I have all the previous editions of the Best American Comics Series and I almost passed on this one because I had been so underwhelmed by the previous years’ editions. However, I decided to ask for it for Christmas yet again, hopeful that this year’s edition would be the one that finally got it right. I have to say it was better than previous years’ but still a little lacking in content.
The biggest problem with the Series is that the editors are forced to select too many excerpts of longer works that either don’t make sense of of context or provide a sampling of what is surely a much stronger work in their entirety. It’s a lot like watching nothing but previews of movies instead of the real thing. Certainly the excerpt from Joe Sacco’s Palestine captures little of the grandeur and scope of that large work. Same thing with the Chris Ware piece. I’ve not read Jeff Smith’s Rasl; given the portion that appears here I’d like to, but the few pages given offer a nice teaser, although I gather from reading the overviews that this portion of Rasl is a poor representation of what Smith is up to in the series. And perhaps this points to a larger problem with the selection process: given space constraints, the editors may only be able to pick those portions that can stand on their own, rather than the best and most compelling parts of that work.
Even so, there is no question that this is some of the best work out there. Kate Beaton’s Gatsby cartoons are a hoot. Peter and Maria Hoey’s cartoon is one of the coolest experiments in design since “Rabbithead” from the first volume. Of course, there are a few things I don’t care for – the Hernandez brothers work always leaves me cold, the Fear and Fire excerpt was a head scratcher, and I was repulsed by the title character of Abbey’s Road.
I have to admit, though, that I’ll probably continue to buy the books in this series, hoping that one year they’ll come up with a volume that stands on its own as a wonderful collection.