Series editor Kartalopoulos taps Tamaki (They Say Blue, 2018, etc.) to help curate the 2019 edition of this annual collection of exceptional graphic storytelling.
In her introduction, Tamaki observes, “It’s not a bad time to make comics, if one absolutely must and is able to do so, and one’s work is marketable enough.” The wry caveat nods to an eternal struggle: The labor-intensive craft of comic creation often means small financial return for creators. Perhaps stating this struggle up front cleared the collection to plunge directly into art itself; though Lauren Weinstein’s “Being an Artist and a Mother” entwines art and money in her struggle to retain her productive-artist self once she gives birth to her first child (“unless you can pay [for child care]…you don’t have access to your hands”), the story is mostly about Weinstein’s connection to a past artist whose painting captivated her as a new mother. Eleanor Davis’ incisive “Hurt or Fuck” contemplates art and human need on an allegorical, visceral level in what could almost be a two-actor stage play. Erik Nebel’s “Why Don’t We Come Together” ingeniously explores the possibilities of a rigid format—repeating but shifting shapes and colors, figures and patterns play across a set of equal-sized panels stacked into a grid, clicking through simple, whimsical stories like a filmstrip of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. Jed McGowan’s “Uninhabitable” explores the forces of change as well, old and new colliding in a science-fiction tale of terraforming, hive minds, action, reaction, and creation. The collection also includes an excerpt from the first graphic novel longlisted for the Booker Prize, Sabrina by Nick Drnaso, and new work by master of graphic journalism Joe Sacco on the topic of climate and economy.
It’s called “best” for a reason.