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The Best American Comics 2007 [Hardcover]

Chris Ware , Anne Elizabeth Moore

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Book Description

1 Dec 2007 Best American Comics
This cutting-edge collection is just right for fans as well as those who are new to the hobby of comics. Contributors include Lynda Barry, R. and Aline Crumb, Kim Deitch, Gilbert Hernandez, Seth, and Art Spiegelman. Older teens.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.4 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid collection, but format is wearing thin... 5 Nov 2007
By dave-o - Published on
A solid collection that is organized very well. The anthology has works ranging from the autobiographical (which in his introduction, Chris Ware notes is a staple of these kinds of collections) to the fantastic to the esoteric. Each piece is graphically beautiful in its own way, sort of like different dialects of the same language. Introspection and inner dialogues are the chief modes of communication in these stories, which if you think about it is pretty logical for the comics medium.

Favorites of mine include: C. Tyler's sad reflections on raising her daughter in the eighties when she says "your time was completely mine", Anders Nilsen's minimalist forest fantasy in which birds comment to each other on the actions of a human wanderer, Gilbert Hernandez's sordid tale of sexy people, Ben Katchor's telling of the metaphysical prowess of shoehorns, Ron Rege Jr.'s love rectangle as only he can tell it, and C.F.'s insane story of a boy who morphs into beams of color after being pursued.

While each of the works is impressive some of the artists are guilty of being too repetitive, of not leaving their comfort zones. There's also something thematically distinct in each of the stories that make them "American" comics. I mean, there's a war going on and there's not a single comic addressing that fact. Tales of human suffering, tragedy and sacrifice are instead tales of personal shortcomings, quiet reflections on the human condition, or nostalgia for times past. Which is fine (art doesn't have to address war or any of that), just noteworthy to me for some reason. Personally, I would like to see more storytelling risks and more fiction rather than biographical uniformity. This goes for comics in general, not only the ones presented here
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Appropriate title 3 Sep 2008
By Steven E. Higgins - Published on
When you buy a book with a title like The Best American Comics 2007, you're obviously going to go into it with a certain preconceived notion of the book's quality. In fact, you might even set your expectations for the stories contained within its pages so high that you set yourself up to be let down. I feel that this scenario might have indeed been the case with a few of the critics whose personal biases led them to pan the book, but in my estimation it does not disappoint.

Some have quibbled with this book for something as simple as its title, claiming it is somewhat of a misnomer. That the contents of the book are quite excellent is not a matter of debate, but these stories being designated "the best" has gotten under some people's skin when in their mind other, more outstanding works were left out.

I admit there were one or two selections that left me scratching my head as to why they were given a place in this collection. For my tastes, the more esoteric works like those of C.F. or Paper Rad left me feeling cold; they seemed to be sketchily drawn and nonsensical simply for the sake of being "out there," that the emperor had no clothes. But that choice of word, "taste," was very apt, for by its very nature, an anthology such as this one cannot please everyone. It cannot include every great story of the past year (which is why the publishers include a list in the back of the book of 100 Distinguished Comics not included in the anthology), and not every story is going to be one you will personally enjoy.

But that simple fact does not mean that the things you don't like don't deserve to be included. Surely such a compilation as this one is designed to create controversy, to spark debate about what the best of the best should be, and I have no doubt that a desire to invite discussion was factored into the decision to place certain stories on this list. In the end, I think any one of us would be hard-pressed to find better comics released in the past year that fit all the criteria for inclusion, such as length, geographical location of the creators, or the time period in which it was published.

The logistics of creating a "best of" anthology also factor into another criticism: an overabundance of stories in the vein of autobiography. Admittedly, as a fan of that genre, the prevalence of that type of story did not affect me, and I still felt it had enough variety, with stories of real life being told with humor, as philosophical exercises, or with a historical bent. But I also wondered if that genre-specificity might not just be reflecting a trend in the industry at present. If that's the case, you cannot fault a yearly anthology for echoing the year in which it was released.

Additionally, the perceived genre bias of this book might be an issue of publication rights. Autobiographical stories tend to be creator-owned, and thus the people that created the stories gladly submit their work for inclusion in such an anthology as this one and are grateful to be included. Many of the noteworthy stories in other genres such as science fiction, fantasy, or superhero are published by the most mainstream of publishers and are thus most likely off-limits, since corporations hold the rights to them.

A final criticism I've read is that the book is filled with the usual suspects, that most of the creators featured in the book are the same artists we saw in last year's anthology. It's true that many of the names in the table of contents might be familiar, names like Adrian Tomine, Alison Bechdel, Seth, and Art Spiegelman. But does the presence of these creators really illustrate a problem that the same artists are too often the recipients of what little critical and media recognition comics get? I don't think so. The simpler answer would be that these artists clearly deserve to be highly regarded, since they repeatedly create works that are noteworthy.

That notion brings me to my only actual problem with the book, that because of my familiarity of some of the artists, I had read many of the pieces before. Having come across approximately a third of the book in other forms already, it failed to have the same impact on me that it might have had to a reader coming in with fresh eyes. Despite some familiar contents, there were still stories in the book that I hadn't read which I enjoyed, such as the pieces by local St. Louis artists that were included, Dan Zettwoch's historical "Won't Be Licked" and Kevin Huizenga's philosophical "Glenn in Bed."

Yes, many of the inclusions in the book do come from the same sources. Eight of the 39 pieces came out of the Fantagraphics anthology Mome, and another five came from Buenaventure Press' Kramer's Ergot. If you're already a reader of those anthologies, you might come up a bit disappointed, but they are still quality pieces deserving of a place in this book. Jonathan Bennett's "Needles and Pins" was a story I had already read in Mome, but I was happy to read it again here. Even if you read a large variety of indie books, there's sure to be something to surprise and delight you.

