Drewe (Pantheon)
Larson, Chiggers (Atheneum)
Stevens, Whatever (Alternative)
Williamson, At a Crossroads (Princeton Architectural)
East, Trains are Mint (Blank Slate) and v.5 (self-published)
Porcellino, King Cat v.69 (self-published)
Sim, Glamourpuss 1-4 (Aardvark-Vanaheim)
Sim, Judenhaas (Aardvark-Vanaheim)

Some of the comics in this list might have been bumped up if I had gotten to rereading them.

New Year’s Resolution for this Blog:

1. Try to be more consistent with posts.
2. Reread more comics. Write more about comics that aren’t new. (In particular, series of comics/books that are now complete.)
3. Write more long posts that aren’t just reviews of single works, like my post on first person point-of-view in comics.
4. Improve my writing style.

Happy new year everybody!