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The Best American Comics 2008 Hardcover – October 8, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The focus of this collection is not on any particular genre or style, but on stylistic and storytelling variety. There are slice-of-life stories, historical drama, humor, political satire, absurdist fables, serious autobiography and lighthearted ramblings. The art styles range from the tight, realistic precision of Jason Lute's Berlin to the raw style of John Mejia's vignettes of life as a public school art teacher. With each story the reader is drawn into a different world or presented with another perspective of the same world. Yet despite the variety of the stories, they join as a display of the power of comics as a means of storytelling that can concisely present some aspect of human nature so the reader can digest it, contemplate it and, perhaps, understand it, as Barry, this edition's editor, suggests in her introduction. The variety conveys the continued growth of comics as a means of storytelling, growth brought about by a plethora of promising new creators and continued great work by established creators such as Jaime Hernandez, Matt Groening and Chris Ware. The book offers a strong sampling of the diversity available today and hints at more innovation and progression to come. (Oct.)
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From Booklist

For the third Best American Comics, series editors Jessica Abel and Matt Madden made the initial selection, which alt-comics diva Lynda Barry, who contributes a sharp comics-format introduction, pared down to the final 26 choices. As might be expected from the editors’ backgrounds, mainstream comics are snubbed in favor of graphic-novel excerpts, self-published mini-comics, Web comics, and, befitting Barry’s start there, weekly strips from alternative newspapers, such as Alison Bechdel’s Dykes to Watch Out For, Derf’s The City, and Kaz’s Underworld. Contributors include a number of inescapable usual suspects, who invariably turn up in such anthologies—in this case, Chris Ware, Jaime Hernandez, and Seth—but also a gratifying number of newcomers, most notably Gene Yang and Cathy Malkasian, represented by passages from American Born Chinese (2006) and Percy Gloom (2007), respectively, as well as underappreciated veterans like Rick Geary and Jason Lutes. The overall quality—not a single entry is without merit—testifies to the incontestable strength of the comics medium, and the impressive work of the talented tyros included bodes well for its continued health. --Gordon Flagg
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Product Details

  • Series: Best American
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (October 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618989765
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618989768
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.2 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #733,600 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Ryan Noonan on November 1, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was definitely the best in the series so far. Lynda Barry turns out to have been a really inspired choice for guest editor, because she picks a set of entries that are virtually all outstanding. She even illustrates her introduction, which is both a nice touch and a clever way of pulling together a lot of the ideas about anxieties and self-reflection that pervade the pieces she's cosen to include. All in all, this volume is a tour-de-force. I only hope BAC 2009 is half as good.

My favorite pieces:

"Burden" by Graham Annable. A young man trying nobly to tie up his brother's loose ends turns into something completely different at the end. The reveal reverberates through the entire story and really does pose a difficult - and interesting - moral question.

"Seven Sacks" by Eleanor Davis. This story about a boatman ferrying some unsavory characters also poses a good, tough moral question and forces some self-reflection. But, more importantly, it's absolutely gorgeous. Davis calls up an increasingly wicked-looking set of creatures that just absolutely pour atmosphere into her little fable. And, is it just me, or does she pay homage to both Jeff Smith and Neil Gaiman in the process?

"Mammalogy" by Eric Haven has terrific art and makes for a hilarious romp through time, space, imagination, television, the superhero genre, and gastronomy. The best part may be the blurb in the back of the book detailing Haven's inspiration for the story.

"Turtle, Keep it Steady!" by Joseph Lambert. A very clever retelling of the Tortoise and the Hare with absolutely outstanding art. The grooving animals send the music right off the page, and the hilarious metaphor about the speed at which the Hare lives his life is very well-chosen.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Simone Gallatin-Eberly on October 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
...This comic anthology certainly gives up more entertainment than the meagre cover price would indicate. I've always liked Lynda Barry, so I was doubly grateful to see what exceptional pieces she included for my perusal, as well as being completely blown away by her incredible intro. My gosh that lady can...er...comictate...comiculate(?)...I dunno, whatever it is, she can do it and I enjoy the heck outa' it!

Anyhoo', I really enjoyed the works included in this quite hefty tome, and the balance between tried and true, familiar (at least to me!) and brand new, and unknown was really quite refreshing and welcome. Kudos should be given to layout as well, since the stories flowed smoothly, and at the end of the book I felt well satisfied with the read, and hopeful for the next edition.

The "Best American" series has always been a good "go-to" resource, especially if one is looking to expand "favorite authors/artists" list, and this edition is no exception. Once you've gotten from the front cover to the back, then I would recommend you check out The Best American Comics 2007 (The Best American Series (TM)), as well asThe Best American Comics 2006 (Best American), and if you enjoyed Ms. Barry's intro as much as I did, you really should also take a look at What It Is, which is an absolutely incredible "book" (I think the term "work of art" is more correct here) about...about what, really...? Writing? Illustrating? Creating?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By GraphicNovelReporter.com on January 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Perhaps it takes a little hubris to call a collection The Best American Comics 2008, but it's hard to argue with a grouping this good. Sure, you can quibble here and there, but as a whole, The Best American Comics 2008 is about as good as the art form gets, showing the remarkable highs comics can--and regularly do--reach. And as a bonus, it's a wonderful entry for someone who is unfamiliar with comics but who wants to know more or read something in the format.

The stories are brief and varied and run the spectrum of themes and moods. Series editors Jessica Abel and Matt Madden (creators of the excellent Drawing Words and Writing Pictures) teamed up this year with editor Lynda Barry (the artist behind the wildly inventive What It Is), and their combined viewpoint yields a unique collection of some truly thought-provoking work here. Both Drawing Words and Writing Pictures and What It Is mined a similar territory--the forces of creativity, what makes the visionary mind bring forth clearly defined work, and how to turn thoughts into comic art--that informs the choices they've made in The Best American Comics 2008. It's not surprising, then, that most of the choices here are from single writer/artists rather than writer-artist teams, which shows how powerful the creative combination can be.

They've also passed over standard superhero fare (although a note at the beginning explains they would have liked to include an excerpt from Batman: Year 100 but couldn't, due to licensing issues).
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