At the very least, a long-time fan of indies could read and enjoy the introduction by this year's guest editor Chris Ware (Acme Novelty Library), which contains musings on the artform and a discussion of the difficult tasks involved in putting together an anthology (including some points which address the critiques I've outlined here). Also, the authors' notes provide us with insight into what was going through each of the artists' heads during the creative process.

In the end, whether you come to this book with firmly established firsthand knowledge of the works included therein or you're completely a blank slate, you will find your purchase of The Best American Comics 2007 to be money well spent. If nothing else, it'll be an excellent addition to your bookshelf: you'll have all these great stories in one volume that is easy to loan out to friends to prove that there are quality comics out there.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Better than 2006 4 Dec 2007
By E. David Swan - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Two things caught my attention scanning through the Best American Comics of 2007. The first was that it was edited by the multitalented Chris Ware and the second was a story by Gilbert Hernandez about a gigantically breasted woman. The later will get my attention every time. I found the 2006 Best Comics to be a big disappointment and I considered the possibility that perhaps one year just wasn't enough time to come up with 300+ pages of alternative comics. However, I put my faith in Mr. Ware (who also edited the fantastic `McSweeney's Issue 13') and bought the 2007 book with hopes of major improvements.

The cool thing about these anthologies is that it's like eating at a buffet. You can sample all sorts of different items and if you don't like something move onto the next. If you really enjoy a particular artist you might just pick up other things they've produced. The overall quality in the 2007 edition is higher than last year but I have to confess that nothing in this book jumped out at me and I only discovered a couple of artists I might look into further. In the opening section Chris Ware mentions one of the criticisms of these kinds of comics, that the artists tend to engage in a lot of naval gazing. Well, recognizing the problem doesn't make it go away and there is an unfortunate amount of depressing self introspection about how sad and lonely the artists lives are. I also have to say that this collection features some of the most primitive art I've yet to see in any of these anthologies with some looking like they were scratched out during lunch period at junior high. What this collection didn't have was any stories that I was wishing would just end which sets it apart from the 2006 collection.

I would like to give special mentions to Jonathan Bennett and Kevin Huizenga who I felt had the best art in the book. David Heatley's short pieces may be the most memorable as he puts ink to actual dreams he's had. I'll give the award for most interesting story to Kim Deitch for `No Midgets in Midgetville'. I would put this collection somewhere in the middle of alternative comic anthologies. It's not as good as `An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories' but much better than BAC 2006.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Editorially solid, graphically beautiful 23 Oct 2008
By Brent Sleeper - Published on
First off, this is a beautifully designed book. The paper stock is heavy and bright. The dust-jacket and endpapers are themselves pieces of graphic art. Several of the included works are printed in full color. This deluxe treatment screams "comics are serious art."

And, for the most part, the quality of the stories bears out that premise. An outpost of the "Best American" brand, it's a survey of contemporary comic writing, with a handful of novelistic, introspective pieces; stand-by representatives of the alt-weekly aesthetic; and a couple truly out there pieces that I had a hard time grokking.

The collection includes a few stars (Alison Bechdel, I'm looking at you), only a couple duds, and the rest are fine -- I'm grading on a curve, but the average feels pretty high. No representatives of old-fashioned genre comics, though, and Brian Wood's "DMZ" is glaringly absent. I presume anything published by the corporate gorillas at DC and Marvel were off-limits for reprint rights reasons, if not also editorial ones.

Editor Chris Ware reprises his role from McSweeney's #13, confirming that highly-designed serio-irony is Dave Eggers' world. We just read in it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing 28 July 2011
By Mike - Published on
I didn't know what to expect when i picked this book up at the Borders just a little while ago, and somehow i find it disappointing.

Allow me to clarify:
When people think of comics, what do they think of? Some might think that they're funny, others might think that they're comic books, filled with action. Still others may find that there are romantic comics out there. I was ready and willing to accept any of them. What the book contained were several comics. yes. I found they fell into four different catagories.

1. Autobiographies - Either self told or through another person, stories of someone's life. These are easily the most interesting of the bunch, and contain some real insight into how others live, or lived. Some feel the need to be dark, depressing or pointless, but the majority of the comics in this group are good.

2. Webcomic-like - Lower picture quality than I expected. I understand that the message is what's important, but these didn't have a whole lot of a message either. It's hard to take a comic seriously when it's trying to be dark and serious (about half of the comics were) when the characters are drawn with gigantic circular heads, and ultrasimplified bodies. Seeing a woman in this sort of comic, she will look exactly the same as a man, just with breasts (C - Shaped bumps on a square torso) and longer hair. Again, although I get the message, the quality of the art is webcomicky, making it difficult to get into. Some of these followed no rules of perspective at all. Others were glaringly colored, and it was plainly visible that there was very little effort put into either the story OR the visuals. Period.

3. Soft-Core Porn - That's right. One in particular qualified (Fritz After Dark), but there were quite a few that had a good bit of nudity, and yes, full on sex. I'm not a prude, but I don't need to see people having sex when I open a book that claims to be full of high-quality comics.

4. The rest is difficult to label. Most of them are artsy comics with a slightly deeper message. These I actually enjoyed, and they made up about an eighth of the book. There was time put into drawing them, and writing them didn't happen in an afternoon. I can appreciate the results.

Ultimately, I think I enjoyed a little less than half of the comics in the book. If you're not REALLY into the art of it all, don't bother. Even the ones with a message didn't say anything all that new or interesting. That being said, there are parts of the book that are perfectly enjoyable, and while I didn't like it, people with a taste for deeper meanings may enjoy it a little more. Although I couldn't imagine giving it five stars, considering the almost pornographic entries.

2 / 5
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