Ori Fienberg's Reviews > The Best American Comics 2007

The Best American Comics 2007 by Chris Ware
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Jan 06, 2008

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bookshelves: graphicnovelsiecomics
Recommended for: fans of comics
Read in January, 2008

While The Best American Comics of 2006 had an admittedly liberal-bias (not so much a problem for me) the comics ran the gamut from conventional to wildly experimental narrative in a variety of artistic forms, so nebulous that it was difficult to categorize some of them as styles. There was fiction and nonfiction, reportage and memoir, with varying degrees of whimsy and seriousness. While there were some obvious gaps, these were acknowledge and explained by Harvey Pekar in his introduction, and over all it felt as though he really had read through endless stacks of comics and selected the ones he felt were best.

Sadly the same cannot be said for the 2007 edition edited by Chris Ware. While the artistic style does vary somewhat, with few exceptions most of the strips are stultifyingly similar panel based endeavors. More than a few forray into less than exciting biographies of "how I became a writer/comic-stripper" and other meta-navel-gazing. While I do find writing about writing interesting, and appreciate that navel-gazing has produced great art, and this volume does include fine examples of both, it's hard to believe that quite so many could have been "the best" produced last year.

More glaring is the sort of hipster cronyism that pops up in several of the pieces. This is the sort of expression that made the second half of "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" feel to so many people like a self-aggrandizing bore, despite the fact that Dave Eggers is a good writer, and possibly also, a good person.

Many comics reference other comic artists that are included in this edition, and indeed many feel similar to the point of lacking originality. Overall, whereas the 2006 edition felt, whether true or not, as though comics were coming in from across a broad intellectual landscape, the 2007 edition feels more as though the editor pulled together a group of his best friends. And there's little doubt that these are talented friends, but the scope is still seems sadly limited.

I hope future editions will return to the precedent set by the 2006 edition as well as perhaps becoming even more open to other avenues that have been largely ignored by the last two editions including nationally syndicated newspaper strips (is anyone going to argue that "For Better or For Worse," is not deserving of praise every year?), traditional, but innovative hero-based comic books (like "The Last Man"), reinterpretted manga (the adventures of Scott Pilgrim), and self-published web-comics (Get Your War On, or xkcd).
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