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The Best American Comics Hardcover – 7 Oct 2014

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 381 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (7 Oct. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0544106008
  • ISBN-13: 978-0544106000
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 3.7 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 618,260 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
I look forward to the publication of this anthology every year. 2014's selection includes work from well known comics writers and artists such as Chris Ware and R. Crumb and also strips and excerpts from artists I don't recognise but look forward to learning more about. Edited by comics guru Scott McCloud with instructions to 'read not browse' in the order in which they have been presented.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 31 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Same Stuff Year After Year 5 Nov. 2014
By E. David Swan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I started buying the Best American Comics all the way back with its inauguration in 2006. If you look back to the reviews from that book they are merely decent and so it continued with future. I, like many readers, found it hard to believe these were really the best. I gave up on the series after 2008 but managed to get three more through other means. One of my issues with the series is how it seems like the same old same old each time. First we start with Jamie Hernandez (of course) and two comics later we have R. Crumb (naturally) and Adrian Tomine and Chris Ware. It’s not that I have anything against these fine artists it just seems like the same group every year.

I read all the stories in this book and then later went back to refresh my memory as I prepared my review and quite frankly I couldn’t remember a lot of the stories. Many of them made so little impact on me that less than a few days later they were already slipping from my memory. One story that did stay with me was Tom Hart’s story “RL”. I also thought Sam Sharpe’s “Mom” was strangely intriguing and I wouldn’t mind reading more of those two.

What readers get with these collections are excerpts. I somewhat get the feeling these are in a sense advertisements for other books. There have been times in the past when I was interested enough to actually shell out money to read more but it’s been awhile and there was nothing here that caught my attention enough to actually pay money. I want to love the works of the independent artists but I would be lying if I said I was loving these collections. If you’re new to the Best American Comics series you may get into it but as someone who’s read a half dozen or more I confess I want to like them a lot more than I actually do like them.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
a mixed bag 30 Oct. 2014
By Thomas M. Sipos - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In compiling samples from among "the best" of American comics in 2014, editor Scott McCloud sought to represent the medium's diversity. As a result, his book draws material from both commercial publishing houses and self-publishers. The artistic styles are -- well, I hate the overuse of the word, but yes -- the artistic styles are, once again, diverse. Traditional square panels and comics that are visually free-form, as in rough sketches or surreal collages. Dialog in and outside of balloons, and some comics without any dialog.

McCloud relates how some comic artists take great care in choosing the shape of their books, the texture of their paper. He laments that his book doesn't recreate such aesthetic details, and adds that some of the reprinted excerpts in this book are only pale approximations of the original comic's true glory.

While some of the comics in this book tell full stories, from start to finish, others are but brief excerpts from full-length graphic novels. In that sense, this book is a way to sample a variety of graphic novels and comic collections, then buying the full-length versions of the ones you like.

The subject matter is also diverse. Autobiographical ruminations, gangster fiction, historical profiles, low-brow smut, political satire, gentle humor, and surreal bizarro.

McCloud obviously thinks that every entry is worthy in some way, but because of the book's variety, I doubt that anyone will love every entry. Tastes vary. Some of these entries moved me. Some made me smile. Some entries I found distasteful. Some appeared to be childish scribblings without any insight or artistic merit. Some I just plain did not get.

Among those I found to be more worthy:

* Gilbert Hernandez, Raina Telgemeier, Richard Thompson, Sam Alden, and the team of Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault all focus on the pangs of adolescence, from bullying to first love.

* Tom Hart's self-published comic about the death of his young daughter is one of the most memorable entries in this book.

* Sam Sharpe tackles the difficult issue of parental mental illness through sentient animals. A son and mother, who happen to be dogs, discuss their issues over a cup of coffee, the shop filled with a variety of animals working on laptops or waiting on line. I suppose the use of animal characters are an emotional distancing technique, much as in the the classic Maus.

* Mark Siegel's sketches of a 19th century riverboat in a rainstorm lends his tale with some nicely brooding atmosphere, reflecting the loneliness of a sailor who finds a mermaid

* I'm a sucker for profiles of the trivia of office life (e.g., Clockwatchers. Thus I enjoyed Ted May's vignette of office workers discussing minutia while awaiting the start of a meeting that had been canceled, without anyone informing them about the cancellation.

* Allie Brosh's surreal drawings feature a person (who happens to be a fish) who relates the difficulties of explaining his depression to the happy people who surround him. They just don't get it.

Maybe a dozen or so other entries I didn't bother to read all the way through to the end. They either lost my interest, or were actually difficult to read.

Onsmith's dialog balloons are obscured with dark ink -- instead of black letters against a white background, he has black letters against a gray background, reducing the contrast. Ron Rege writes in an unshapely font, and Gerald Jablonski's letters are tiny enough to require a magnifying glass.

I suppose these fonts reflect the idea that a comic's artistry can extend beyond merely the images. Yet I think that any artistic merit is defeated when tricky fonts become difficult to read. I skimmed past all these comics.

