Among the many requirements you must fufill in order to keep your comics bloggers license is the compilation of an annual best of list at the end of each year. Here’s mine. For a couple hundred words on my criteria and methodology, the 28 runners-up and a few other categories, including Best Super-Comics That Aren’t On This List, please feel free to visit my home site, Every Day Is Like Wednesday.
Otherwise, here’s my official list of The Best Comics Published During Calendar Year 2008 That I Read Before Calendar Year 2008 Ended…
1.) The Amazing, Remarkable Monsieur Leotard (First Second) by Eddie Campbell and Dan Best
The nineteenth century ends and the twentieth century begins and Useless Etienne, successor of the more colorfully named acrobat who gives the book its title, and his pitiful circus troop are there for it all. This beautiful, full-color book is bursting with narrative curlicues branching off of the main story, and it also happens to be one of the funniest books I read this year.
2.) Bottomless Belly Button (Fantagraphics) by Dash Shaw
Shaw follows three generations of the Loony family through a few days at their house on the beach, where they’ve gathered to hear some potentially transformative new. Durin the next 700 pages, each character will come to terms with their relationships with one another, their individual pasts and their individual futures. The story itself is epic in scope and exceedingly well told through observational details, but Shaw is hardly acting as a formalist here. He takes some big, ballsy risks with his storytelling, particularly on the design and craft level, and whether they all work out for the best or not, they certainly add to the excitement of the work.
3.) The Burma Chronicles (Drawn & Quarterly) by Guy DeLisle
The Canadian-born French cartoonist, his Doctors Without Borders administrator wife and their baby son spend about a year in one of the most repressive and reticent countries in the world. By the time you get done reading, you’ll feel like you spent the year there with them.
4.) Get Your War On (Soft Skull Press) by David Rees
Here’s every outrage in The War on Terror documented and preserved for posterity. Over the past seven years, GYWO offered the best commentary on our country’s collective nervous breakdown, and during that time I’ve been constantly in awe of Rees’ ability to take the most horrifying subjects and find away to make hilarious jokes about them, without minimizing the horror or even toning down the rage one should feel in the face of such horror.
5.) The Goddess of War (PictureBox, Inc.) by Lauren R. Weinstein
Weinstein creates her own cosmology mixing and matching the mythologies of several different culture into an off-kilter comedy that dips in and out of a historical drama, and she thows it all across a gigantic black and white comic book.
6.) Gumby: The Collected Edition (Wildcard Ink) by Bob Burden and Rick Geary
Here’s what I wrote back in March, immediately after having read this: “This trade collecting the first three issues of Bob Burden and Rick Geary’s new Gumby series, is easily one of the most insane comics I’ve ever read, and it’s somehow made all the more insane by the fact that its anchored by the vaguely familiar pop culture figure of Gumby…It’s really got to be read to be believed.” Grant Morrison’s got nothing on Bob Burden.
7.) The Last Musketeer (Fantagraphics) by Jason
The Norweigian cartoonist sends Athos, the last of the famed Musketeers who’s still musketeering to the best of his ability, to Mars, where the character from the swashbuckling genre contends with a threat from old sci-fi serials (in addition to awkward humor and career ennui).
8.) Omega The Unknown (Marvel Comics) Jonathan Lethem, Karl Rusnak and Farel Dalrymple
Lethem and company’s “cover song” version of Steve Gerber, Mary Skrenes and Jim Mooney’s incredibly far ahead of its time 1970s series by the same name. There was some justifiable controversy over this project’s very existene, given Gerber’s reservations about it, but, sidestepping those issues, this new version was a remarkable accomplishment, somehow managing to evoke the same tone of the original series, while telling a very different story.
9.) Swallow Me Whole (Top Shelf) by Nate Powell
A tour de force of drawing skills, this occasionally scary story of two siblings with mental illnesses struggling through their lives, eventually reaching an ambiguous ending.
10.) Venice Chronicles (AdHouse Books) by Enrico Casarosa Casarosa’s book has a hand-made feel to it, like you’re reading his sketchbook rather than a printed and mass-produced work. He fills the pages with highly cartoony figures and hurried, hand-written lettering, arranged in panel-less but easy-to-read lay-outs. The subject is a trip he took to Venice, but the book ends up being a rather sweet love story that seems to unfold in real-time in several stretches. I said it feels a little like reading Casarosa’s sketchbook, and it does at times, but, at other times, it feels like you’re inside Casarosa’s sketchook, and his penciling and water color-ing the world around you.