We are nearing the end of another year and it’s time once again for some sort of list of the best work out there in comics and graphic novels. I truly find these lists useful. I know that various things often don’t fit neatly into annual recaps and such. Works are generally years in the making, often coming out in different editions, spilling over into more than one year of promotion. That said, lists are a way to pin things down and are fun to go back to and compare what you thought then with what you think now. I gather some choice titles. Sometimes a Top Ten will suffice. January is a good month to take stock and jump back into last year’s pile (so many titles are latecomers). It works this way: November through February bleeds through a mad rush of marketing into a slower season for contemplation and planning for the new year, a good time for reviewers to pull out a few more titles that were hot during the last year. Here is a Top Twenty-Five list of comics that made it onto my radar during 2022.
Tag Archives: Media
Best Comics and Graphic Novels of 2022
Filed under Best of the Year, Comics, Comics Reviews, Graphic Novel Reviews
Pretending is Lying graphic novel review
Pretending is Lying. Dominique Goblet. translated by Sophie Yanow. New York Review Comics. 2022 paperback edition. 144 pp. $24.95
I follow this book from end to end, with all its shifts in style and experimentation, and the ambiguous title makes more sense to me, maybe even more than the author had intended to express. Truth slips out in unexpected ways. At first, leafing through the pages, I spot the titular scene: a ghostly figure right out of Edvard Munch’s The Scream is yelling (or screming!), “Pretending is Lying!” The scene is as haunting as it could be but what does it mean – or is the meaning meant to be elusive?
Filed under Graphic Novel Reviews
LEFTY by Desmond Reed comics review
This is a comic that is most unusual and noteworthy. It provides food for thought on the theme of overcoming obstacles. Cartoonist Desmond Reed was thrown a curve ball earlier this year when an accident kept him from using his drawing hand. Reed found a positive outcome to this by resorting to using his left hand for his next comics project. Lefty is an experiment that ended up opening up the creative process in very interesting ways.
Mini-comics are already creative experimental labs to begin with. So, yeah, using your left hand to draw with when you’re right-handed sounds like a classic way to get out of your comfort zone. As you can see, Reed made the most of it.
Untethered by the familiar can provide the freedom to be more organic and open to new ideas. For Reed, it set him on course to explore family issues as well as focus on himself and his own issues.
Ultimately, this exercise with the unfamiliar led Reed down a serious soul-searching path. Fortunately for Reed, his drawing hand was only temporarily impaired so now he’s back to his regular drawing routine, although that much wiser. So, now you can take advantage of his journey, without suffering any accident, and learn from his progress.
Not only that, you can check out an assortment of other work, as well as the upcoming full-length graphic novel, The Cola Pop Creemees (April, 2023), at Bird Cage Bottom Books.
Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews
ENDSWELL #4 by Peter Morey comics review
Endswell. Peter Morey. 2022. PeterMorey.com
Alright then, a comic that begins with a chimera popping into existence. And all the character can think is to conjure up another one? Nice and weird. I love it! Welcome to another installment of Endswell. The last time we picked this series up I did a recap of the first three issues. Number 4 is an all-out cavalcade of wonderful nonsense. Let’s take a closer look.
Endswell is a comic that I find goes well if you don’t worry about how it ends. You just enjoy it in the moment as anything can and will happen and, before long, it’s done and all ends well! It’s a whimsical journey we’re on and I’m okay with that. I think one can learn a lot from its decidedly irreverent approach, whether or not you’re an aspiring cartoonist yourself.
Now, there is indeed a story going on here about a family estate involving a farm with assorted intrigue attached to it. And each issue follows a series of vignettes from various moments of family history from a different member of the family. In this issue, we’re looking back at a version of the author as a lad.
I am going out on a limb perhaps but I think what Morey is doing is a kind of pure comics where a reader can step in at any point, on any page, and have a bit of fun, without concern over the plot. I don’t think all comics are capable of that, not even all comic strips. Comics should lend itself to this, for sure, and it does. I’m just impressed whenever I see a fine example of crisp and clean work like this playfully working with the medium. As for the actual narrative, of course, follow along closely and you’re rewarded with a surreal family drama.
Hang on and dig deeper, and you realize that Morey has indeed created what I’m calling a “pure comics environment” where it seems anything can and will happen. I mean, to complete my point, where else but in such a loopy and fertile space can you give rise to philosophical pondering over the quality of life? Bravo, Mr. Morey on some compelling comics!
You can keep up with Peter Morey right here.
Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, European Comics
QUEEN OF SNAILS by Maureen Burdock graphic novel review
Queen of Snails: A Graphic Memoir. Maureen Burdock. Graphic Mundi. 2022. pp 228. $25.95
Maureen Burdock has a delightful way of casting a spell upon the reader. It’s a slow and gradual process, much like coming from a snail’s point of view inasmuch as it is a refreshing way to see. What better way, really, to examine a life, especially when trying to connect all the dots and many of the dots seem out of reach or are missing. Our guide knows this much: mother/daughter relationships are complicated as it is and, in Burdock’s case, she can trace a hard case of melancholia going back generations: mother and daughter at odds; or separated; or in pain. All of this, mind you, is being drawn, slowly or quickly (we tend to draw faster than we think) and the results bring the reader in. Each page simply left me wanting to know more and more.
