In its second year, the annual anthology really hits its stride.
Editor Ware (The Acme Novelty Library, 2005, etc.) is one of the most acclaimed artists to emerge from the graphic-narrative boom of the past decade. Here, he and series editor Moore (co-editor of Punk Planet, 2006) have done a brilliant job of not merely surveying the year’s best (an impossible task, admits Ware in the introduction), but showing how they fit together and why they matter. The collection is ordered thematically and opens with strips from R. and Aline Crumb and daughter Sophie providing transgenerational commentary. Though the graphic-narrative field is dominated by males, the first eight offerings are from female artists (discounting Robert Crumb’s collaboration with his wife), including an extended excerpt from Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, which earned acclaim well beyond comic circles as one of the year’s best works of literary nonfiction. Other highlights include an excerpt from Charles Burns’ well-received Black Hole and a promising preview of Adrian Tomine’s first long-form work, Shortcomings. While many of the strips reflect the respect the form has earned from mainstream media, there’s still plenty of work here that pushes the boundaries of format and taste (e.g., Gilbert Hernandez’s commentary on America’s mammary obsession borders on pornography). Extended samplings from the work of Lynda Barry and Gary Panter pay tribute to veterans who were ahead of the comix curve, while selections from emerging artists such as C.F. and Tim Hensley suggest the limitless possibilities. “The younger generation…leaves a creaky, brittle thinker like myself sitting on the edge of the dance floor, earnestly trying to find the beat,” writes Ware.
“In short, I think this is absolutely great.”