Some of the excerpts in this book are too short, giving me no indication of what the tale's about, its themes, or where it's headed. I didn't know what to make of the excerpts by C.F., Lale Westvind, G.W. Duncanson, Aidan Koch, or Erin Curry.

There are many other entries than the ones I listed. Some were okay, some didn't interest me.

Again, this book is a mixed bag. Considering the diversity of subject matter and artistic styles, it's unlikely that anyone would love every entry. This book's best purpose is as an introduction to what's currently out there. Sample these excerpts, than buy the full versions of the artists you like.
17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Oddly Named, Not So Much For What Is In It - But What Is Not 10 Oct. 2014
By S. Rudge - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Calling your book "The Best American Comics 2014" is making a very bold claim. There are quite a few good comics out right now. Unfortunately, the book fails to live up to the grandiose title. There is absolutely no doubt these are mostly good comics from 2014 (really September 2012 to October 2013), but the best? I dunno.

The book is about 350 pages broken into thematic sections which feature 3-6 different comics from different illustrators determined by editor Scott McCloud to be the best of the year. McCloud's greatest contribution to comics came in the mid 90's with the highly influential book Understanding Comics. At the time he was surrounded by some of the most original indy talent the genre ever produced.

Unfortunately for readers in 2014, most of them are still doddering along in this collection. Old standbys Charles Burns, Los Bros Hernandez, Chris Ware and Adrian Tomine join an ensemble of independent comic creators working in the narrowly defined styles of 15-30 years ago. There are new faces but they are doing the same old stuff. R. Crumb makes an obligatory appearance but not only is it not among the Best of 2014, it's not even in the running for the best of mid-level Crumb.

Hardly any of the stories are complete stories. Most are excerpts from larger works. The episodic nature of the selections becomes very annoying after reading just a couple of them. McCloud masterfully makes choices about what part of the story to include but then leaves off just as the reader is getting involved. I find it hard to believe outstanding comics telling complete stories in the allotted number of pages (8-15 pages per story) are not abundant enough to fully support a book like this. An excerpt seems more like a sales pitch.

A near complete lack of any stories routinely available at your Local Comic Shop implies a definite antagonism towards the bread and butter of the art form. Other than an excerpt appearance of Brian Wood & Fiona Staples outstanding "Saga" (which began long before 2014), there are no periodic comics. Over the last year comics like Manifest Destiny, Black Science, Afterlife with Archie, Rachel Rising, Velvet and Lumberjanes, to name a very, very few, have achieved widespread critical acclaim while burning up the racks with sales. It seems their great sin is their success and oddly, especially considering who the editor of this collection is, their format.

Since none of the everyday style of floppy comics with the exception of Saga makes an appearance in this book it represents comics which may have a reach into the comic reading public in the single digits well below 5% (if the sampling at my LCS is to be believed). The other 95+% are reading the real best comics of 2014, actually in 2014! Of course I think my favorites like Derf's My Friend Dahmer and James Stokoe's Godzilla: Half Century War are almost criminal exclusions in this collection considering their near universal praise and worldwide sales.

The book within it's limited editorial vision is still a great read. These are wonderful artists and great comics, but the best of 2014? Not even close.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
NOT "the best American comics," but a quick preview of some independent comics you may want to check out 24 Oct. 2014
By bored99 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Although it's not implied in the title, it's spelled out clearly in the introduction and table of contents: this *isn't* a collection of the best comics the way you'd expect a book of short stories to be. It's a collection of good *excerpts*, analogous to a collection of "the first chapter from each of this year's 20 best novels." So it's a broad overview of the high-quality work that's "out there" from independent comics (read: not Marvel, not DC).

For what it's worth, this collection was pulled together by Scott McCloud, who's the author of "Understanding Comics," which is one of the best books currently written about understanding comic books as a medium.

Four stars instead of five because this isn't really a book you're likely to want to buy and re-read. It's probably something better to flip through at a library, so you can decide what comics you'd like to hunt down to read separately.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Great overview of current work in comics 18 Oct. 2014
By K. Polzin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If you are a fan of comics (or a cartoonist), and you want to get a taste of what's available out here, this is an excellent book for that. But it may not be a great read for the casual comics fan. This is because this edition of Best American Comics contains a large number of excerpts from longer works. They give you a taste of what each of these longer pieces is like, but they aren't always an effective standalone read. As Kirkus review puts it, "the main value of this volume will be to give readers a taste of other books worth discovering."

In addition, the emphasis is on longer works to the exclusion of comic strips and single-panel cartoons (although there are a few strips by one of my favorites, Ben Katchor, as well as Richard Thompson's "Cul de Sac.")

Some highlights for me, in addition to the Katchor pieces, include excerpts from Miriam Katin's "Letting It Go," Tom Hart's "RL," Ted May's "Dimensions," Allie Brosh's "Depression Part Two," and Michael DeForge's "Canadian Royalty."

The editor, Scott McCloud, wrote the great "Understanding Comics," which I also recommend.
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