Comics that Challenged Me in 2016: Part 5

We’re nearing the end of the list – it’s only today and Friday and we’ll have finished up this year’s exercise in identifying the comics that challenged me as a reader and critic in 2016. I would love to hear your feedback on what has become an annual tradition here on Sequential State.

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


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Cigarette Girl – Masahiko Matsumoto, Top Shelf

Cigarette Girl is a long-awaited collection of the short story gekiga comics from Masahiko Matsumoto, a prominent cartoonist in post-war Japan who quickly fell out of prominence. His comics are quiet, understated things, and feel like a close cousin of the work of Yoshihiro Tatsumi. One of the key features of the collection is how closely disparate characters resemble one another. Matsumoto, like Tezuka before him, uses a simple set of recurring cast members to act out his short fictions. Unlike other gekiga comics that have been published thus far (mostly the work of Tatsumi), Matsumoto’s comics are less dark about the nature of people. Sick and befuddling yes, but loveable all the same.

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Laid Waste – Julia Gfrörer @doopliss, Fantagraphics @fantagraphics

Laid Waste is Gfrörer’s second novella-length comic from Fantagraphics. Again I am impressed by the way Gfrörer balances the tensions between death and violence, love and sexual passion, and the supernatural in her work. Laid Waste is a difficult comic to read, and Gfrörer withholds information in order to generate a specific aura of dread. What works in Laid Waste is how she uses the relationship between two main characters as a sort of rebellion cry against the despair surrounding them. Laid Waste may be one of the sources of encouragement I look to in what are sure to be troubling years ahead.

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Handbook & Epilogue – Kevin Budnik @kevin-budnik, self-published/One
Percent Press @onepercentpress

Two separate books, one published by Budnik himself through Kickstarter and the other from One Percent Press, both deal with anxiety, getting worse, getting better, and living as a 20-something in a large, sometimes unforgiving world. While separate, I see these two books as intricately connected, feeding on and riffing on each other in unexpected ways. Budnik’s comics have a gentle melancholy, a softness and poeticism that acts like a fluffy blanket over Budnik’s self-perceived and reported prickliness. These comics were hard to read, because my struggles with anxiety plagued me throughout 2016, but I also find them hopeful. If nothing else these comics keenly depict human growth and change in way no others did for me in 2016.

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The Letting Go – Kevin Czap @kevinczap, Czap
Books/Grindstone Comics @czapbooks @wormulus

The latest from Czap, and part of the Leylines series published in conjunction with Grindstone comics. The Letting Go starts off with one of the most powerful statements I’ve seen in comics or poetry or music – “Having found fear and control to be the core principles guiding my life, and having no use for masculinity, I discard them both.” Here Czap interrogates gender and emotion and self in a beautiful comic that explores the conceptual space of the work of conceptual artist Bas Jan Ader. I like the way that Czap plays with negative spaces and contrasts quiet pages with cacophany. The presence of water throughout the comic acts a connecting element, appearing even in the fill patterns of wilder pages.

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Mould Map 5 “Black Box” – Various, Landfill
Editions @landfilleditions

The latest “anthology” from Landfill Editions, Mould Map 5 challenges the concept of a comics anthology. The majority of the work included are double sided illustrations/images, but taken in the context of the collection, which explores the concepts of espionage and concealment, each of the illustrations has a specific sequentiality. Printed in silver, black and neon yellow, the collection is jarring, but I think it accomplishes what it sets out to do, and further broadens the definition of things I consider “comics.”


The last piece in the series and the final list come out Friday. See you then.


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