Monday, January 25, 2010

More Top Comics

As I mentioned earlier this month, I am trying to catch up on some of the 2009 comics that were on peoples' top 10 lists this year. My main resource in this is the "meta-list" at I Love Rob Liefeld. So here are a few notes on a few from that list (and one from another list) that I read recently. 
The Color of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa. This Korean coming of age story deals entirely with a young girl's coming into knowledge about sex and love. At first it seemed a bit too cutely, but I gradually came to really love Ehwa, her mother, the "picture man", and young monk (Ehwa's age) who is smitten with her. The remote rural setting in the last century (exactly when is not clear) adds a lot. I would not have put this in my top 15 list, but definitely on the honorable mention list. 
The Photographer by Emmanuel Guibert, Dider Lefevre, and Frederic Lemercier. OK, I have no excuse for not reading this when it came out (except that I never saw it at my local comic shop). At first, I found the visual transition from color comic to black and white photo a little hard to process, but my eye quickly got used to it. Extremely powerful. This book would definitely have made my top 15. 
The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book by Joe Daly. I didn't know what to expect when I got this, but what I got was definitely a pleasure. These two picaresque stories of modern-day South African neo-hippies really reminds me of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, without all the drugs. Protagonists Dave and Paul are naive fuck-ups who have basically decent motives. Fun, but not top 15 material. Definitely on the honorable mention list (not least for the extremely enjoyable drawing). 
Miss Don't Touch Me by Hubert and Kerascoat. OK but nothing special. This art team more or less come out of the Sfarr-Trondheim school of mainstream French comics. Basically these artists have injected a certain degree of new life into French mainstream comics, but the problem is that while the art and stroytelling might be fresher, the stories are not necessarily all that memorable. That was my reaction to this story. 
Little Nothings by Lewis Trondheim. On the other hand, when Trondheim does more personal work, the results are magic. I loved this book. Very possibly top 15 material. 
Ball Peen Hammer by Adam Rapp and George O'Connor. Wow, this was terrible. A pointlessly nihilistic post-apocalyptic scenario married to lame art that reminded me of Vertigo at its worst. I can't believe this made the top 100 meta-list, but it did--#85, ahead of both Popeye vol. 4 and Tardi's You Are There. Astonishing. 
Tamara Drewe by Posy Simmonds. Really good--better than Gemma Bovary. Simmonds did a series of strips called the Literary Life in which she poked fun at the businesses of writing, publishing, and bookselling. She seems to have taken the knowledge she acquired doing those strips and applied them liberally to Tamara Drewe, to very goo effect. The book is only marred by an ending that wraps everything up too neatly. But still, it would have made my list for sure.

Now I've read 35 of the top 100, and I'll probably read more. Despite my problems with that meta-list, it does show how good comics are now--the best of the best on that list are easily better than what has ever been available to English language readers in previous decades.


  1. Hi Robert - I'm glad you're putting the meta-list to good use!

  2. Thanks. It's a fascinating list. I won't say it represents a "consensus" because comics critics seem to be in such differing camps that the meta-list becomes somewhat incoherent. Indeed, to create a more consensus list, I might award a comic extra points based on the total percentage of lists it was on. This would mean that a book that wasn't necessarily everyone's #1 book, but which was widely admired and appeared on many lists, would get an extra boost above and beyond the total number of points.

  3. That's a fair point. If you look at some of my meta-lists for previous years, I also put the number of lists that each book showed up on. I've been planning to do that for this one, but it's pretty time-consuming. Plus, I think the top 30 or so books would probably still be the same (although in a slightly different order).