To have your own mother seemingly working against you. The ultimate betrayal? Well, it doesn’t cut much deeper than that. Burdock tosses and turns trying to figure out her mom because it sure didn’t feel like she was exactly looking out for her. It’s clear that she was distant and that she focused so much of her energy on her fervent devotion to worshiping Jesus. Ah, can you worship Jesus to excess? Was it worship or was it a mania that told Burdock’s mother that nothing else mattered since Jesus would provide? Of course, Burdock seeks answers in a gentle and steady way much like the metaphor of a snail she employs throughout the book. Burdock’s exploration reveals that her mother’s life was far from easy as she experienced her own series of trauma and displacement connected with growing up during World War II and its aftermath.
When one’s life is made so unstable by your parents (Burdock’s father wasn’t much help either) then you go into survivor mode and cultivate a sense of independence pretty young in life. Much of this book is about Burdock finding her way, on her own. During the course of the book, Burdock documents her childhood in Germany and subsequent move with her mother to the United States, to a small town in Wisconsin, only later to return to Germany. It was hardly a match made in heaven. Burdock struggles to fit in and never quite does fit in. Her mother remains as depressed and fervently religious as ever. Burdock provides a very honest and uninhibited portrayal of her coming of age, sexual awakening, and being molested by someone close to her family, which brings to mind the autobiographical work of cartoonist Phoebe Gloeckner.
There’s a moment in the book that seems to sum things up, says so much about inter-generational pain and sheds light on Burdock’s search to know her mother. Burdock cites a UNESCO report that estimated 8 million children were homeless after WWII, many alone and wandering the streets. These “lost children” stood in the cultural imagination for “the obliteration of European civilization, lawlessness and confusion, and unrestricted sexuality.” Burdock quotes writer Alice Bailey: “Those peculiar and wild children of Europe and China to whom the name ‘wolf children’ has been given . . . have known no parental authority; they run in packs like wolves.” In this same two-page sequence, Burdock concludes that her mother has perhaps confused Jesus with Somnus, the Roman god of sleep, and the protection that comes from just closing your eyes. Thankfully, it is Burdock who has chosen to not only keep her eyes open and remain alert but to also report back her findings in this landmark work.
Filed under Autobio Comics, Autobiography, Comics, Comics Reviews, Graphic Novel Reviews
¡Brigadistas!: An American Anti-Fascist in the Spanish Civil War
¡Brigadistas! Monthly Review Press. by Miguel Ferguson Edited by Fraser M. Ottanelli and Paul Buhle. Art by Anne Timmons. 120 pp. 2022. $18
The Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939) may bring to mind Ernest Hemingway and his 1940 novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls. This is a war that pitted a new leftist government elected in 1936 against Fascist and extreme-right forces. Freedom was on the line, a harbinger of what lay ahead in Europe. Outside of Hemingway, this graphic novel provides a stirring recount of events sure to stay with the reader. It features the true story of Abe Osheroff, a lifelong activist, along with two of his friends, who joined the fight.
The look and feel of the book evokes wholesome family movies from the 1930s, spiked with a decidedly leftist view; or vintage comic books imbued with an earnest propaganda. I think that is a great way to go to get readers into the mindset of that era and especially the players in this drama. The first few pages steadily set the tone. Page One depicts Woody Guthrie singing an activist ballad. This is followed by a few pages with Abe and a couple of his friends helping a neighbor lady who hasn’t paid her rent. They move her belongings back into her apartment after her landlord threw them out. This leads to a scuffle with a brutal local police officer. Followed by Abe falling in love with Caroline, a local activist. In no time, these lads will be fighting Franco in Spain.
The immersive quality of this graphic novel is, as I suggest, due to a compelling narrative (the fictionalized true story) putting to use many of the tricks of the trade employed by the war comics and romance comics of yesteryear. All in all, this method proves to be an excellent educational device. The reader isn’t expected to look for too much in the way of subtext to distract from the prime account. There are some artful flourishes to be found in dialogue, the flow of the narrative, and the overall clever use of the vintage comics format. And there are certainly moments within the comic that feel as lively and relevant as anything today. Lastly, I must point out that the art is dazzling. Timmons isn’t just reworking old comics but she’s channeling them and making them her own. Any student of history will find much to be engaged with. This graphic novel proves to be an excellent portal into a bygone era and makes the case that history is always sitting on a shelf awaiting to be rediscovered.
Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Graphic Novel Reviews
THE LEGEND OF PINKY (1 of 6) comics review
Filed under Comics, Comics Reviews, Crime Fiction, Graphic Novel Reviews, New York City
Director Interview: Animated Short THE CLEARING
Filed under animation, Interviews
Anna Haifisch Interview: Comix and the Art World
Filed under Comics, Comix, Interviews, Museums