12.04.2007

Top 10 of 2007 - Graphic Novels

Superspy (Top Shelf): Featured here at 13 Minutes as one of our Graphic Novels Of The Month recently, Matt Kindt’s latest offering is his finest work to date, amid a stable of already unique and impressive work. If you have even a passing interest in espionage, romance, World War II era adventure, or Kindt’s sketchy, but crisp artistic style, you need to buy this book or risk missing out on one of the most well designed, intricate, and enjoyable works in recent memory. He’s also just a genuinely nice guy who did a cool sketch in my hardcover edition of this book for free. I couldn’t believe that people weren’t swarming him at the SDCC, I just walked right up and started chatting him up. For me, when I looked at the list of contenders this year for Top 10, this was easily the best of the bunch. This is my favorite GN from 2007.

Pulp Hope (AdHouse): Simply put, this is a dream come true for any Paul Pope fan. It’s a coffee-table-style art book which presents a deeply satisfying historical perspective along with a blend of essays, interviews, bibliography, pin-ups, and posters that have comprised Pope’s non-traditional career to date. If they keep this up, AdHouse will be cornering the little niche market of comic related art books. One need only point to the gorgeous James Jean book that came out at the same time to see a developing trend take hold.

Gipi’s Work (First Second): Ok, so I’m cheating a little and you’re getting a two-fer. You win! I’m selecting Notes For A War Story and Garage Band. True, these have been previously published in Europe, but the First Second editions are new to both the US market and to me personally. The way Gipi is able to use (water) color to so effectively convey a mood or scene is second to none. What I value the most about his work is how it seems to linger with you long after you think you’re done. Flashes of images or certain panels stay with me, my subconscious mind still trying to work them out, forcing me to want to re-read, dissect, and understand them on a deeper level, as the layers of meaning slowly sink into my perception. Gipi has that rare ability to take what would otherwise be ordinary scenes of day to day life and, through well mannered pacing and dialogue choices, imbue them with thematic meaning or poignancy that transcends a simple story of war or teenage friendship and becomes universal to the human experience.

The Blot (I Will Destroy You): Tom Neely put forth into the world something really special with The Blot. It begins with an air of whimsy, grows in intensity as it struggles through man’s inherent existential dilemma, touches upon love and loss and insecurity, with an end note of hope that makes you want to experience it all over again. Neely’s style is admittedly influenced by early Disney and Floyd Gottfredson work (the white gloves are certainly a fun, if slightly disturbing homage to that mouse from California). His clean lines are superficially simple, yet so effective in portraying a wide spectrum of emotion. I was so impressed with this work and loved it so much, that it could not stay contained. I had to let if free into the world to breathe. In an effort to expose it to more people, I gave it to a coworker who is also an artist (Hi Alex!). I love it so much (and this is one of the only times I’m going to do this) that I think you should go buy it: http://www.iwilldestroyyou.com/

Sentences: The Life of M.F. Grimm (DC/Vertigo): There is a plethora of gangster shit out there; movies and music seem to be dominated by consumer infatuation with this genre. But, there is nothing like the real story, straight from the man himself. What we get here is a retrospective discourse on the rise and fall of a real life legend, from his upstart fame and brushes with intense violence, to his ultimate journey down a different path. The art rivals Eduardo Risso, with its masterful use of negative space, shadow, and simplified figure design. This was an overlooked gem, the best autobiographical/true crime book that I’ve read in a really long time, and made it a point to recommend to others.

Finder: Sin-Eater: Book 1 (Light Speed Press): Carla Speed McNeil’s venerable work is one that I originally dismissed. Honestly, I think Finder can read horribly disjointed in single issues, and am so glad I gave it a second chance, being enticed by this beautifully formatted hardcover. Book 1 collects tons of issues and some of the most brilliant annotations around, which are interesting and allow a deeper appreciation of the work, not just the self-indulgent or bogged-down-in-process annotations that some lesser works can offer. Finder is a complicated story about love and betrayal and war and the future. It’s mystical, but grounded, and defies easy categorization or description. It’s about people on journeys of discovery that often lead them to places they least expect. I want more editions formatted like this so that I can explore the entire series!

Aya (Drawn & Quarterly): The beauty of Aya is that it presents a modern day Ivory Coast that’s realistic. And of course, I’d be partial to any book that includes authentic African recipes, including ginger beer. This is a seldom seen slice of life in a relatively progressive part of Africa that is urbanized and full of the familiar trappings of difficulty with parents and teenagers fabricating drama for themselves. This is not the stereotypical desert setting, shantytowns racked by AIDS, devastation brought on by famine, and scenes of tribal warfare that the Western media is so fixated upon. Those things are present, sure, but are not the story. They’re perceptible in the background, but here it’s the people, their relationships and value system that take center stage and accurately display a different culture.

Northwest Passage (Oni Press): I didn’t think I would like this book; I carried some mysterious negative bias going into it, but found it really enjoyable. Scott Chantler gives us a superb balance of historical reference and fictional sensibility that had me absolutely riveted. The annotations are also wonderful, providing depth to a well-researched, adventurous romp that has all the drama, intrigue, and hooks of your favorite TV show. It keeps you coming back for more, intently following the characters and wild plot lines to see all of the various arcs progress.

The Professor’s Daughter (First Second): Joann Sfar has yet to produce a work that could top his own The Rabbi’s Cat, but this was solid fun. The Professor’s Daughter is a whimsical story about the afterlife and undying love. The real treat here is Guibert's watercolors, which lend an airy, light, almost dreamlike feel to this light-hearted tale.

The Art of Matt Wagner’s Grendel (Dark Horse): The latest in a series of Dark Horse “art of” books provides an impressive array of back matter. There’s a nice variety of Grendels and their creators here, not just Wagner’s Hunter Rose version. What I found as the real treat was much of the art deco motif that seems to run throughout the designs.

4 Comments:

At 10:28 AM, Blogger Matt Kindt said...

Thanks for the list! It's amazing how many of your top 10 would be on my list (if I made one) -- the Professor's Daughter -- I really loved that book...

 
At 8:09 PM, Blogger Justin said...

Hi Matt,

My pleasure, I was so impressed with your book! And isn't Joann Sfar's work amazing? The Rabbi's Cat is still my favorite.

PS - If you ever get the urge/time to do up your own Top 10 list, I've LOVE to post it here!

Thanks for stopping by,

Justin

 
At 6:46 PM, Blogger Matt Kindt said...

Thanks! I should work on a top 10 -- lord knows I bought and read enough stuff this year -- the challenge will be going through it all. But I will -- thanks for the idea. I added Gipi's books to my amazon wish list so we'll see what Santa brings. Someone else mentioned that I'd like those books a while ago and I just forgot until I saw them on your list!

 
At 9:29 AM, Blogger Justin said...

Hey Matt,

That's good to hear you asked for Gipi's books. I really appreciate them; they're so different in approach than American comics. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Are you working on anything new?

Best,

Justin

 

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