The third annual anthology in this series is the best yet, with inspired work from a variety of relative unknowns mixed with that from artists who enjoy great renown in this burgeoning field.
As series editors Jessica Abel and Matt Madden write in their preface, “Anthologies are the place where young cartoonists get a break, where they can hope to be published alongside the likes of Chris Ware and Matt Groening, and to be noticed by the likes of Lynda Barry.” Though many of the best, or at least the most ambitious, graphic narratives in recent years are larger in scope, the editors opt here for shorter, self-contained pieces, of the type pioneered by Barry in her Ernie Pook’s Comeek, and collected in volumes such as The! Greatest! Of! Marlys! Readers who know Groening only as the creator of The Simpsons will discover a whole new dimension to his work in the “Will and Abe” selections from his Life in Hell strip, while Ware’s “The Thanksgiving Series” of covers for the New Yorker reinforces his emergence from the comix underground into the literary mainstream. Yet the explosion of energy in John Mejias’s “The Teachers Edition,” which chronicles the challenge of teaching art to grade schoolers in the Bronx, shows that mainstream acceptance hasn’t tamed the form’s more radical impulses. In the contributors’ notes, Mejias writes that he “hopes to document my dealings with board of education bureaucracies as I try to make human connections in an inhuman atmosphere.” Other highlights range from the wordless to the word heavy, and from the socially conscious to the dreamlike—the volume as a whole suggests the seemingly limitless variety that the format permits. Perhaps the best testament to the magic of comics is Barry’s illustrated introduction, which she devotes to work that was not included, but which has profoundly affected her.
A treasure trove of discovery for fanatics and initiates alike.