A worthy launch for what appears destined to become a valuable annual anthology.

READ REVIEW

THE BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2006

The latest addition to the publisher’s venerable “Best American” series not only provides an expansive survey of the contemporary graphic landscape, but serves as an effective introduction to an art long consigned to the cultural underground.

Series editor Anne Elizabeth Moore considers the mainstreaming of American comics—particularly those aimed at adult readers—to be a mixed blessing at best, since the most inspired work proceeds from a radical, subversive impulse that resists housebreaking. Yet the 30 examples chosen here by Pekar (of American Splendor fame), following Moore’s initial screening, show few signs of pulling punches or playing it safe. Highlights range from the 47-page, psychologically disturbing narrative by Justin Hall (“La Rubia Loca”)—in which a woman with multiple personalities disrupts a bus tour of Mexico—to the one-page “Only Disconnect” strip by Alison Bechdel, from her “Dykes to Watch Out For” series, in which a marriage proposal just might be a strategy for avoiding intimacy. Pekar’s selections pay tribute to seminal masters, with current work from Robert Crumb and Gilbert Shelton, along with a cartoonist’s confessional on the creative process, by Lynda Barry. The juxtapositions in David Heatley’s “Portrait of My Dad” blur the line between memory and dream. Chris Ware’s “Comics: A History” compresses centuries of graphic progression into two pages, though longer essays by Moore and Pekar put the contemporary explosion of interest in graphic narrative into context, showing how the form has developed, what resistance it has encountered and why comics matter.

A worthy launch for what appears destined to become a valuable annual anthology.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2006

ISBN: 0-618-71874-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2006

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An original project worth watching as it shapes up to something that may be quite magnificent.

BERLIN

BOOK ONE

This black-and-white historical narrative, written and illustrated by Lutes, collects eight volumes of his ongoing comic book set in Berlin during the late ’20s. It’s a multilayered tale of love and politics at the beginning of the Nazi era, as Lutes follows the stories of three characters: a 20ish art student from the provinces, a textile worker, and a young Jewish radical. Their lives intersect in only the subtlest way—Lutes depicts them crossing paths at some great public events, such as the Mayday march that closes this part of his book. And Lutes plays with perspective in a visual sense as well, jumping from point-of-view frames to overhead angles, including one from a dirigible flying above in honor of the Kaiser. At street level, Lutes integrates his historical research smoothly, and cleverly evokes the sounds and smells of a city alive with public debate and private turmoil. The competing political factions include communists, socialists, democrats, nationalists, and fascists, and all of Lutes’s characters get swept up by events. Marthe, the beautiful art student, settles in with Kurt, the cynical and detached journalist; Gudrun, the factory worker, loses her job, and her nasty husband (to the Nazi party), then joins a communist cooperative with her young daughters; Schwartz, a teenager enamored with the memory of Rosa Luxembourg, balances his incipient politics with his religion at home and his passion for Houdini. The lesser figures seem fully realized as well, from the despotic art instructor to the reluctant street policeman. Cosmopolitan Berlin on the brink of disaster: Lutes captures the time and place with a historian’s precision and a cinematographer’s skill. His shifts from close-ups to fades work perfectly in his thin-line style, a crossbreed of dense-scene European comics and more simple comics styles on this side of the Atlantic.

An original project worth watching as it shapes up to something that may be quite magnificent.

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-896597-29-7

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2001

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Rich, creamy art and playful paneling make for a fun read.

THE GIGANTIC BEARD THAT WAS EVIL

Cartoonist Collins’ debut graphic novel is a long, smooth fable of a man whose unkempt facial hair ravages the tidy city of Here.

Here sits on an island, surrounded by the sea, separated from the far-off land of There. And whereas Here is all row houses and trimmed trees and clean cheeks, There is a dark, disordered place that would mix your insides with your outsides, your befores with your nows with your nexts—unpleasant business brilliantly depicted in panels breaking across a single body as it succumbs to chaos. So the people of Here live quiet, fastidious lives, their backs to the sea, and neighbor Dave delights in doodling it all from his window as he listens to the Bangles’ “Eternal Flame” on repeat. But an irregular report at his inscrutable office job triggers the single hair that has always curved from Dave’s upper lip to be suddenly joined by a burst of follicles. Try as Dave might, his unruly beard won’t stop pouring from his face in a tangled flood—and soon it threatens the very fabric of life in Here. Collins’ illustrations are lush, rounded affairs with voluptuous shading across oblong planes. Expressions pop, from the severe upturn where a sympathetic psychiatrist’s brows meet to the befuddlement of a schoolgirl as the beard’s hypnotic powers take hold. With its archetypical conflict and deliberate dissection of language, the story seems aimed at delivering a moral, but the tale ultimately throws its aesthetics into abstraction rather than didacticism. The result rings a little hollow but goes down smooth.

Rich, creamy art and playful paneling make for a fun read.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-250-05039-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Picador

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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