The Best American Comics 2012

edited by Françoise Mouly
ISBN: 9780547691121

I used to read a lot more graphic novels than I do now, so when I came across this year’s anthology, I figured it was past time to see what was up.

It’s a big, fat, colorful hardcover book. The comics inside are sometimes in full color, sometimes in black and white, and there’s a nearly fifty page “for kids” section in the back — an interesting choice, considering that there are definitely not for kids stories in the front of the book. I recognized about half the names, and was a bit surprised I knew that many.

The comics from Charles Burns, Nora Krug, Anders Nilsen, and Joyce Farmer were probably my favorite, along with the not-so-much-comics-but-included contributions from Leanne Shapton and Renée French. I was happy that Mouly used a more expansive definition of comics in compiling this anthology — it helped me get to where I hope anthologies will take me, which is asking myself questions about how to tell stories, and surprised at all the things people come up with.

Not that I liked all the stories; I didn’t. I came away from Chester Brown’s contribution thinking he’s a jerk — not that the story is bad, in fact it’s told well. (Enough else has been written about Paying for It that I don’t feel the need to go on about it, other than to say that in this excerpt, I thought the narrator was unlikeable, and that isn’t how I thought I’d react.)

This Best anthology covers a range of artists and subjects (prostitution, war, relationships, aging parents, video games, the housing market) so there is probably something for everyone; whether there is enough there there to justify the cost, well, that is always the issue with a collection. One of the tipping points for me was the inclusion of author pages, which give more context for the work and the artist. The book lends itself to a big game of “if you like this, then…” as good anthologies should.

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