Sequential State – the comics criticism archive of Alex Hoffman

Comics That Challenged Me In 2016: Part 2

We kicked off the first of my “Comics That Challenged Me in 2016” with a bang, and now I’m back with the next five comics on the list. I always like to hear what people think about my perceptions of the comics I list here, so please feel free to contact me through tumblr, twitter, or via email. Case in point, I had a quick interaction with Beatrix Urkowitz about She’s Done It All that I hope we will continue to flesh out. I’m always excited to see the ways creators think about their work and how their thoughts diverge from my reading.

 Now, onto the list.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Complete List


Libby’s Dad – Eleanor Davis @beouija, Retrofit Comics @retrofitcomics

Eleanor Davis’ comics work over the past two years has been nothing short of phenomenal. Libby’s Dad, a new piece from Retrofit, is remarkable for its use of color and shape, but more importantly for the way Davis pushes tween girls into an adult situation between a pair of divorced parents. Libby’s friends, who come to visit her at her dad’s new place, have heard rumors and maybe made some up, and those rumors are put to the test.
What I think is especially important is the way that Davis evolves the
narrative; there are at least five lines of perception, Libby’s friends, Libby’s
friend’s parents, Libby, and each of Libby’s parents. Davis works with these
perceptions in fascinating ways and creates a very human story out of them.


Weakly XL Annual – Various, Weakly Gang @weaklycomics

More an explosion of comics art than a traditional anthology, the Weakly XL Annual was a tornado of a book that redefined for me what a comics anthology could be or look like. I talked more about it’s wildness in this review, but it was clearly one of the most inventive comics anthologies in a year of strong comics anthologies.


Breaking is Opening – Sab Maynert, @sabmeynert, self-published

A great introduction to the work of Maynert, whose latest Sprawling Heart will come out soon with the 2dcloud Fall Collection. I found Breaking is Opening fascinating, and a little daunting as a critic.It’s a comic that is cacophonous and still keeps a clarity of vision. There are aspects of the comic I didn’t pick up on in my review, like the juxtaposition of digitally rendered texts on beautifully intricate hand drawings. Who knows what else I missed. Breaking is Opening reminded me what comics poetry can be, and challenged my ability to understand. 



A Girl on the Shore – Inio Asano, Vertical Comics @vertical-inc

Inio Asano’s comics routinely deal with emotionally damaged young people, but A Girl on the Shore is both unique in how explicit it is, and for how Asano uses relationships, physical and otherwise, to show how that damage compounds. The writing in this comic can be frank and cruel. But it is how Asano works with these characters, his understanding of the ticks of human interaction, plus a strong translation, that keep A Girl on the Shore grounded where it could have been unhinged and ugly in a different sort of way. This wasn’t a pleasant read, but it is certainly some of Asano’s strongest cartooning to date. A Girl on the Shore was a reminder of how well characters can be written and how much damage we can deal one another.


In the Sounds and Seas – Marnie Galloway @monkeyropepress, One
Peace Books @onepeacebooks-blog

Another comic I reviewed this year, and a comic that overwhelms the reader with dense symbolism. I find it somewhat remarkable to not see Galloway’s book on more end of the year lists. It’s focus on creation and the loss of a creative community or family, it’s Homerian themes, all seemed to work remarkably well together.

It doesn’t hurt that Galloway’s dense, inky cartooning is intricate and stunning. I could have asked for a stronger ending, but I think this collection challenged my ability to see the past in present work. 

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