Comics That Challenged Me in 2015: Part 1
Last year I decided not to write a 2014 “Best Of” list. I
think that decision was a good one for me. I generally dislike the idea that
any one book can be the consensus pick of any given year when there is so much
art being made. I haven’t read the majority of my purchases from Genghis Con in
late 2015, and there is still a chunk of work from SPX 2015 I haven’t dug into
yet. I didn’t read some of the books I wanted to read this year. I can’t
imagine being able to confidently say “These books are the best books published
in 2015,” especially in a medium as wide and deep as comics. And as I pointed
out last year, “best” implies a finality even if the writer is only discussing
the books they read, not the entire field.
So again in 2015, I’m writing about books that challenged me
as a reader in 2015. Unlike a traditional end of the year list, the only qualifier
to get on this list was that I had to read the book in 2015. Most of the work
on this list was published in 2015.
Since this is a list of comics that challenged me as a
reader, it’s intensely personal. But I suspect that you can’t make a best of
list without it adhering to your own tastes, so I’m exchanging one thing for
Sidenote: I did, under a slight amount of duress, make a top
5 list for the latest episode of Sequential Statement, which will be out on
Friday, but those books were stories that stuck with me, or stories that I kept
coming back to throughout the year. I broke my own rules for the sake of what I
think is a fun conversation with my podcast co-host Nick, and hopefully you’ll
enjoy it. Some of the books on the show will be on this list.
& Clean by Tor Brandt (self-published) tumblr: @pain-pie
Brandt, a cartoonist who lives in Denmark, sent me a copy of this zine earlier
this year and I’ve been thinking about it, wondering how to talk about it,
wondering how to think about it. From an edition of 50, it’s a book about
neglect and personal hang-ups, and changing when it’s too late to change.
& Clean is an interesting zine, but this is one of the instances in 2015 where a review copy sent to me was a significant portion of the total books produced, which felt overwhelming, and still does. This book challenged my perspective on criticism. At some level, I was still
writing reviews for books that I knew had larger print runs, which I could “sell.”
Part of my personal challenge to myself this fall was to abandon that habit leftover from
the time when I wrote exclusively about manga, and start looking at comics more
wrote a full review of Alden’s low-fi pixel comic earlier this year, but I’m
surprised at how strong an impact this book had on me. As a comic with a
seemingly disjointed or nonlinear narrative and multiple layers of abstraction,
putting the pieces together required a lot of me as a reader.
The reward was worth the effort. I’ve enjoyed much of Sam Alden’s work over the last two years and I’m excited to see more soon, whatever form that takes.
#10: Sensitive Property by Michael DeForge (Youth in Decline) tumblr: @youthindecline
Property marks the end of the second full year of Youth in Decline’s monograph
series Frontier, all four issues of which were fantastic in 2015. DeForge’s contribution
at the end of the year felt like the most emotionally revealing of the
four. Sensitive Property’s personal
narrative of a formal radical turned real estate consultant is a truly
affecting book about gentrification and deception, deceiving yourself and deceiving the people you love. This book reminded me of
DeForge’s skill as a writer in another year of tremendous output from one of my favorite cartoonists.
by Vincent Stall (2d cloud) tumblr: @2dcloud
mini was one of the small projects 2d cloud published this year, but I was
wowed by Stall’s ability to tell a very complex story in a very short amount of
time. You can see my full review here.
Marra turned up the volume in this full-length graphic novel from Fantagraphics
this year. Terror Assaulter is a book full of ridiculous violence and
pornographic-looking sex, but satirizes the state of popular entertainment, consumption as a substitute for living,
and corrupt politics in the United States. I’m still trying to figure out
whether or not I liked Terror Assaulter. I “got” the satire, but I’m not sure
that I “enjoyed” it. This is a book I’m going to have to revisit, a great
reminder to myself that sometimes a book needs multiple readings, maybe deserves multiple readings, while you try to formulate your final opinion.
Five down, 25 to go. See you Wednesday.